Two moths may be imported into New Zealand to combat invasive horehound

The Horehound Biocontrol Group, a collective of farmers whose crops are infested with horehound, have applied to the Environmental Protection Authority to introduce the horehound plume moth and horehound clearwing moth to attack the weed. Its application was supported by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Farming Fund.

The two moths attack horehound in different ways. The larvae of the plume moth feed on horehound leaves, while those of the clearwing moth feed on the roots.

The applicant group noted a recent survey estimating horehound costs to New Zealand dryland farmers at almost $7 million a year.

The weed is a serious threat to the viability of some farms, it is said, as it establishes strongly in hill and high-country, especially when the valuable crop, lucerne,  is dormant in the winter. One farmer noted that horehound quickly grows out of control, resulting in lucerne paddocks failing well before their expected 10-year life cycle.

“The EPA received 40 submissions on this application, 39 of which were in favour,” noted its General Manager of Hazardous Substances and New Organisms, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter.

“The Department of Conservation and MPI both supported the application. MPI noted the negative impact of chemicals on the environment where spraying was used, as against the long-term benefits of bio-control.”

A firm that produces medicinal products using horehound weed told the authority harvesting the weed may become difficult if a biocontrol agent was released.  But the Decision-making Committee found that, in unmanaged environments, the moths would be the only means used to control horehound, so herbalists should be able to continue their harvesting, which is done by hand.

The committee further noted that farmers and herbalists could come to agreements regarding access to and management of horehound-infested areas to allow harvesting.

“The EPA decision-making committee heard evidence from farmers that lucerne is increasingly being used in the high country to mitigate the effects of drought. They explained that lucerne flourishes in dry conditions, and provides high-quality feed for longer periods than traditional pasture grasses. Farmers see it as an ally in their fight against climate change,” Dr Thomson-Carter said.

“The EPA accepted that there are no native species related to horehound that would be at risk if these two moths were introduced. Both were released in Australia 20 years ago, and there was no evidence of adverse effects on non-target species there.”

In coming to the decision to approve the application without controls, the authority noted that it did not identify any risks to native or taonga species, ecosystems or traditional Māori values, practices, health or well-being.

The Decision-making Committee also concluded that introducing the two moths would curb the vigour and abundance of horehound in New Zealand, thus reducing its progressive invasion of new habitats, and sustaining biodiversity.

The committee further noted the potential beneficial effect of reducing the use of herbicides that can kill native or other beneficial plants when used incorrectly, Dr Thomson-Carter said.

All documents relating to the application can be read HERE. 

Source. Environmental Protection Authority 


Approval sought for new fungicide to protect arable crops

The Environmental Protection Authority is calling for submissions on an application by Bayer New Zealand Limited to approve a fungicide called Vimoy Iblon to be used to protect cereal crops.

The fungicide’s active ingredient, isoflucypram, has not yet been approved in any country.

Bayer is intending to market its use to control scald, net blotch, Ramularia leaf spot in barley, leaf rust in barley and wheat, stripe rust in wheat and triticale, and speckled leaf blotch in wheat.

It is also said to be able to treat four arable diseases in New Zealand: Septoria tritici and leaf rust which infect wheat; Ramularia leaf spot that infects barley, and stem rust which infects ryegrass seed crops.

Public submissions form part of our assessment process for new hazardous substance applications that are publicly notified under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act.

Information provided is analysed and considered by a decision-making committee, who ultimately decide whether the substance can be imported or manufactured for use in New Zealand, and controls (rules) that may be necessary to manage any environmental or human health concerns.

Submissions close at 5 pm on 17 October 2018.

The application documents can be read  HERE.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

Enter the samurai wasp to protect NZ against stink bug

The samurai wasp, an organism new to New Zealand, can now be used to fight any invasion by the brown marmorated stink bug, following a decision by the Environmental Protection Authority.

This wasp is a natural enemy of the stink bug.

