WP 29 - Cotton, health and environment: A case study of self-regulation

Author/s (editor/s):

Gunningham, Neil

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Peer Reviewed Publication:

Gunningham, Neil. (2004). “Cotton, Health and Environment: A Case Study of Self-Regulation”, 9 The Australian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy 2, 189-228.

The Australian cotton industry confronts a range of serious occupational health and environmental challenges, many of which relate to the use and misuse of agricultural chemicals. This article asks which policy instruments are likely to be most effective and efficient in addressing those challenges? Is government regulation a credible option or would industry self-regulation achieve better results? Is there a role for safety. Health and environmental management systems or is some other option, or combination of options, likely to achieve better economic and health and environmental outcomes? More broadly, given the substantial threats to the cotton industry’s legitimacy (and indirectly to its economic viability) resulting from its tarnished environmental image, how might the industry best preserve its ‘social license’ and rebuild trust and credibility with key stakeholders? The answers to these questions will have broader resonance than to the cotton industry alone. The industry provides a classic example of the health and environmental challenges that confront high input, intensively irrigated agriculture and other industries that have aroused a high degree of public concern concerning their health and environmental impact. The ways it has reacted to the pressures it faced and sought through voluntary environmental management arrangements (VEMAs), to protect both its ‘social license’ and its economic viability, contain important lessons for many other industry sectors that will, sooner or later, confront similar health, environmental and economic challenges.

Cite the publication as

Gunningham, Neil, 2004, WP 29 - Cotton, health and environment: A case study of self-regulation, National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, Canberra

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