1996 May: Cotton Insecticides Contaminates Calves. Pesticides: Chlorfluazuron, Endosulfan

Cotton Insecticide Contaminates Calves

May 20, 1996

Newborn calves in Australia are still being contaminated with 
hazardous levels of the insecticide Helix (chlorfluazuron), 
two years after cattle were fed cotton trash containing 
residues of the pesticide. After finding high levels of Helix 
in the cattle, several countries suspended beef imports from 
Australia. Government inspectors believe that the pesticide 
is being passed to calves through suckling. Due to a drought 
in 1994, many Australian farmers were forced to feed cattle 
alternative feeds, which in some cases included cotton trash 
containing chlorfluazuron residues.

National Toxics Network, an Australian public interest group, 
states that Helix was given special government approval for 
use on cotton despite being provisionally registered due to 
concerns about its persistence in the environment. Recent 
research by the Meat Research Corporation (Australia) found 
that Helix residues may never disappear from older cattle, 
and that farmers may be able to sell contaminated cattle only 
for pet food. 

In 1995, cattle farmers filed a class action suit against the 
Australian government and Crop Care Australasia, the company 
that marketed Helix in Australia. The suit seeks compensation 
for losses in beef sales resulting from the initial pesticide 
contamination, and was filed before anyone knew that losses 
would continue in the next generation of cattle. The suit, 
which represents approximately 460 cattle farmers, alleges 
that chlorfluazuron was registered without adequate testing. 
Crop Care Australasia announced last year that it was 
withdrawing the pesticide from the Australian market as an 
"act of good faith." 

Farmers in New South Wales and Queensland may file a similar 
lawsuit against the Australian government due to cattle 
contamination by the organochlorine insecticide endosulfan. 
The farmers' lawyer charged that the Australian National 
Registration Authority labeled endosulfan inadequately. 
Approximately 23 farms were placed in quarantine after 
inspectors discovered the insecticide in beef cattle at 
levels above the maximum residue limit, possibly due to spray 
drift contaminating grazing land. In Australia, endosulfan is 
used primarily on cotton. Endosulfan has been targeted for 
global phaseout by pesticide reform groups worldwide due to 
its extreme toxicity (see PANUPS June 16, 1995 and June 16, 
1994). It has also been identified as an endocrine disruptor.

National Toxics Network stated that the endosulfan and 
chlorfluazuron cases are not the first reports of Australian 
cattle being contaminated with pesticides. In 1987, 
organochlorine residues were detected in beef shipped to the 
U.S., and since that time Australian beef exporters have lost 
millions of dollars due to concerns about chemical 
contamination.  

Sources: Agrow, February 16, 1996; January 19, 1996; February 
3, 1995; National Toxics Network Sentinel, February 1995.

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