The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Council applied to us for approval to release the new organism, saying the stink bug poses one of the highest risk biosecurity threats to New Zealand. It noted that if the stink bug successfully breaches our biosecurity system and establishes, it would be very hard to eradicate.

The council includes groups representing the avocado, apple and pear, kiwifruit, tomato, vegetable, and wine industries, and the Ministry for Primary Industries. It noted that in the USA and Europe, the stink bug has caused severe economic damage to horticultural crops, and has invaded homes during the cold winter months.

After a public hearing and consideration of 69 submissions, 65 of which supported the application, we have approved the application, subject to a range of controls. Only the Ministry for Primary Industries) and its appointed agents may evoke the approval, because it is responsible for managing incursion responses and has the requisite expertise.

The samurai wasp may only be released in New Zealand after a stink bug invasion has been detected, and only at the location of the incursion. Before any conditional release is made MPI, in conjunction with the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug Council, must submit a Response Readiness Plan to us.

This must provide verification of the incursion and how the conditions imposed for any release will be met. The plan must be reviewed and resubmitted within three years.

Any EPA approval to release the samurai wasp will expire after 10 years but may be extended.

In considering the application, the authority considered whether the samurai wasp might displace any native species or harm natural habitats. It also assessed the possibility of adverse effects on human health and safety, and on New Zealand’s genetic diversity.

The authority heard from several grower organisations and individual growers about the potential impact the brown marmorated stink bug might have on their industries and livelihoods. It noted that many horticultural industries rely on integrated pest management practice or the use of softer chemicals for pest control

A broad incursion by the brown marmorated stink bug would lead to widespread use of broad-spectrum agrichemicals, which are likely to adversely affect sustainable practices and access to export markets, the authority noted.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

Second grounds for reassessment on methyl bromide declined

The Environmental Protection Authority has declined an application to determine whether there are grounds for a reassessment of methyl bromide’s flammable gas classification.

This latest decision does not invalidate the grounds for reassessment established earlier this year as a consequence of an application, made by the Stakeholders in Methyl Bromide Reduction Inc, based on the volume of methyl bromide being used and imported into New Zealand.

Although those grounds for reassessment have been established, the EPA says it has not yet received any application to reassess methyl bromide.

By October 2020 users of methyl bromide in New Zealand will still need to meet EPA requirements to use recapture technology and safely recover or dispose of the gas used in their fumigation activity.

The General Manager of EPA’s Hazardous Substances Group, Dr Fiona Thomson-Carter, says a Decision-making Committee was appointed and decided that none of four possible factors required to approve the grounds for reassessment were present.  The application was declined.

“Grounds for reassessment need to be established before any reassessment application can be accepted under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act,” says Dr Thomson-Carter.

“In their application, Pest Management Association of New Zealand presented information that methyl bromide is “only flammable in extreme concentrations, extreme heat and a high voltage spark”, and as such should not be considered to be a flammable gas.

“We agree with the supporting information but does not consider that it meets the ‘significant new information’ factor for grounds to change the flammability classification of methyl bromide.”

Anyone can make an application for grounds.  Once grounds are approved, anyone can apply for the subsequent reassessment.

More information on reassessments is available on the EPA website.

Additional information

  • Methyl bromide was previously reassessed in 2010 following an application by the Chief Executive of the Environmental Risk Management Authority, the predecessor to the Environmental Protection Authority.
  • The key factors which need to be taken into account for grounds for reassessment to be found:
    • Significant new information relating to the effects of the substance becomes available.
    • A change in controls under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
    • Another substance with similar or improved beneficial effects and reduced adverse effects becomes available.
    • Information showing a significant change of use of the substance becomes available.
    • Information showing a significant change in the quantity of the substance manufactured or imported becomes available.

