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Press Release 99/32


Rome, 26 May -- The European Union will finance a 12 million-Euro ($12.7 million) project on environmentally-friendly cotton production in Asia. The programme will be carried out in Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Philippines and Vietnam by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the agency announced today.

Globally, more insecticides are used on cotton than any other crop, according to FAO. Global sales in insecticides amounted to about $12 billion in 1995 with cotton accounting for $1.8 billion or 14 percent. With China, India and Pakistan, the project includes three of the four largest cotton producing countries, growing 46 percent of the world's cotton. Over two-thirds of the world's cotton area treated annually with insecticides is in India, China and Pakistan. These countries are regarded as major markets by the international and domestic pesticide industry.

The project is designed to reduce insecticide use by farmers by more than 50 percent, while increasing production. Pilot projects financed by the Asian Development Bank in Pakistan, India and China have shown that cotton farmers reduced the use of pesticides and increased yields at the same time, FAO said.

In the next five years, around 90 000 small cotton farmers will be trained in Integrated Pest Management (IPM). In about 3,800 field schools farmers will discover how their cotton eco-systems function, including how pest populations change. Farmers will learn to ecologically and economically manage pests such as leafhoppers, whiteflies and bollworms.

Farmers will learn more about cotton agronomy, cotton agro-ecosystems and alternative pest control techniques. They will be trained in how to physically remove and destroy pests, build up beneficial predators, and rotate and diversify crops. The aim is to keep the balance between pests and their natural enemies and to keep the spraying of expensive and potentially damaging and dangerous insecticides to an absolute minimum. The project will also promote farm-oriented local research.

Women farmers, in particular, will be encouraged to participate in the training activities to enable them to take a larger role in pest management decision making.

"Farmers will finally learn that an unsprayed cotton field is not necessarily devastated by pest outbreaks. The EU/FAO project will help countries to intensify cotton production and increase incomes in a sustainable way," said Niek van der Graaff, Chief of the FAO Plant Protection Service.

In many developing countries safe use of pesticides is practically impossible. Protective clothing is prohibitively expensive and the tropical heat makes it almost impossible to wear. Many pesticides pose an enormous risk to human health and the environment. Chronic poisoning, the increase of insecticide resistance of many pests and the destruction of natural enemies are some of the main problems.

FAO has a long history in IPM and cotton production. The UN agency started working on more environmentally-friendly production methods in developing countries in the 1960s. Currently FAO manages community IPM programmes on rice and vegetables, involving more than one million farmers in 12 Asian countries.


For more information please contact: Erwin Northoff, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105, e-mail: Erwin.Northoff@FAO.Org or the Internet at

You can listen/download the sound of an interview with Mr.Niek van der Graaf (FAO Senior expert), by Erwin Northoff.

1/In RealAudio(with Realplayer G2): 353 Kb,Instant play but lower quality than mp3

2/In mp3(with any mp3 player,Quicktime 4.0 or Windows Media Player):
(Broadcast quality, 1.342 Kb to be downloaded):

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