An article posted on August 22, 2010 by Coober Pedy Regional Times claims that “Banned US neurotoxic insecticides Diazinon, Chlorpyrifos and others are about to be unleashed over South Australia to protect crops from locusts with a possible assistance scheme for farmers who choose to use these chemicals.” See

Even though according to another report by the Australian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) called “Assessment of the impactof insecticide spraying of Australian plague locusts JULY 2001” at

“The most promising alternative to chemical pesticides is Green Guard®, a fungal pathogen (Metarhizium anisopliae) specific to locusts and grasshoppers. However, chemical spraying is regarded as the most effective method of controlling plague populations of C. terminifera, given the huge area under control, difficulty of land transport and access, and the need for urgent response to outbreaks. “

According to the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s (DAFF) website at “Metarhizium is more expensive than conventional insecticides and is being reserved for situations where insecticides cannot be used to control locusts (such as certified organic pastoral properties or environmentally sensitive areas). For further details see APLC Metarhizium.”

“The US Pesticide Action Network (PANNA) report in 2002 (see says that banned insecticides, diazinon is particularly hazardous to children”. “Air monitoring of these two pesticides demonstrates that people living near application sites are exposed to levels that exceed acute RELs (Reference Exposure Levels) for both adults and children. For diazinon, the peak measured concentration 72 feet from the field boundary was 16 times higher than the adult acute REL and 39 times higher than the acute child REL.”...”…“Children who live or attend school near farmland are particularly vulnerable.”

“Repeated exposure to low doses may cause muscle twitching, anorexia, malaise, depression, irritability, confusion, anxiety, and dizziness. Damage to the pancreas has developed in some people and in laboratory animals exposed to large amounts of diazinon.”

“Diazinon is a mutagen. Long-term exposure may damage the developing fetus or cause birth defects, nerve damage and/or liver damage. It has been shown to cause birth defects in chick embryos (parrot beak, abnormal feathering, and development of disproportionately small limbs),"

"A two generation reproductive study in rats showed that diazinon exposure affected both mothers and offspring. Diazinon caused increased numbers of still births and neonatal deaths in beagle dogs and birth defects in pigs.”

The article by Coober Pedy Regional Times also claims that the Australian MLA (Meat and Lamb Association) has also released concerns about the impact of toxic chemicals on the agricultural industry in Australia, saying:

“It is critical to carry out best-practice management to protect our agricultural industries as a whole,” he said. According to Mr Hutchinson this extends past chemical choice and encompasses sound record keeping. For further information on the management of crops, pastures and livestock affected by locust control programs visit For more information on vendor declarations or to download livestock feed and fodder declarations go to”.

The report mentioned earlier, by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) called “Assessment of the impact of insecticide spraying of Australian plague locusts JULY 2001” at claims that “Approximately 505,000 hectares of land was sprayed with insecticides between September and December 2000 to control a major locust plague. Concerns for the environmental impacts of widespread spraying were addressed through cooperative arrangements between Primary Industries and Resources South Australia, the Environment Protection Agency and the State Water Monitoring Coordinating Committee.”

“Some pesticides in use today are especially dangerous to wildlife. Two insecticides, carbofuran and diazinon, were involved in 55% of all bird incidents."

“Local councils and landowners were approved to use carbaryl, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, fenitrothion, fipronil and various synthetic pyrethroids in the locust control program. PIRSA assumed responsibility for aerial spraying, aiming to kill the maximum number of locusts per day using fipronil in pastoral country and fenitrothion on cropping country”.

“It is inevitable that there will be loss of non-target insects and other invertebrates when using insecticides to control one species of insect within a spray block (Bunn et al, 1993).”…“ The application of fenitrothion and fipronil is governed by strict control regimes, including the observation of buffer zones around residences and sensitive areas such as waterways and public water supply dams (Australian Plague Locust Commission, 2000).”

