Distinguished country delegates from the Asia and Pacific region;
Distinguished representatives from international, civic and private organizations;
Ladies and gentlemen:
On behalf of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Jacques Diouf, and on my own behalf, I am honoured to welcome all of you to Bangkok for this Regional Workshop on the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides. I am delighted that so many experts from the Asia-Pacific region are participating in this important workshop which brings together different organizations that are involved in pesticide management in the pursuit of improved public health, a cleaner environment and sustainable agricultural development.
I would like to extend a special welcome to the representatives of CropLife International and the Pesticide Action Network, and to our colleagues from the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Health Organization and FAO headquarters in Rome. Your participation reflects the diversity of stakeholders and issues that need to be balanced by governmental regulatory agencies when dealing with pesticide management. Understanding the different viewpoints and concerns, and working together in true partnership and in a harmonious way are preconditions for achieving the common goals that unites us: a world free of hunger and poverty, and sustainable agricultural development for the benefit of all mankind.
At the 1996 and 2002 World Food Summits the UN Millennium Summit in 2000, countries pledged to reduce by half the number of hungry people by 2015. While there has been some success in some countries, the current annual reduction of 8 million people a year has to more than double to 20 million if the stated goal is to be met by 2015. In addition, food production in developing countries needs to double, and some 80 percent of this increase will need to come from land that is already under production.
It is furthermore clear that the necessary intensification of crop production will impact on human health and the environment. Indeed, the increased intensification of agriculture and food production cannot be met without chemical inputs. The fundamental task is thus to realize the projected productivity increases with minimal negative impact on the environment and human health. In doing so, we need to avoid the mistakes of the past and to fully benefit from the lessons learned and experience gained to date.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Pesticides should not threaten the welfare, health or lives of farmers. Many pesticides that have been banned or severely restricted in developed countries are still marketed and used in developing countries. Many hazardous pesticides cannot be handled safely by farmers in developing countries especially those who work under tropical conditions. Such chemicals pose a serious risk to the health of farmers, to the health of the population in general, and to the environment.
We are all well aware that there is a significant difference between pesticide use in developing and developed countries. In developing countries, pesticide regulations are often deficient, enforcement of decisions is inconsistent and there is a shortage of trained personnel. Overuse of pesticides is still very common. Too many farmers remain unaware of appropriate pest control and integrated pest management (IPM) measures and of the dangers of pesticide application. Many old, often highly toxic pesticides continue to be used in these countries because of their low prices.
Both dumping of pesticides by exporting countries and the lack of adequate pesticide management in importing countries have contributed to an accumulation of stocks of outdated and obsolete pesticides in many countries. Outdated pesticides are often in the hands of farmers, causing a considerable risk to farm families. Follow-up surveys are needed while the disposal of such stocks needs to continue. In addition, scrupulous and criminal elements exist that manufacture and sell adulterated pesticides, adding to the hazards and cheating farmers.
In response to these problems, FAO has brought together all the stakeholders involved in the distribution and use of pesticides to establish an International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides. This Code was first adopted by the FAO Conference in 1985 and has served now for 20 years as a set of globally accepted standards for pesticide management. Proper pesticide management requires that attention be paid to every step in the life of a pesticide product, including its testing, trade and distribution, labeling, packaging and advertisement, use and surveillance, and storage and disposal.
For each of these steps, the Code outlines what governments, the pesticide industry and civil society organizations should do to ensure that pesticides are managed in a way that minimizes the risks to public health and the environment.
By adopting the Code, FAO member countries have pledged to work together to make the Code a success. Within countries, this demands a collaborative effort from many different ministries, predominantly agriculture, public health, and environment, but also commerce, customs and trade. The pesticide industry has made a clear commitment to support these efforts, and CropLife International – the global association of multinational pesticide manufacturers – has made adherence to the Code a condition of membership. Also Pesticide Action Network, an international public interest group on pesticide matters, has endorsed the Code and has agreed to support its implementation. This strong alliance of different groups is instrumental for the success of the Code.
In 2002, the Code was revised and updated to strengthen its guidance to reduce the adverse effects of pesticides on health and the environment and to support sustainable agricultural practices. The revised version of the Code includes new international instruments and demonstrates that pesticide management should be considered a part of chemical management.
Among other changes, the revised Code contains important new provisions on monitoring and observance. Under Article 12 of the Code, all stakeholders are invited to monitor and report on implementation of the Code. Other provisions call upon governments and industry to collect and report on various types of information relating to pesticides. Draft guidelines on monitoring and observance of the revised version of the Code have been developed and will be finalised in 2005.
The application of proper pest and pesticide management practices continues to be a challenge, in particular to countries with limited capabilities and capacities. FAO endeavours to improve its assistance to governments on pest and pesticide management and is committed to agricultural production programmes that are environmentally friendly. The long-standing involvement of FAO in the promotion of IPM is a good example of this commitment. Experience has shown that agricultural production can increase while pesticide usage decreases. I am confident that the number of countries with national IPM programmes will continue to increase and that governments will expand the existing programmes.
Ladies and gentlemen,
With these issues in focus, the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is convening this regional workshop by bringing together governments, the pesticide industry and civil society organisations because the implementation of the Code depends on these three players. The workshop will provide participants an opportunity to learn about the newest provisions of the Code, gain experience with the proposed reporting formats, collectively assess the status of Code observance in the Asia region, share information, and develop mechanisms for improved monitoring and future collaboration.
The implementation of the Code will remain a collective effort. To be successful, we need to harmonize our efforts so that pesticide management decisions can be made on an informed basis. This requires a systematic monitoring of the observance of the Code and sharing of information. FAO will continue its efforts to forge partnerships and to build capacity for effective implementation and enforcement of the Code. Only if the Code is widely practiced will it make a substantial contribution to the protection of human health and the environment. I therefore call on you all to actively participate in this workshop and, as a follow-up, to monitor observance of the Code.
In closing, I should like to once again extend to all of you a very cordial welcome to Bangkok. I also wish you a pleasant stay in Bangkok.