Pesticide impacts on the Great Barrier Reef – Croplife misinformation?

By Jon Brodie.

The pesticide industry group Croplife have recently published their latest assessment of the threat to the Great Barrier Reef from pesticide use. The report can be found at: Barrier Reef. pdf

The report is notable for its extreme ‘cherry picking’ of data with which to make the assessment. It uses one data set from a summary report (not the original science report) for the GBRMPA Marine Monitoring Program from 2007/2008 (Prange et al Reef Water Quality Protection Plan Marine Monitoring Program: 2007/2008 Summary Report pp18-19). Note the Croplife report was very recently released in 2010. The data used is from the use of passive samplers only which are generally deployed only in non-flood conditions and represents the ‘low’ concentration end of pesticide detections in contrast to samples taken in the wet season which are generally much higher (as you might expect).

Since 2007 a large number of pesticide studies in the GBR have occurred and the results have been published in the peer reviewed literature (journals) e.g. Lewis et al 2009; Davis et al 2008; Shaw et al 2010 in marine waters. River discharge of pesticide studies include Packett et al 2009, Lewis et al 2009; Bainbridge et al 2009. Peer reviewed technical reports are also numerous in this period and are all available on the web. Even before 2007 a number of pesticide papers were published with data from rivers and/or marine waters of the GBR e.g. McMahon et al 2005; Shaw and Mueller 2005; Mitchell et al 2005. Finally a considerable body of work on the toxicity of pesticides to GBR organisms (mainly recently from Andrew Negri’s group at AIMS) has been published in the peer reviewed literature since 2007 (and a lot before 2007 as well). If any other readers want access to any of this literature please contact me.

Croplife chose to ignore all this published information and data. When this data is taken into account the outcome is an entirely different assessment, opposite in conclusions to that presented by Croplife.

One wonders at the ethics of a ‘respectable’ industry organisation like Croplife putting out such misleading information. It’s also sad in a period when we are making progress in pesticide management in the GBR catchment with farmers investing in better application technology such as shielded sprayers (see photo) with the assistance of the Australian Government’s Reef Rescue initiative.

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