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Press Release 98/15



Rome, 4 March -- Huge amounts of obsolete and unused pesticides continue to threaten human health and the environment in many developing countries, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today following the conclusion of a two-day expert consultation on pesticide disposal. FAO urged the international community to increase its efforts to solve "this environmental tragedy".

The meeting listed priority countries where it said clean-up operations should begin soon. This includes Gambia, Madagascar and Tanzania. Several donor countries indicated their interest in funding such operations.

It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 tonnes of obsolete pesticide stocks in developing countries, of which Africa has about 15,000 - 20,000 tonnes. "Leaking and corroding metal drums filled with obsolete and dangerous pesticides dot urban and rural landscapes of developing countries," said FAO expert Alemayehu Wodageneh. "If stocks are located in urban areas or near water bodies, which is often the case, ground water, irrigation and drinking water are at risk." Enormous stocks of pesticide waste also exist in Eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union.

Particularly in Africa, large proportions of obsolete pesticides are left-over from earlier foreign assistance programs. They can no longer be used because they are now banned or they have deteriorated as a result of prolonged storage.

According to FAO, in Africa and the Near East only 1,511 tonnes have been disposed of in 10 countries (Niger, Uganda, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zanzibar, Yemen, Tanzania, Zambia, Seychelles, Mauritania).

Among the highly toxic and persistent pesticides identified were Aldrin, DDT, Dieldrin, Endrin, HCH, Lindane, Malathion, Parathion and others.

Total costs to remove obsolete pesticides from Africa alone are estimated at $ 80 million. Most of the money spent on disposal of pesticides in Africa was financed by the Netherlands, Germany and FAO. Denmark recently committed $6 million for pesticide removal and capacity building. Up till now the agro-chemical industry contributions were very limited, but they are expected to grow in the near future.

"Aid agencies are prepared to contribute, but do not wish to cover all costs without a substantial contribution from the agro-chemical industry," FAO stressed.

During the meeting, industry representatives indicated their commitment to finance on a case-by-case basis up to 30 percent of disposal costs. The industry said it would help to clean up pesticide waste in countries like Senegal (275 t), Madagascar (75 t) and Gambia (21 t).

The preferred way to dispose of obsolete pesticides is high temperature incineration. Safe incinerators are rare in developing countries, and pesticides are re-packaged and shipped to a country with a hazardous waste destruction facility. In the past, waste was shipped to Europe.

Unless prevention occurs, FAO warned, it is likely that accumulation of hazardous pesticides in the environment will continue unabated as the world-wide sales of pesticides increased substantially both in 1995 and 1996.

According to FAO, the main causes for the accumulation of pesticides are:

- pesticides banned while in storage

- inability to forecast pest outbreaks and excessive donations

- poor assessment of pesticides requirements

- inadequate storage facilities and poor stock management

- ineffective or wrong pesticide formulations

- aggressive sales practices.

FAO called upon its members to apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and to reduce the use of pesticides, where this is possible.

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Contact John Riddle at (396) 5705-3259, or john [email protected] for further information.





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