Source: Environmental Protection Authority

Monsanto loses glyphosate cancer case – expert reaction

A review of the safety of Roundup in New Zealand is among the likely consequences of the court case in the US which resulted in Monsanto being ordered to pay US$289 million (NZ$439 million) to a former school groundskeeper after a jury found it contributed to the man’s terminal cancer.

Dewayne Johnson claimed Monsanto’s popular Roundup weed killer was linked to his disease.

After three days of deliberations, a San Francisco jury awarded him US$250 million (NZ$380 million) in punitive damages and around US$39 million (NZ$59 million) in compensatory damages.

His victory may pave the way for thousands of other cases alleging the glyphosate-based herbicide causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Media headlines in this country included “Roundup case: Scientists caution against knee-jerk NZ ban” , but disagreement was reflected in the headline which said “NZ should ban Roundup weed killer – expert” .

The Environmental Protection Authority has ruled Roundup safe to use and the US ruling hadn’t changed that position but Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage said she would be asking the agency to consider adding it to its hazardous substance reassessment list in the light of the decision.

 The Science Media Centre has gathered these expert comments –


Dr Belinda Cridge, Programme Leader and Lecturer in Toxicology, The University of Otago, comments:

“The court case is an interesting test case based on some relatively new evidence. In 2016, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) re-classfied glyphosate [the active ingredient in Roundup] as a ‘probable human carcinogen’ a decision based on an extensive review of available data including epidemiological [human] studies.

“However, the impact this finding is being debated widely, partly due to the involvement of large corporations and also because the IARC assesses a chemical’s carcinogenic potential but does not generally conduct a full risk assessment, judging where and how contact with the chemical may occur.

“These additional factors are important in determining the overall risk associated with the use of a chemical in various situations. For comparison and context the IARC has also classified red meat consumption as a probable carcinogen. This is based on good scientific evidence but highlights that understanding wider factors are critical to determining full risk. However, the underlying finding of the IARC stands, glyphosate may cause cancer under the right conditions and exposures.

“The case in the US cited that adjuvants [additives in the Roundup beyond the active glyphosate compound] may have had a synergistic effect to cause the cancer. Synergistic effects occur when two chemicals which are relatively benign separately, act together to make a small effect much worse.

“The toxicology of mixtures such as this is something that toxicologists are only just starting to really understand in any detail. It is very difficult to model and track all possible interactions. This means that there is a very real possibility that adjuvants in the Roundup mixture accelerated any carcinogenic effects but to the best of my knowledge this is hypothesised rather than proven. It is a very real possibility but has not been conclusively demonstrated using laboratory or epidemiological studies.

“The terms of the case are interesting as the plaintiff did not need to demonstrate conclusively that glyphosate caused the cancer, only that it was a plausible contributing factor. Also, Monsanto is unable to prove that glyphosate definitely did not cause the cancer. There is still no proof either way but the success of the prosecution will encourage others to seek remuneration using the IARC classification as evidence.

“Finally it is important to consider the whole picture. Roundup isn’t, and has never been, a safe panacea for all weed control. Scientists continue to learn more and more about this chemical and its effects. However, the alternative options aren’t very appealing and many are much much worse for both people and the environment.

“Roundup has been used extensively worldwide for a long time, it has a reasonably good safety record and has limited environmental effects – compared to the alternatives. Yes, improvement is needed but for farmers Roundup is one of the safer options currently available.

“My standard advice is for people to not use chemicals where they don’t need to (thinking of the home gardener, hand pulling weeds is tiresome but much safer thanany chemical alternative), know what chemicals you are using and be rigorous about safety equipment. This applies to all the chemicals we use from home cleaners to industrial chemicals in the workplace to agrochemicals such as Roundup.”

No conflicts of interest declared.


Ian C Shaw FRSC, FRCPath, Professor of Toxicology, University of Canterbury, comments:

Is glyphosate a carcinogen?

“On March 20, 2014, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified glyphosate (the active component of Roundup) as Carcinogen 2b – possibly carcinogenic to humans. Based on the available animal data, cell culture studies and epidemiological data relating to human exposures, in my opinion this was a very reasonable conclusion.

