Categories: Soil & Health Association of NZ
      Date: 22, Jun, 2009
     Title: NZ Pesticide Use – Cancer link shows need for government support of organics
Two recent studies linking agricultural chemical use to increased bone marrow malignancies show the need for greater government investment into organic agriculture according to the Soil & Health Association of NZ.

Both studies released this month implicate pesticides used in New Zealand, and Soil & Health urgently wants further studies to focus on the commonly used fungicide Bravo (chlorothalonil). It is thought that Chlorothalonil is responsible for aggravating the health effects of other pesticides.

“Simultaneously as these studies are released, government funding for the successful Organic Advisory Program is coming to an end. A solution to worker and community exposure to cancer-causing pesticides is being allowed to ebb away just when New Zealand needs the added value of organics to enhance and protect community health and our clean green brand,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“A government target for increased organic production can reduce the incidence of cancers in New Zealand, yet funding is consistently being withdrawn from the best example of healthy, sustainable agriculture, with the expectation that the pioneers of organics in New Zealand should fund future growth. Those pioneers have more than contributed already in an uneven playing field, while pesticide-happy producers have externalised their costs onto the health of their workers, families, community and the public health system. Enoughs enough. It is time for an organic vision from government.”

Massey University’s Centre for Public Health Research has just released an analysis of a study (1) of cancer patients that found an elevated leukaemia risk among horticulture workers, with risk to market gardeners and nursery growers, especially women, particularly elevated compared to the general public.

In a separate study released by US government health staff in the June 18 issue of the American Society of Hematology journal, Blood, (2,3) it was found that exposure to certain pesticides, including dieldrin and chlorothalonil (Bravo) increased the risks 5.6 fold and 2.4 fold respectively, of a blood disorder that can lead to multiple myeloma.

“Considering that dieldrin was banned in agriculture in New Zealand in 1968 and from other uses in 1989, Bravo may be a significant culprit in New Zealand cancers,” said Mr Browning.

Soil & Health has repeatedly brought attention to the risks of Bravo fungicide in New Zealand food production.

A 2004 statement said, “All recent samples of conventional celery tested by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority and Soil and Health separately, contained the environmental toxin and probable carcinogen, chlorothalonil, the active ingredient in Bravo fungicide.”

“Syngenta, the manufacturer of Bravo is now advertising to growers, New Bravo WeatherStik and in their own words, “Uncommonly persistent. Sticks and stays between sprays like no other”, with 64% chlorothalonil remaining after a 40mm 2 hour simulated rainfall.”

In 2007, “New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) also fails consumers with its food testing by using the spurious Maximum Residue Limit as a safety guide and takes no account of the cocktail effect of consuming multiple agrichemical residues (4).”

“Chlorothalonil the active ingredient in Bravo fungicide, is noted and down played in the NZFSA celery and spinach residue results. 16 and 13 results above the MRL respectively for 48 tests each, but the real fact is that celery only had 6 out of 48 tests chlorothalonil negative and 5 of those had other residues. The only one residue free celery sample of 48, would most likely be organic but was not differentiated.”

“Organic celery of course has no such pesticide residues.”

“Cancer statistics need to be evaluated in the high horticultural spray regions of New Zealand, such as Marlborough and Hawkes Bay, as anecdotal evidence suggests a higher than average incidence of cancers there.”

A fresh approach to food is needed in New Zealand and with a massive growth in organics internationally, it is time that targets for organic production (which is free of synthetic pesticides) such as in Soil & Health’s Organic 2020 vision, were taken on for New Zealand’s environmental, economic and human health.

Healthy Soil, Healthy Plants, Healthy People.


  1. Massey University - Female farm workers at highest risk of leukaemia
  2. INSIDE BLOOD look at Lymphoid Neoplasia: Pesticide exposure and risk of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance in the Agricultural Health Study
  3. Individuals who apply pesticides are found to have double the risk of blood disorder
  4. Lodovici, M. et al 1994,1997 Oxidative liver DNA damage in rats treated with pesticide mixtures These results indicate that the toxicity of low doses of pesticide mixtures present in food might be further reduced by eliminating diphenylamine and chlorothalonil.
Funding for the Green Party initiated Organic Advisory Program finishes this month although a significant growth in area farmed organically occurred during the initiative. Separate government funding for the organic sector lead agency Organics Aotearoa New Zealand is being wound down with the intention that the sector finds its own funding, although huge government money is still being spent on risky and failed science such as genetic engineering and for pesticide clean ups.

Contact: The Soil & Health Association of NZ Spokesperson
Steffan Browning
021 725 655

The Soil & Health Association of New Zealand Inc
PO Box 36-170, Northcote, Auckland
Phone: (09) 419 4536 Fax: (09) 419 4556