By Michelle Slater
The Victorian Greens are urging the state government to phase out forms of rodent poisons that can have a deadly effect on both wildlife and possible impacts into the human food chain.
The Greens raised an Australian-first motion in parliament last month to stop retailers from selling baits that contain second generation anticoagulant rodenticides – or SGARs.
But under the amendment, farmers would still be able to purchase these poisons when needed.
SGARs are found in common supermarket brands that contain active ingredients brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, difethialone and flocoumafen.
They can affect non-targeted predator species which can suffer from secondary poisoning after eating a contaminated rodent.
Wildlife group BirdLife Australia had been running a campaign on the issue for several years.
The group is instead encouraging consumers to look for products containing first generation coagulants including warfarin or coumatetralyl.
BirdLife Australia urban bird program manager Holly Parsons said the campaign was mainly being aimed at householders, but stressed that farmers and professional pest controllers would still need to rely on SGARs.
Ms Parsons said if farmer must use SGARS, they could think about how and where they placed baits, and dispose of contaminated rodents before they could be predated on.
But she warned there was evidence that SGARs had been found in commercial egg production.
“The average home owner doesn’t need to be using these products and there are just as effective products out there that are less likely to cause harm,” Ms Parsons said.
“On farms, there are a wider range of products that can be used in certain conditions.”
Last year, the New South Wales government had attempted to seek regulatory approval to allow the use of mass amounts of SGARs to control mouse plagues, but the call was rejected.
A range of ag sector bodies such as New South Wales Farmers, Cattle Council of Australia, Grain Producers Australia and Pork Australia had written to the NSW government at the time raising concerns over the plan.
There is a zero tolerance for bromadiolone within meat and grain products by domestic and export customers, therefore this application poses significant risk to market access and trade.
The co-signed letter to the NSW agriculture minister outlined concerns on the potential impacts that any SGAR contamination could have on trade.
“Livestock directly ingesting the product, mouse carcasses or contaminated feed can cause residues in meat products. Similar contamination can occur in grain stores,” the letter said.
“There is a zero tolerance for bromadiolone within meat and grain products by domestic and export customers, therefore this application poses significant risk to market access and trade.”
In Europe, SGARs poisons can’t be bought off the shelf and require a special licence. Farmers are still able to access them, but regular households do not have access to these poisons.
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority is undertaking a review SGARs with new regulations to be decided upon on a couple of years.
“There is a need for a new set of frameworks for rural landholders to use SGARs in a way to minimise the risk to wildlife,” Ms Parsons said.
“This is why first generation products are better, as they are less likely to cause secondary poisoning and are effective.”
A Victorian government spokesperson said the government acknowledged the emerging concerns about risks associated with SGARs.
“That’s why Agriculture Victoria has been working with the national regulatory body, which is undertaking a review of these products,” the spokesperson said.
“We will follow the advice of the independent authority and support any changes with education and advice on correct use.”