“This classification led some countries to review their use of glyphosate, because the possibility of the chemical being a carcinogen in humans put into question the benefit of glyphosate (Roundup) when set against this considerably increased risk – prior to this, glyphosate was considered safe.
NZ responded quite differently.

“The NZ EPA invited Dr Wayne Temple to consider and report on the IARC ruling and the data that was used for the IARC risk assessment. Dr Temple’s review concluded that glyphosate was unlikely to be a human carcinogen and unlikely to be genotoxic (most carcinogens are genotoxic, i.e. damage genes). On the back of this deliberation, NZ decided not to reconsider the regulatory status of glyphosate-containing herbicides.

“Dr Temple seems not to have considered the possibility of non-genotoxic carcinogenesis (some chemicals that cause cancer do not directly alter genes) in his assessment of the results. This was particularly surprising because experiments have shown that glyphosate can interact with a cell receptor (estrogen receptor) that stimulates some cells to grow – this is the way some non-genotoxic carcinogens work. In view of this, and other aspects of Temple’s report, I found the NZ EPA’s decision lacked scientific rigour.

“The US court ruling was clearly based on an acceptance of the IARC classification and the evidence underpinning it. Remember though that the courts require a balance of probabilities (i.e. only 51 per cent) for a guilty verdict, while scientists usually require much greater statistical security.

“I do not think we should base our regulatory decisions on a US court case, but I do think that the evidence that glyphosate is possibly a carcinogen in humans is robust. I favour categorising glyphosate as hazardous and reassessing its regulatory status in NZ.”

No conflicts of interest.


Assoc Prof Brian Cox, cancer epidemiologist, University of Otago:

“In 2015, the IARC classified glyphosphate, a major ingredient of RoundUp, as a probable carcinogen (a possible cancer causing agent in their Group 2A category).

“That is, the IARC consider that there is limited evidence that glyphosphate may cause cancer, but the association with cancer may be due to other things.

“Herbicide use is seldom exposure to just one specific product and the dose, duration, type, and frequency of exposure is relevant to any potential risk.

“A jury in the USA has considered the limited evidence sufficient in an individual case to attribute a man’s non-Hodgkin lymphoma to his exposure to glyphosphate.

“A sudden reaction to one case in one US law court, that has not yet gone to the appeal court, is not an appropriate method of developing health policy in New Zealand.

“However, it is appropriate that New Zealand does keep watch on the overseas evidence about the risk of cancer from glyphosphate exposure and assess and balance of evidence of that risk and the views of users, the public and New Zealand industry.

“The IARC definition of Group 2A is: the agent is probably carcinogenic to humans. This category is used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. Limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer but that other explanations for the observations (called chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out. This category is also used when there is limited evidence of carcinogenicity in humans and strong data on how the agent causes cancer.”

No conflicts of interest declared.


Dr Kerry Harrington, Senior Lecturer in Weed Science, Massey University:

“As I am a weed scientist and not a toxicologist, it is not appropriate for me to comment on the finer details of the toxicological debate over the safety of glyphosate. However, I can report that a number of recent reviews by toxicologists around the world have reiterated that glyphosate is a safe herbicide to use and does not cause cancer. These reviews take account of animal studies which directly measure whether a chemical causes cancer or not, which I understand were not taken into consideration by IARC when they claimed glyphosate does cause cancer.

“Even if it is as carcinogenic as claimed by IARC, this would appear to be in a category that is less risky than eating preserved meats, yet there is no outcry asking for these to be banned.

“It is a concern if decisions on the use of glyphosate in New Zealand hinge on the outcome of a court case in USA where a jury of ordinary members of the public had to decide about complex issues of toxicology.

“Glyphosate is one of our major weed control tools. Hopefully the calls for it to be banned will take into consideration the low risk of problems and the crucial importance of this herbicide for sustainable weed control worldwide.”

