Pesticide and disease links need to be investigated

Pesticide and disease links need to be investigated


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All potential links to higher rates of Parkinson's disease in rural Australia need to be investigated.

All potential links to higher rates of Parkinson's disease in rural Australia need to be investigated.

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The undeniable fact is we need to do more work on the incredibly complex subject of pesticide use and health risks.

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THE UNDENIABLE fact is we need to do more work on the incredibly complex subject of pesticide use and health risks.

The issue is once again in the spotlight following the release of research commissioned by Parkinson’s Victoria, which showed markedly higher rates of Parkinson’s disease in four heartland cropping municipalities in Victoria’s west.

The crop protection sector has been quick to highlight there is no hard evidence to suggest there is a link between pesticide use and Parkinson’s disease.

Understandably, given media beat-ups about other crop chemical issues, such as the safety of glyphosate, many are twitchy about any perceived slight on the safety of crop chemicals available here in Australia.

The last thing anyone needs is a baying pack calling for wide ranging chemical bans. But nor can we afford ignore potential risks, just because no definitive evidence has been discovered – yet.

However, it is precisely for this reason that extensive research into chemical safety needs to be done.

The human face of the Parkinson’s Victoria is that people in these four local government areas have unacceptably higher levels of Parkinson’s than the state average.

We need to find out what is causing that.

The researchers, with a background in public health, rightly pointed out that pesticide use was a common theme that needed to be looked at, along with other potential contributing factors, such as ground water, or any other number of possible causes by specialists in toxicology.

Spraying practices could also be a factor, researcher Darshini Ayton recommended studies into whether different exposures to pesticides had different results.

Some farmers suggest throwing up pesticides as a link without hard data creates unnecessary negative connotations in the wider community and that the safety of the products has been proven by a strict regulatory system.​

Now it is up to qualified researchers to find out what that link is. The best outcome will be that if an unsafe pesticide or spraying practice is identified it can be stamped out.

Whatever your view on pesticide use, the health of our rural communities depends on this work happening.

*Gregor Heard is Fairfax Media’s grains writer

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