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Sour times for NT mango farmers -

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Sour times for NT mango farmers

AM - Saturday, 30 October , 2004 08:24:00

Reporter: Anne Barker

HAMISH ROBERTSON: It's mango season in Australia's north - the time of year when the plump, golden
fruit hang from the branches in their thousands.

But as harvesting gets into full swing, the top end mango farmers have been left with a sour taste
in their mouths this year, after allegations they're contaminating the market with toxic chemicals
that are banned elsewhere.

Environmentalists say that the Northern Territory's famous mangoes are in fact a danger to
consumers, and that farmers must clean up their act.

Anne Barker reports.

ANNE BARKER: The buildup to the tropical wet season is the time of year when "mango madness" takes
hold. The rising heat and humidity send people troppo, just as the fruit trees start to sag under
the weight of luscious, ripening mangoes.

But this season it's the mango growers who are mad as hell, at calls for a blanket ban on a raft of
toxic pesticides crucial to one of northern Australia's burgeoning export industries.

PETER ROBERTSON: Many of these chemicals are very dangerous. They have been linked with cancer,
they have been linked with reproductive problems, hormone problems, they are really, really
dangerous chemicals, and the public should be kept fully informed.

ANNE BARKER: Peter Robertson heads the Northern Territory Environment Centre which has targeted 12
highly dangerous chemicals that are banned through the rest of Australia and overseas, but which it
says are still widely used by top end mango growers, and making their way onto the market and
threatening the environment.

In one case, he says, food testers in Sydney found toxic residues on 50 per cent of mangoes from
the Northern Territory.

PETER ROBERTSON: All of them should be withdrawn from use. Some of them, we believe, should be
banned immediately, like Myrex and also chemicals like Endosulfin and Chlorpyrophos - these are
extremely dangerous chemicals and we shouldn't be using them on food crops and in environments
where they could interact with wildlife and other people.

ANNE BARKER: But mango growers have condemned the claims as a vicious and callous attack on an
industry that has bent over backwards to make itself clean and green.

Tom Harris, President of the Territory's horticultural association, admits mango farmers do use a
range of highly toxic chemicals, but he says growers take stringent precautions to protect
consumers.

TOM HARRIS: There's actually been zero detection of any chemicals in Territory product that's been
tested through the Fresh Test system, so, look, absolutely the consumer is absolutely protected,
and I believe Territory producers are doing a fantastic job to make sure that their product is
absolutely safe for the consumers.

ANNE BARKER: Government regulators in Darwin have defended the mango industry, while admitting it's
hard to monitor the practices of every farmer.

But Ian Kilduff from the Industry Department says ultimately the proof is in the pudding.

IAN KILDUFF: The proof that our product can go down, not only to southern markets, but also to
international markets, which some markets have pretty strong testing regimes for chemical residues,
and to date it's come up trumps.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Ian Kilduff, that report by Anne Barker in Darwin.

(c) 2006 ABC