Press Release 97/34
FIVE NEW PESTICIDES ADDED TO INTERNATIONAL WATCH LIST
ROME, 23 September - Five extremely hazardous pesticides are being added to an
existing watch list so that their trade can be better monitored and managed in future,
the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP)
announced today. Certain highly concentrated formulations of five pesticides known
as organophosphates - methamidophos, methyl parathion, monocrotophos, parathion and
phosphamidon - join 17 harmful pesticides and 5 industrial chemicals which are already
part of what is known as the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC).
According to this voluntary system, these dangerous substances should not be exported
without the agreement of the importing country. PIC is jointly administered by FAO
and UNEP. Currently, 154 countries are participating in the PIC procedure .
“These pesticide formulations pose a considerable risk to the health of many small
farmers and agricultural workers because they cannot be handled safely. In developing
countries, protective gear is often too expensive, or if available, cannot be used
due to the climate,” said Niek Van der Graaff, Chief of the FAO Plant Protection
Studies on the application of organophosphates have demonstrated that during normal
spraying, farmers are exposed to contamination by absorption of residues on clothing
through the skin. In China alone, 27 provinces in 1995 reported a total of 48,377
poisoning cases, including 3,204 fatalities. More than 7,500 of these cases were
mostly attributed to normal agricultural use of parathion and methamidophos. Studies
have shown that there are many unreported pesticide poisoning cases in rural areas
of developing countries.
Poisoning from parathion occurs even in industrialised countries despite stringent
protection. There are more reported cases of pesticide poisoning with parathion than
with any other pesticide currently in use.
Reports have shown that consumers have also been at risk of acute poisoning following
the consumption of green leafy vegetables that had been treated shortly before harvest
with organophosphate pesticides.
The PIC procedure helps to better control and contain the international trade of
pesticides such as DDT, Aldrin, Lindane, Dieldrin, Hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) and
others which are highly harmful to humans, animals and the environment. The PIC procedure
is also applied to other chemicals that are harmful to human health and the environment
and have been banned or severely restricted in a number of countries, such as crocidolite,
tris and PCB. Through the FAO/UNEP PIC Secretariat, importing countries receive information
about the characteristics of these hazardous chemicals, including in which participating
countries they have been severely restricted or banned. The authorities can then
decide if they want let these toxic substances enter their country. Exporting countries
will be notified which chemicals will no longer be accepted by each importing country.
They will work with their chemical industry to ensure that exports do not take place
contrary to the decision of the importing country.
Meanwhile, FAO and UNEP said, negotiations are underway to transform the voluntary
PIC procedure into a legally binding convention. The next round of intergovernmental
negotiations will take place at FAO Headquarters in Rome, 20-24 October.
“The inclusion of these five pesticides is a big step forward in the implementation
of the voluntary PIC procedure”, said Jim Willis, Director of UNEP’s Chemical Programme.
“It should also give an added impetus to the coming talks on a legally binding instrument,
which should be finalized by mid-1998.”
In order to reduce the risks caused by pesticides, FAO assists developing countries
in using less pesticides. In Asia, for example, farmers have successfully applied
Integrated Pest Management practices, reducing the use of toxic insecticides by more
than 70 percent without negative effects on rice yields.
The global market for pesticides continues to grow and is estimated at $30 billion
in 1996. The fastest growing markets are in the developing world, particularly Latin
America and Asia. In China, the production of organophosphorus insecticides totaled
177,900 tons in 1995, an increase of 28 percent over the previous year. Thailand,
one of Asia’s most rapidly expanding agrochemical markets, uses monocrotophos, methamidophos
and methyl parathion as its main insecticides. Dramatic shifts to intensive pesticide
use on export crops is occurring in Africa as well.
For more information, please contact ERWIN NORTHOFF (FAO) 0039-6-570 53105,
e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@FAO.Org or JIM
WILLIS (UNEP) 0041-22-979 9183, e-mail: Jim.Willis@unep.ch