Press Release 97/20
FAO: UNSAFE APPLICATION OF PESTICIDES CAUSES HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE
- TRAINING AND STANDARDS REQUIRED
ROME, 29 May -- The technology used to spray pesticides in most developing countries
reflects technical standards of 40 years ago, resulting in pesticides waste and environmental
damage, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in a statement released
today. FAO called for the adoption of minimum standards for the safe and efficient
application of agrochemicals through good quality equipment and a better training
According to FAO, farmers and equipment operators have insufficient knowledge about
pesticides and correct methods of application. Extension services rarely have technicians
with any specialised knowledge of application technology. “In many countries the
only specialists offering advice to farmers on application technology, handling and
calibration of their equipment are representatives of pesticide companies,” said
Theodor Friedrich of the FAO Agricultural Engineering Branch. “Many farmers still
believe in high volumes, high pressure and high doses, as the most appropriate way
to apply pesticides.”
In many countries, much of the spraying equipment is in extremely poor condition,
Friedrich noted. Nozzles are normally not replaced and are even enlarged on purpose
to achieve higher flow rates.
In Pakistan, according to FAO, about 50 percent of applied pesticides are wasted
due to poor spraying machinery and inappropriate application. Many farmers were
not trained in safety aspects and indiscriminate use of pesticides resulted in groundwater
In India, high levels of pesticide residues in food crops, compared to the world
average, are reported. According to FAO this is an indication that pesticides were
used in a wrong way. Although India has national standards for spray equipment, which
are followed by the major manufacturers, there are still many small manufacturers
serving local needs that do not comply with quality standards.
In Thailand, farmers so far have paid little attention to the proper use of pesticides,
according to surveys. Training on spraying equipment was low. A study in Indonesia
reported that 58 percent of manual spray equipment leaked. In Malaysia, the lack
of training, the improper maintenance of spraying equipment and insufficient protective
clothing are contributing to pesticide poisoning among spray operators. Pesticide
residue in water was primarily due to excess pesticide use by farmers.
A report on Vietnam said that the supply of safe spray equipment was limited mainly
due to the absence of national legislation and standards and a lack of training of
operators. In the Philippines sprayer leakage is very common. The majority of farmers
and equipment operators never receive any formal training prior to their first contact
with pesticides and application equipment.
In Colombia, flowers are sprayed weekly with up to 6,000 litre per hectare and in
Brazil application volumes of 10,000 l/ha in orchard crops have been reported. Application
volumes of that kind cause run off and lead to soil and groundwater contamination.
For efficient pest control with appropriate technologies less than 10% of these volumes
would be more than enough.
“Technology allowing safe and efficient application of pesticides exists today and
should be part of Integrated Pest Management. However, the application depends on
the technical capacity, and the economic and cultural background of a country,” Friedrich
said. “To improve pesticide application, the introduction of good, standard quality
equipment and operator training is essential and should be part of Integrated Pest
He said that farmers could benefit from safe and more efficient pesticide application,
saving large quantities of pesticides and money while achieving better pest control.
The commercial sector could earn by providing technology, services and spare parts.
FAO has developed “Guidelines for the Basic Requirements for Pesticide Application
Equipment” and “Standards for Pesticide Application Equipment” including test procedures.
FAO suggests that incentives for improved equipment quality should be created. A
certification system could be introduced on a voluntary basis by manufacturers using
the certificate as a quality trade mark and for sales promotion. Practical training
of farmers and operators should be introduced working with small groups of trainers.
FAO organises regional workshops to create awareness among governments, farmers and
the commercial sector.