European canola buyers have ordered Australian farmers to stop using an insecticide on their crops if they want to keep selling into the market.
Farmers fear it is the first step to banning a range of chemicals, such as glyphosate, which are legal in Australia but not accepted in Europe.
One peak farming body said the move could breach international trade rules.
Last week, WA grain company Cooperative Bulk Handling (CBH) Group wrote to growers telling them to stop using omethoate if they had signed up to a European accreditation scheme that gave canola producers a premium.
It angered local farmers because omethoate, used most commonly to kill red-legged earth mite, is legal and approved for use by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).
APVMA reviewed omethoate in 2016 and banned it from being used in home gardens and on some horticulture crops, but allowed its continued use for red-legged earth mite.
“Omethoate is approved for use in Australia and is safe to use according to the updated label instructions,” an APVMA spokeswoman said.
Le Mat is the commercial name for omethoate, and its label says it can be used on pastures, cereals such as wheat and oilseeds such as canola.
Scheme created to ensure supply
Europe is the largest buyer of Australian canola, most of which comes from WA and South Australia.
The European Union prefers non-genetically modified (GM) canola, giving Australia an edge over its biggest competitor, Canada, which grows only GM canola.
WA’s canola exports are worth about $800 million a year and almost all sold by CBH group.