Robust scientific assessment means neonicotinoids are safe to use as directed

5 July 2016

Concerns have been raised about the regulatory processes for assessing the safe use of neonicotinoids in Australia.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) uses a risk-based, weight-of-evidence assessment, which considers the full range of risks and takes into account studies of the environment—and how these risks can be minimised through instructions for use and safety directions.

This approach is consistent with best practice among international regulators and the APVMA is a well-respected member of international standard setting bodies such as the Codex Alimentarius Commission and the World Health Organisation’s and United Nation’s Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues.

The APVMA’s chemical risk assessment process includes consideration of detailed data across broad scientific fields which include toxicology, impacts on non-target and native plants and animals, worker health and safety, residues in crops and food producing animals and also whether the product is effective.

The impact on the environment is part of every scientific assessment for any new active approval or product registration.

All neonicotinoids registered for use in Australia have been through this robust chemical risk assessment process and are safe to use—provided they are used as per the label instructions.

Product labels do not normally contain specific protection statements for frogs although potential risks to frogs would be covered by more general statements about risks to aquatic environments.

New studies, assessment reports and scientific opinions on approved pesticides or veterinary medicines are generated regularly and the APVMA evaluates the scientific merits of these before deciding on whether regulatory action is appropriate.

If the APVMA becomes aware of new information to indicate that frogs are specifically affected by neonicotinoids, then the information would be examined based on:

  • the scientific merits of that information
  • an assessment of whether product labels would need to be changed to mitigate risks
  • reconsideration of the chemical—if evidence is provided that risks need to be addressed.

Current information from the federal Department of the Environment and the Queensland Environment and Heritage Protection department do not indicate that frog populations are declining or that there is any new information regarding an affect by neonicotinoids on the conservation and wellbeing of frog populations.

If new information becomes available to indicate that frogs are specifically affected by neonicotinoids, or any other approved pesticide, then the APVMA would consider the scientific merits of the new information and whether product labels needed to be changed to mitigate risks.

Based on current scientific evidence, a formal reconsideration of the neonicotinoids is not currently being proposed by the APVMA.  

Visit our website for more information on how the APVMA regulates and assesses agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals.

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