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Wednesday, 9 November 1983
Page: 2484

Mr ANDREW —My question is directed to the Minister for Science and Technology. In answer to a question on 5 October, the Minister for Primary Industry referred to the difficulties associated with the use of the chemical ethylene dibromide in agriculture. Is the Minister aware that on the same day the Australian Broadcasting Corporation television program Towards 2000 suggested that gamma rays could be used as a safe alternative to EDB as a fumigant for citrus fruit? Does the Minister agree with the use of gamma rays as an alternative to EDB as a fumigant for citrus fruit?

Mr BARRY JONES —The use of gamma rays and a number of other highly complicated physical means of replacing chemical means of treatment of fruit, meat and other products is being reviewed at the moment. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is doing a lot of work in this area. Essentially, people are approaching the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board with specific projects. On the whole, the response of the Government will not be to initiate new techniques, but to respond to demands from particular sections of industry.

As we become increasingly conscious of the environmental and other side effects from chemicals such as EDB, we will clearly be looking for alternatives. On the other hand, we must also be concerned to know what is the 'worst case' scenario for new technologies. It would not be sensible to change the configuration of our industry so that we were very heavily committed to the use of gamma irradiation if we found that some unforeseen toxic consequence arose from it. If the honourable member wants more specific information, I will be glad to get my Department to provide it for him. But the current situation is that we are really responding to applications from industry itself.