“ Fenitrothion requires large buffer zones as it is inherently prone to spray drift (National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinarian Chemicals, 1999). Fipronil was not to be used near populated areas and only employed in northern pastoral areas of the State (PIRSA, 2000). Although buffer zones around waterways help minimise the risk to water supplies and aquatic organisms, there is still the risk of off-target applications, spray drift and runoff from rain.”

“Fenitrothion is a broad-range non-systemic organophosphorous insecticide that has been registered for use in Australia for over 30 years. Common uses for fenitrothion include the protection of stored cereal grains, and grain storage equipment and structures, from insect attack, the control of nymphal bands and adult swarms of plague locusts, and insect control for a broad range of crops. Fenitrothion exerts its toxicity through indirect inhibition of cholinesterase through its transformation to fenitrooxon.”

“Fenitrothion is rapidly broken down in most animals and over 85% is excreted as breakdown products in the urine within four days (Agriculture WA, 2000). Meat from animals exposed to the insecticide may be eaten after a withholding period of 14 days. Similarly, eggs laid by poultry exposed to the insecticide should contain no detectable residues after one week (Agriculture WA, 2000).”

“Fenitrothion has been shown to have high acute toxicity to birds. Its use was banned in Canada in 1997 after it was linked to significant increased mortality of forest songbirds (Mineau, 1999). Fenitrothion is known to have harmful effects on terrestrial invertebrates including honeybees, ants and springtails.”

“Fipronil is a relatively new insecticide belonging to the phenyl pyrazole class of pesticides. It acts as an insecticide with contact and stomach action by disrupting the insect central nervous system via the aminobutryic acid (GABA) regulated chloride channel. While it takes 7–10 days to kill the insect, it does possess good residual effect.”

“Fipronil degrades slowly in water and sediment; its half-life on treated vegetation has been determined at 3–7 months, depending on the substrate and the habitat where it is applied (Belayneh, 1998). When fipronil was used to control African locusts in Madagascar between 1996 and 1999, the mortality of many bird and mammal species increased, leading the government to withdraw authorisation for its use against locust swarms in February 1999 (PLAAG, 1999).”

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s (DAFF) role is to develop and implement policies and programs that ensure Australia's agricultural, fisheries, food and forestry industries remain competitive, profitable and sustainable. See

Their policies and programs are to :

• encourage and support sustainable natural resource use and management

• protect the health and safety of plant and animal industries

• enable industries to adapt to compete in a fast-changing international and economic environment.

• help improve market access and market performance for the agricultural and food sector

• encourage and assist industries to adopt new technology and practices, and

• assist primary producers and the food industry to develop business and marketing skills, and to be financially self-reliant.

DAFF frequently asked questions that are relevant to locust spraying hazards are at and includes the following questions and answers :-

“ How does the APLC manage locust populations?

The APLC uses an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach to the control of locust populations. This is where a variety of control techniques are evaluated and consolidated into a unified program to manage pest populations so that economic damage is avoided and adverse side effects on the environment are minimised. The APLC applies locust control agents exclusively by aerial spraying ultra low volumes (ULV) of the active ingredient. Currently, the main control agent used is the insecticide fenitrothion but fipronil is being increasingly used, particularly on large bands and swarms. In environmentally sensitive areas or on certified organic properties, the fungus Metarhizium is used. The APLC is constantly evaluating new locust control agents as they become available. For further details see APLC Metarhizium and APLC Control. (Also, see the next question).”

“What strategy does the APLC use to minimise the development of locust plagues?

Within the IPM framework (see FAQ 21), the APLC uses the strategy of preventive control to limit the development of locust plagues. The aim of preventive control is to delay a potential plague by limiting population increase until normal dry conditions intervene. A significant part (1/3 - 2/3) of the locust population is controlled whenever bands and swarms are present. The aim of preventive control is not to control all of the locusts but to reduce the rate of increase until dry conditions return and populations decline. This has been successful in limiting most outbreaks of the three locust pest species in eastern Australia (Australian plague locust, spur-throated locust and migratory locust), but when rains are particularly widespread or continue for a long period, populations can still reach plague proportions as they did during the 1999/2000 season.”