No conflicts of interest declared.

Mite might trim old man’s beard

A gall mite may be introduced to New Zealand to control the pervasive weed old man’s beard, if an application to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) succeeds.

The weed forms dense, permanent masses with heavy layered stems that smother and collapse underlying vegetation.

Heavy infestations prevent regeneration, leading to loss of native species in affected areas. This can open vegetation to invasion by other weeds.

Old man’s beard can also scramble over the ground, destroying low-growing plant communities on riverbanks, and in coastal and other sensitive habitats.”

“It colonises open forests, forest margins, shrublands, riversides, cliffs, bushtracks and hedgerows. It is also a troublesome urban weed. The vines can extend as far as 20 metres,” ,” says Dr Clark Ehlers, EPA senior advisor New Organisms.

Horizons Regional Council has applied to the authority to introduce the gall mite, Aceria vitalbae, on behalf of the National Biocontrol Collective, comprised of 14 regional councils and the Department of Conservation.

While old man’s beard, Clematis vitalba, is a member of the Ranunculaceae family, of which there are nine native Clematis species and four native genera in the same subfamily, laboratory tests and overseas experience suggest the gall mite is unlikely to colonise other species of Clematis.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research  is the science provider for the application, and consulted widely before choosing six exotic Clematis species or hybrids for host range testing at the University of Belgrade in Serbia.

According to the applicant, the results suggest that the gall mite is expected to effectively colonise only old man’s beard in New Zealand. Occasional galls may be expected on exotic, non-target Clematis species, but the presence of low numbers of mites is unlikely to cause them damage.

The application says that old man’s beard causes environmental damage throughout most of New Zealand, often in distant or inaccessible areas of high conservation value. Most infestations go unmanaged.

Biological control by the gall mite could provide a safe and sustainable alternative to mechanical and chemical methods of control, the applicant says. The gall mite could also disperse to isolated infestations that are inaccessible, or unknown to land owners. It would persist from year to year.

“Adult gall mites are less than one millimetre long,” Dr Ehlers notes. “They do not fly, but disperse on the wind. They attack old man’s beard by sucking out plant juices and creating tumour-like galls on leaves and shoots. This often leads to the death of that part of the plant.”

The applicant notes that successful biological control of the weed would mean reduced costs for regional councils, the Department of Conservation and other land owners. Five regional councils recently estimated they spend approximately $760,000 per year to fight old man’s beard.

Public submissions on this application open on Wednesday 18 July 2018 and close at 5pm on 29 August 2018.

View application details and information

Source:  Environmental Protection Authority

Environmental Protection Authority chair and deputy announced

The new Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) board chairperson and deputy were announced by Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage today.

The new chairperson is Julie Hardaker; her deputy is Steven Tīpene Wilson.

The EPA board is responsible for the authority’s governance.

The EPA makes decisions for and regulates hazardous substances and new organisms as well as specified marine activities in New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone. It also provides administrative support for the decision-making on major infrastructure and called in projects under the Resource Management Act and operates the New Zealand Emissions Trading Register under the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The Minister said former Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker brings a depth and breadth of experience to the role including knowledge of central and local government processes and public and employment law.

Steven Tīpene Wilson is deputy and former chair of Ngā Kaihautū Tikanga Taiao, the EPA’s Māori Statutory Advisory Committee.

He has won a NZ Planning Institute Best Practice award in strategic planning and guidance, and has knowledge of central government and regional council processes.

Outgoing chair Kerry Prendergast has served the EPA Board since its inception in 2011 and was joined by deputy chair Kevin Thompson in 2012.

Other appointments are Dr Gerda Kuschel and Professor Jeroen Douwes, who replace Kura Denness and Geoff Thompson.

Dayle Hunuia, Tim Lusk, Gillian Wratt and Nicki Crauford will continue as EPA board members.