Carbofuran is an insecticide and nematicide that is registered for use only in certain states of Australia. It is is a schedule 7 substance in the Standard for the Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons (which means that it must carry the signal heading ‘Dangerous Poison’) and has a high potential to cause harm at low concentrations. Carbofuran has been nominated for review because of human health concerns.
Two carbofuran products are registered in Australia (see PubCRIS). Products containing carbofuran are approved to kill white rice stem borers and leafhoppers in rice and budworm (Helicoverpa), and the common brown leafhopper in tobacco. They are also approved to treat certain nematodes in sugarcane and cereal cyst nematodes (eelworm) in wheat and barley. These products are applied by either band or broadcast application methods.
Carbofuran is currently on the list of chemicals nominated and prioritised for reconsideration.
Carbofuran has very limited current use in Australia. While there are carbofuran maximum residue limits (MRLs) in place for rice, sugarcane and some cereal crops, there has been no use of carbofuran products in those industries for quite some time. Use in the tobacco industry ceased in late 2006 with the closure of the industry in Australia.
APVMA records relating to the amount of active constituent manufactured, imported and exported, and sales data relating to product sales confirm the negligible use of carbofuran products in Australia.
Occupational health and safety risks associated with the current limited usage are addressed through formulation of the product into granules and their direct application to the soil by machines. The risk of birds eating the granules (a problem identified in other jurisdictions) is also minimised by the direct incorporation of granules into the soil.
The APVMA is aware of a recent proposal to withdraw the approval of carbofuran products for use on food products in the United States, where carbofuran is registered for use on lucerne, maize, cotton, potatoes, rice, artichokes, chili peppers, cucumbers, spinach for seed, sunflowers, and pine seedlings. Reports indicate that the previous widespread use of granular products in the United States led to episodes of bird poisonings.