The International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides was one of the first voluntary Codes of Conduct in support of increased food security, while at the same time protecting human health and the environment. It was adopted in 1985 by the FAO Conference at its Twenty-third Session, and was subsequently amended to include provisions for the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure at the Twenty-fifth Session of the FAO Conference in 1989. The Code established voluntary standards of conduct for all public and private entities engaged in, or associated with, the distribution and use of pesticides, and since its adoption has served as the globally accepted standard for pesticide management.
Experience over the last 15 years has shown that the Code, in conjunction with its supplementary technical guidelines, has been instrumental in assisting countries to put in place or strengthen pesticide management systems. Surveys show that the number of countries without legislation to regulate the distribution and use of pesticides has greatly decreased; awareness of the potential problems associated with pesticide use has grown significantly; involvement in various aspects of pesticide management by Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) and the pesticide industry has been strengthened; and further successful Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes are being implemented in developing countries.
However, in spite of these positive signs, there are still major weaknesses in certain aspects of pesticide management, predominantly in developing countries. For instance, national pesticide legislation is not widely enforced due to lack of technical expertise and resources; highly hazardous or substandard pesticide formulations are still widely sold; and end-users are often insufficiently trained and protected to ensure that pesticides can be handled with minimum risk.
After the adoption of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade in September 1998, the provisions relating to the PIC procedure in the Code became redundant. Furthermore, the changing international policy framework and the persistence of certain pesticide management problems urged FAO to initiate the revision and update of the Code. This process started in 1999, with a number of recommendations made by the FAO Panel of Experts on Pesticide Specifications, Registration Requirements, Application Standards and PIC. Government experts, NGOs, the pesticide industry and other United Nations organizations participated in the revision process. A government consultation subsequently established the basic text for the present revised version of the Code.
The structure and nature of the Code have been maintained in the revised version. The 12 Articles of the Code, plus supporting technical guidelines and a new Annex consisting of references to international policy instruments related to the Code, represent an up-to-date standard for pesticide management. This embodies a modern approach, leading to sound management of pesticides which focuses on risk reduction, protection of human and environmental health, and support for sustainable agricultural development by using pesticides in an effective manner and applying IPM strategies.
In addition, the revised Code includes the life-cycle concept of pesticide management and an expanded definition of IPM. Article 9 is revised completely since the PIC provisions are now covered by the Rotterdam Convention. Finally, the revised text strengthens the monitoring of the Code and explicitly invites governments, the pesticide industry, NGOs and other interested parties to provide regular feedback on its implementation.
The Code demonstrates that pesticide management should be considered a part of chemical management, as well as of sustainable agricultural development. This means that collaboration, cooperation and information exchange between various government and non-government entities, in particular those involved in agriculture, public health, environment, commerce and trade, have become increasingly important. New stakeholders have also been identified, such as the application equipment and food industries, and enhanced cooperation with them is important.
The basic function of the Code remains to serve as a framework and point of reference for the judicious use of pesticides for all those involved in pesticide matters, particularly until such time as countries have established adequate and effective regulatory infrastructures for the sound management of pesticides. It is my expectation that this revised and updated Code will continue to be a valuable resource for its many users.