Forestry industry say talks vital with trade partners over alternative fumigant
New Zealand: A poison used for fumigating logs and timber could be replaced, if forest industry leaders have their way.
Methyl bromide has been a standard fumigant for certain exports for years, but it depletes the ozone and has been accused of causing motor neurone disease.
Now, consultation has started on a possible replacement, ethanedinitrile or EDN, which must be approved by the Environmental Protection Authority.
Foresters hope to use it before regulations come into effect in 2020 which will make methyl bromide more difficult and expensive to use.
However, methyl bromide is still widely demanded by importers in China and India.
Don Hammond, who chairs a stakeholder group for methyl bromide reduction (STIMBR), said his group and other funding partners, including the Government, had invested more than $22 million into researching alternatives to methyl bromide.
His group had found only one promising alternative, EDN, which is made in the Czech Republic.
"There are clear advantages of EDN over methyl bromide. EDN has no effect on the ozone layer. It is not a greenhouse gas. It does not bioaccumulate because it breaks down rapidly in the environment without leaving harmful residues in the soil or in water," he said.
Peter Clark, president of the Forest Owners Association, said that approval from the Environmental Protection Authority was a vital first step but that did not mean importing countries would automatically accept EDN's use.
"Though the value of log exports is less than half of the value of our total timber exports, 71 per cent of our logs go to China, and presently methyl bromide treatment is an important component of that trade," he said.
"Further, all logs going to India require methyl bromide treatment. Resolving this issue is a clear priority for our industry."
Clark said he was confident that EDN would get the EPA's approval but the process of assuring other countries about EDN needed to be a "government priority".
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