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WORDS Dr Sam Nelson - Policy Manager, Technical

To ensure the safety of people and the environment, all agricultural chemicals registered for use in Australia are independently and scientifically assessed by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority (APVMA).

The APVMA establishes a MRL for all agricultural chemicals, which is the highest amount of chemical residue legally allowed in food products produced in Australia. MRLs are set at levels that are unlikely to pose a risk to human health and are not likely to be exceeded when the chemical is used in accordance with label directions. It's important to note that MRLs can vary between different markets due to different regulatory frameworks and risk assessments.

Australia's approach is based on a comprehensive risk assessment that considers exposure, scientific studies, data, and proposed usage. In contrast, the European Union (EU) employs a hazard-based approach, focusing on intrinsic properties of substances.

In international markets, ensuring compliance with varying MRLs is crucial. For instance, when exporting grain, it's imperative to adhere to the regulated MRLs and customer contract specifications, which might differ from Australia's standards.

In some instances, even the proper application of chemicals in accordance with Australian label directions can result in grain residues that fail to meet the requirements of stringent export markets.

The reduction of the haloxyfop MRL in the EU announced earlier this year is an example of why Australia needs to be proactive in understanding changes to MRLs in markets, and the increasing sensitivity of markets to chemical residues.

In 2021-2022



  • 832 samples from domestic supply (99.4 per cent compliance)
  • 1,580 samples from export containers (98.9 per cent compliance)
  • 4,156 grain samples were taken from bulk exports (a 99.9 per cent compliance rate)
  • Australia’s National Residue Survey program

    Residues in domestic and export grain shipments are monitored by marketers and/or the National Residue Survey (NRS). The NRS program covers a range of domestic and export commodities, including grain, and is funded by a levy. The NRS program facilitates and encourages ongoing access to markets by verifying good practice and alignment with chemical control of-use legislation and guidelines.

    The NRS program includes 23 grain commodities and sampling is developed in consultation with the industries involved and takes into account importing country requirements.

    The high degree of compliance helps to maintain the reputation of Australian grain. Further information about the NRS, including the datasets for the various grains and chemicals tested are available on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website.

    Upholding good practice

    Confidence in the process behind the registration of agvet chemicals is critical, and GrainGrowers supports Australia’s science-based regulatory framework and the work of the APVMA.

    Australia's chemical regulatory system strikes a delicate balance, granting access to chemicals that are proven safe and effective while maintaining a proportional compliance burden based on potential risks.

    Ensuring transparency in the use of chemicals through accurate Commodity Vendor Declarations is a critical step in guaranteeing that Australian grain meets international market requirements and upholds its esteemed reputation.

    Trade and Market Access

    With around 70% of Australia's grain exported, an internationally competitive trade agenda is critical for the profitability of Australian growers. GrainGrowers will proactively drive policy and advocacy outcomes to further and maintain market opportunities for progressive Australian grain farmers.

    Policy & Industry Issues