From 1945 to 1993, each Australian state and territory had its own legislation in place to control the registration of chemicals (including agricultural and veterinary chemicals). In October 1990, a Special Premiers’ Conference identified the need to improve the registration and labelling of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, with a view to achieving national uniformity in the registration process. Also identified at that time was the absence of a mechanism for systematically reviewing chemicals authorised for use under existing state and territory-based registration schemes, some of these dating back to the 1950s.
As a result of the Special Premiers’ Conference, in August 1991 the Australian Agricultural Council agreed to establish a single, national registration authority under Commonwealth legislation, with the Australian Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Council implementing the National Registration Scheme for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (NRS). As a government policy initiative emanating from a 1990 Senate Select Committee inquiry into agricultural and veterinary chemicals, the NRS was to include a program to systematically review the safety of pesticides introduced prior to the advent of the modern regulatory system. This program was called the Existing Chemicals Review Program, now the Chemical Review Program.
The National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (NRA) was formed by the Commonwealth on 15 June 1993 as part of a microeconomic reform process to eliminate duplication and inconsistencies. As part of its establishment, it was agreed that specialist assessment advice would be provided by Commonwealth agencies in the areas of environment, human health and occupational health and safety.
While the enabling legislation was passed in 1993 (establishing the NRA) and 1994, full implementation of the NRS did not occur until 15 March 1995. When the NRS was introduced, the APVMA assumed responsibility for over 5000 chemical registrations granted under earlier arrangements by Australia’s states and territories.
From an original list of over 300 chemicals that were nominated as potential candidates for review by stakeholders, a priority list of 80 agricultural and veterinary chemicals was established within the Existing Chemicals Review Program. A range of groups provided input into this process including Commonwealth agencies, state departments and members of the public. Chemicals that were nominated for review were ranked according to a quantitative scoring system, which considered criteria in each of the key legislative areas of efficacy and trade, public health, environment and occupational health and safety. Chemicals that have been prioritised for review are listed in the Priority candidate review list.
Over the 20+ years the Chemical Review Program (as it is now known) has been in place, an additional 80 chemicals have been nominated and prioritised for inclusion with the original group of 80 chemicals. To date, a total of 75 reviews have been completed, with 20 chemicals currently under active review. An additional 39 chemicals have been prioritised for review.