A new regulation has been published by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), banning the use of a host of chemicals.
Debate is taking place about the interpretation of the legislation, and the industry has written to the Minister of DALRRD, Thoko Didiza, requesting answers to our questions within 90 days. This is in line with a clause in South Africa’s Constitution giving citizens the right to explanations for new legislation.
The new legislation, called Regulation 3812, amends a law enacted in 1947 called the Fertilisers, Farm Feed, Agricultural Remedies and Stock Remedies Act No. 36.
The industry’s interpretation of the change, as it stands, is that the Registrar may only licence chemicals that do not contain “substances of concern”, with certain caveats that do not apply to our industry. These substances are listed in categories 1A or 1B of the Globally Harmonised System (GHS), and include the ingredients of CCA and creosote.
However, the industry recently received some positive feedback, indicating that products used in the timber preservative industry have a good case for renewal. This is welcome news to us, as it is in line with our letter to the Minister.
The industry has received feedback that there is a good case for the renewal of our registrations.
Contesting the new regulations
This letter points out that new regulations must be grounded on sound science, and that the Registrar should be able to consider highly relevant scientific evidence in his decision-making.
In addition, we believe there was an oversight in the process of drafting Regulation 3812, as it seems that the Registrar’s powers were fettered inadvertently.
“The chemical industry has seen a rapid wave of legislation against its products, coming first from the Department of Labour, then the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), and now the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD),” observed Bertus.
The wave of new legislation restricting the use of chemicals is based on the Globally Harmonised System, which the South African Government began implementing in September 2022. First, the Department of Labour obliged the chemical industry to reclassify and relabel our products. Dolphin Bay is now comfortable with this legislation, and all our products meet its requirements.
Next came the regulations published by the DFFE, called the PIC regulations, which stated that CCA was “no longer registered” and that the trade and use of the wood preservative are “no longer allowed” – both of which are false. The DFFE has since amended this legislation to satisfy our industry’s objections, with the effect that the legislation no longer affects CCA, to our relief.
Then, early in 2023, the DALRRD published Regulation 3812.
The Infotox report draws an analogy with stainless steel “which, uncontroversially, is found in our cars, homes, and the workplace.”
Scientific evidence supporting CCA
The letter that the industry wrote to the minister refers to the scientific evidence produced by scientists at Infotox and explains why CCA-treated timber cannot be classified as a product of concern, and its use is in the public interest.
The Infotox investigation concluded that CCA does not have the capacity to harm people, animals, or the environment after it is applied to timber. This is because a chemical reaction takes place within the wood and a new, complex structure is formed, which is inert, rendering the treated timber harmless.
The Infotox report draws an analogy with stainless steel which, like CCA, contains several chemical ingredients, one of which is toxic, “but when they are all fused together… the final product, an alloy, is totally harmless. Stainless steel, uncontroversially, is found in our cars, homes, and the workplace.”
On behalf of the Minister, the Registrar acknowledged receipt of the industry’s letter. Meanwhile, a recent development gave some cause for hope, and we are pleased that a healthy dialogue is beginning between the industry and the department.
We remain confident and hopeful that the uncertainties will be resolved soon.