Press Release 97/31

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Press Release 97/31


ROME, 24 July -- The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has disposed of some 370 tons of unused toxic pesticides in Zambia and the Seychelles as part of its on-going program to help developing countries clean up obsolete pesticides. Storage sites were cleaned and highly dangerous and persistent chemicals like DDT, Lindane, Dieldrin, Atrazine, Diazinon, Captan, Malathion and HCH (Hexachlorocyclohexane) were shipped to Europe for incineration. Most of the pesticides were unused stocks donated through foreign aid programmes.

The cost of the removal was $1.3 million. FAO received financial assistance from the Dutch Government and the German Technical Co-operation Agency (GTZ).

“Obsolete pesticide stocks pose a serious threat to public health and the environment, said FAO Agricultural Officer Alemayehu Wodageneh. “Storage conditions rarely meet international standards. In many countries, pesticide containers are kept in the open, containers deteriorate and leak their contents into the soil, contaminating soil, water and groundwater. Most stores are in urban areas. Many of these chemicals are so toxic that a few grams could poison thousands of people or contaminate a large area.”

According to FAO, donor countries, aid agencies, agrochemical companies and recipient governments are all responsible for the steady accumulation of obsolete pesticides in developing countries.

FAO estimates that there are more than 100,000 tons of obsolete pesticides in developing countries, 20,000 in Africa. The amount of stocks in the Near East countries is estimated at 5,000 tons. Several countries in Asia and Eastern Europe have stocks in excess of 5,000 tons each. Due to the absence of environmentally sound disposal facilities stocks are constantly increasing. Some stocks are over 30 years old.

Total global sales of pesticides for 1995 reached $29 billion, of which pesticides worth nearly $24 billion were sold by 11 major companies. Disposal costs vary from $3,500 to $5,000 per ton.

FAO is currently seeking the financial support from agro-industry companies for pilot disposal operations in Gambia (20 tons), Senegal (300 tons) and Botswana (200 tons).

Costs of disposing of obsolete pesticide stocks in Africa alone are estimated to exceed $100 million. “A massive global mobilisation of resources is needed to alleviate the situation. Without financial support from agro-industry, governments and aid-agencies, this enormous environmental threat cannot be resolved,” Wodageneh said.

The best way to dispose of pesticides is high-temperature incineration, according to FAO. None of the developing countries - except a few newly industrialised nations - have facilities for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of pesticides.

The long-term solution to disposal problems lies in preventing accumulation of obsolete pesticides, according to FAO. Stocks should be kept as small as possible and pesticide use should be drastically reduced.

Note: FAO has prepared Guidelines on the Prevention and Accumulation of Obsolete Pesticides, on Pesticide Storage and Stock Control and on Disposal of Bulk Quantities of Obsolete Pesticides in Arabic, English, French and Spanish. These documents can be obtained from A. Wodageneh, fax: 0039-6-5225 6347;
e-mail: [email protected]

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