“Are the insecticides used to control locusts harmful to the environment?

The insecticides used for controlling locusts are toxins and must be handled carefully. There is no evidence that APLC control operations have had any major or long-term impact on the environment. The APLC operates in an environmentally responsible manner and is pro-active in conducting research to monitor any possible effects on non-target organisms. The APLC maintains a strict 1.5 kilometre buffer zone between a sprayed target and any sensitive areas downwind. Research on the effect of fenitrothion on non-target grassland invertebrates showed that while the insecticide significantly reduced the density of some insect species immediately after spraying, populations recovered rapidly and there was no detectable effect on community structure. Currently, APLC environmental research is focussed at looking at the effect of locust control agents on vertebrates (birds, mammals and reptiles) and invertebrates (ants, springtails and termites). For further details see APLC Environmental Research.”

“Do the insecticides used by the APLC persist in the environment or pose a residue risk to stock or grain?

If used correctly, as is ensured by APLC operating procedures, these risks are very low. The APLC applies very low doses of insecticide that degrade rapidly in the environment. To safeguard against the risk of insecticide residues in grain or stock in areas where locust control agents have been applied, strict withholding periods and/or slaughter intervals of 1 to 2 weeks are imposed. This allows ample time for the insecticides to break down to undetectable levels. For further information about withholding periods for locust control agents see the SAFEMEAT brochure on Locust control agents and livestock residues.”

“Why doesn't the APLC use a more natural method of control than chemical pesticides?

The APLC uses a naturally occurring fungus called Metarhizium. Developed in collaboration with CSIRO Entomology, it was used operationally for the first time in the spring 2000 locust outbreak. Metarhizium is sprayed onto locusts (usually when they are in the hopper or nymph stage) as spores suspended in a mineral or vegetable oil using normal aerial spraying equipment. The fungus takes at least one week to kill the hoppers and is therefore not recommended for crop protection. At the moment, Metarhizium is more expensive than conventional insecticides and is being reserved for situations where insecticides cannot be used to control locusts (such as certified organic pastoral properties or environmentally sensitive areas). For further details see APLC Metarhizium.”

“When there is a locust plague, why doesn't the APLC catch them and use them as animal feed?

Many people have suggested ways of catching large numbers of locusts such as using giant fluorescent lights mounted on trucks or giant vacuum cleaners. Unfortunately, none of the methods suggested so far would ever be economical, practical or as effective at controlling locust populations as aerial spraying currently is. When a locust outbreak occurs it is essential to control the infestation as quickly as possible (to restrict migration into agricultural areas) and in the most cost-effective way.”

There are some startling claims, which I hope to check out in my next article about the effects of pesticides on humans at


Agriculture WA. 2000. [webpage]

Australian Plague Locust Commission. 2000. [webpage]

Australian Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Report called “Assessment of the impactof insecticide spraying of Australian plague locusts JULY 2001” at

Belayneh, YT. 1998. Amendment III to the USAID/Madagascar supplemental environmental assessment for locust control program: Options for including fipronil as an anti-locust insecticide. Unpublished report, USAID, Washington DC.

Bunn, SE, Best, L, Chapman, JC, Melville, J and New, TR. 1993. Review of environmental issues arising from the Australian Plague Locust Commission’s locust control operations: A report to The Australian Plague Locust Commission, Australia.

DAFF The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s at

Mineau, P. 1999. CCWHC Short Course: Wildlife Toxicology – Chapter 7 Pesticides and Birds – A Practical Approach. [webpage]

National Registration Authority for Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals. 1999. The NRA Review of Fenitrothion: Interim Report. Canberra, Australia.

The US Pesticide Action Network (PANNA) report in 2002 (see

PIRSA. 2000.

PLAAG. 1999. Elements de bilan Mars-Mai 1999. European Union.