FARM chemicals already subject to comprehensive regulatory assessments and labelling requirements may be saved from having to suffer a $46 million hit in duplicative red tape costs.
Safe Work Australia (SWA) state and territory delegates are due to consider a recommendation to remove additional labelling requirements on agvet chemicals, at a meeting tomorrow.
A statement released today by Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce said SWA had recognised that arguments supporting the previous government’s implementation of the Globally Harmonised System (GHS) of labelling - contained within the 2010 Regulatory Impact Statement - had overstated the International Labour Organization’s Convention C170 requirement relating to workers’ rights concerning access to essential hazard information and have moved to rectify the overregulation.
Mr Joyce said he was optimistic that state and territory governments would now reconsider the 2010 labelling requirements, which if enforced, could undermine Australia’s existing worlds-best practice agvet chemical regulatory system.
He said SWA’s recommendation to preclude agvet chemicals from unnecessary GHS requirements acknowledged that the APVMA labels already provided essential hazard information and worked to align Australia with its trading partners, with similar agvet chemical regulations.
The USA, Canada and Japan have all implemented GHS labelling for hazardous chemicals generally, but not for agricultural or veterinary chemical products in recognition of their respective regulatory systems, he said.
Mr Joyce said the implementation of additional labelling requirements would put Australia’s agricultural sector at a disadvantage.
A review conducted by Ernst and Young has estimated the cost to agricultural chemical suppliers of re-labelling stock-in-trade to be $46 million.
“GHS is an important initiative for the classification and labelling of unregulated chemical sectors in Australia,” Mr Joyce said.
“Agvet chemicals are however, already subject to a comprehensive risk-based regulatory assessment and mandatory labelling requirements administered by the APVMA
“A key function of the APVMA is to consider all potential hazards of agvet chemicals and provide essential information on the label, which gives users the information they require to handle chemical products safely through supply chains.
“Maintaining the standing of the APVMA is crucial to ensure effective and safe use of these agricultural products.”
Mr Joyce said additional and unnecessary labelling requirements for agricultural chemicals and veterinary medicines would have no impact on safety, while costing Australian farmers up to $46m by increasing unnecessary red tape in an already fully regulated industry.
He said if these new requirements were not reconsidered, agvet chemicals in most states would need to comply with additional GHS labelling requirements by January 1, 2017.
Mr Joyce said on top of the re-labelling costs associated with GHS requirements, around 3500 retail supply stores and 137,000 farmers could be subject to a $30,000 fine for each company and $6000 for each individual each time a chemical product not carrying updated labels is supplied after scheduled start date.
“Even if a farmer simply lends a couple of drums of agricultural chemicals to his neighbour that he purchased before January 1, 2017 or provides drums of chemicals to a spray contractor, the farmer is likely to be subject to these fines,” he said.
“The safety of our farmers and other workers is paramount, however, there is no evidence of current labelling being insufficient and it isn’t clear what problem extra GHS labelling is trying to solve.”