Press Release 97/34

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Press Release 97/34


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 Service.

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:

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