Fruit fly fears as suspension looms

Claire TyrrellCountryman
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Fruit growers are bracing for the worst, as Australia's chemical regulator prepares to impose a suspension on Mediterranean fruit fly (Medfly) insecticides.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Association (APVMA) will make a decision whether to ban dimethoate products on September 30.

APVMA met with growers earlier this month to discuss its long-awaited dimethoate review, released in August.

The drawn-out process has added to the frustration of fruit growers, who are yet to find a viable solution to combat fruit fly.

Based on Horticulture Australia data, the review found potential health risks associated with current uses of dimethoate products.

About 60 growers attended the meeting and many disputed APVMA's claims.

Karragullen apple grower Eric Ghilarducci questioned the accuracy of the regulator's findings.

He said the regulator based its reports on later spray times than practised by WA growers.

"We don't spray in the withholding period, because fruit fly doesn't strike apples once they are ripe," he said. "We mainly use it early in the season."

Fenthion, with a similar mode of action to dimethoate, could also be banned as part of APVMA's review process.

"Dimethoate and fenthion are the only sprays that kill the maggots in the fruit and give substantial control," Mr Ghilarducci said.

"Even with them we struggle to control fruit fly - without them it would be almost impossible.

"We don't want to use dangerous sprays, but if they increased the withholding period it would keep us and health organisations happy."

Summerfruit Australia director Mark Wilkinson said dimethoate could be used safely and without it the industry would struggle.

Fruit West executive manager Gavin Foord said area-wide approaches would be the key to controlling Medfly.

Growers hastily prepared submissions to APVMA last week, but the consensus was the regulator had already made up its mind.

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