UN Convention to regulate trade in hazardous pesticides


Negotiations to establish a legally binding convention governing trade in hazardous pesticides and chemicals should be concluded in early 1998, based on progress made during a five-day meeting at FAO headquarters that finished on 24 October 1997. The meeting was attended by more than 250 delegates from about 100 countries.



Farmers in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides

The new legally binding convention would replace a voluntary Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, which is managed jointly by FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The PIC procedure, established in 1989, currently regulates trade in 22 banned or severely restricted pesticides and five harmful industrial chemicals. Some 154 countries participate in the procedure, which requests exporting countries to comply with import decisions of potential importers, and provides information on substances that are banned or severely restricted in certain countries and of the reasons for this. The aim of PIC is to protect human and animal health and the environment in developing countries.

Deaths and illness caused by dangerous pesticides are impossible to count. But it is clear that farmers in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of chemicals when they cannot afford the necessary protective gear and are not fully informed about the dangers of the substances they are working with. In China in 1995, more than 48 000 cases of pesticide poisoning were reported, including 3 204 deaths.

In the most recent negotiating session, countries agreed that all of the chemicals on the voluntary PIC watchlist will be covered by the legally binding convention. In addition to requiring exporters to inform importing countries if substances are on the watchlist, the list itself is on the Internet and available to all.

Niek van der Graaff, Chief of FAO's Plant Protection Service, Plant Production and Protection Division and joint Secretary of the InterGovernmental Negotiating Committee, and Gerold Wyrwal, Agricultural Officer Pesticide Information, spoke to us about the use of pesticides in the developing world and the contribution that a legally binding convention will make to improved safety standards (Go to interview).

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