Updated 21 Oct 2014.
Most products containing the chemical fenthion, which has been used to control the pest fruit fly, have been cancelled by the Australian Government agency APVMA.
According to the CEO of Apple and Pear Australia Ltd (APAL), John Dollisson, fenthion was the last product available to fruit growers to control fruit fly, which remains a major pest of apples, pears, stonefruit, mangoes, other fruit and even vegetables.
“Fruit fly is found in pockets* on mainland Australia and is a management concern for growers, but it is also a concern for consumers, who don’t want to find fruit fly maggots in their fresh produce,” said John.
Fruit fly is not present in all areas of mainland Australia and is not present in Tasmania at all. Queensland Fruit Fly is only found in small pockets in eastern Australia and Mediterranean Fruit Fly is only found in small pockets in Western Australia.
“We were hoping for a 2-year phase-out period to help growers adopt different management strategies, to fast-track research and development to find alternative solutions, and to give crop protection companies more time and incentives to develop safe and effective alternatives,” added John.
“We accept the APVMA decision, but it’s a pity there wasn’t broader government action to ensure there was an alternative product or method to control fruit fly available before fenthion was banned.
“Our industry wants to continue to provide consumers high quality, nutritious and safe produce in the future, but we can’t do it without additional help once fenthion goes.”
In a media statement announcing the decision, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) said that:
“All horticultural uses except for post-harvest dipping of tropical and subtropical inedible peel fruits are now cancelled.
“The APVMA is allowing a phase-out period of 12 months to enable use of cancelled products. The current instructions for use of the horticultural product (that apply by permits) will continue during this time period.”
APAL supports the use of a pest management strategy called Area Wide Management that involves monitoring, sanitation, lures, and baits, to manage fruit fly.
“Improved extension programs would support the wider adoption of Area Wide Management to improve its effectiveness,” said John. “We also need help to control fruit fly in abandoned orchards and urban areas that can be harbours for fruit fly.
“State and Local Government must take responsibility for managing fruit fly in these areas because Area Wide Management is not effective unless all fruit trees are incorporated into a management strategy. Even then, Area Wide Management has its limits to controlling fruit fly.
“We hope that more support from Government and the private sector will be forthcoming to help find new products and strategies to help with fruit fly management and control.
“We also have to bear in mind that the presence of fruit fly affects our industry’s capacity to export because a number of target international markets do not accept fruit from areas that have fruit fly.”
For more information, see the APVMA website information: Australian Government Special Gazette (16 October 2014): Reconsideration of Approvals and Registrations Related to Fenthion (pdf 528kb).
* This quote was updated on 21 Oct 2014 to more accurately communicate the limited presence of fruit fly in specific areas on mainland Australia.