1990 – 1992: Tully. Banana Plantations. Pesticides of concern: Propiconazole, Chlorpyrifos, Dimethoate, Monocrotophos, Mancozeb

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I live in the middle of a banana growing area where spraying takes place every four days. Once, I was trapped by flood waters and couldn’t leave when my neighbour sprayed. I closed the house up tight and didn’t go out for a couple of hours, but from Monday til Thursday my eyes were terribly sore. I heard that people from nearby Jumbun were also affected, with fiver members of one family with sore eyes. One had to go to hospital for drops. The children had actually been crying, their eyes were so sore. Later I tried to find out what the pilot had used to cause our eyes to hurt so much, but he wouldn’t tell me what it was. Neither the farmer nor the pilot will ever tell me what spray they use. anon p80/81 Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. Kate Short 1994.

We are writing to let you know about why consumers should be concerned about chemical residues in bananas. Our Association is aware of the aerial spraying of fungicides and insecticides on banana crops in North Queensland. Fungal disease, grubs and other insect pests have to be controlled with pesticides because they cause markings on the fruit and many consumers won’t accept even slightly blemished fruits. A large number of pesticides are registered or approved for use, and the most commonly used are chlorpyrifos, dimethoate and monocrotophos, the last two of which are systematic poisons [ie absorbed into the flesh of fruit and vegetables; not able to be washed off]. They spray on weekends and pick the fruit during the week, which means that withholding periods are not scrupulously observed. Chlorpyrifos has a withholding period of 14 days, dimethoate 7 days and monocrotophos 10 days. The bananas are also sprayed with mancozeb and petroleum oil every fortnight in summer time and every three to four weeks in winter, using aircraft or misting machines. Between 200 and 300 tons of mancozeb is dumped on the 3755 hectares of banana crops in North Queensland each season. We believe it leaves residues in banana fruit and urge consumer groups to get them tested for ETU (ethylene thiourea), the metabolite of mancozeb, which is a potential carcinogen. In the United States, the EPA has withdrawn the use of this and similar fungicides on many crops and we are not aware of any monitoring of ETU by public authorities. Citizens Against Aerial Spraying Association, Tully Queensland.

Two years later, the Tully people had more information about food pesticide risk. Government tests on 15 Tully banana samples found mancozeb in 13, chlorpyrifos in four, monocrotophos in three and propiconozole in one…

p83/84 Quick Poison Slow Poison. Pesticide Risk in the Lucky Country. Kate Short 1994