This year 2005 coincides with the 20th anniversary of the existence of the Code of Conduct. In 1981, following a suggestion of the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organizatiion of the United Nations (FAO) to provide help to overcome difficulties associated with pesticides, FAO initiated the process to develop the original first version of the Code through government consultations, and with the participation of appropriate UN-Agencies and international organizations outside the UN, in particular the pesticide industry and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
This process was concluded in November 1985 when the 23rd Session of the FAO Conference adopted the original version of the Code. Actually, this was also the first Code ever adopted and developed by FAO. One of the reasons to develop this Code was that a number of governments and organizations had expressed concerns about the propriety of supplying pesticides to countries which do not have the capacities to register pesticides and to ensure their sound management and judicious use. This first version of the Code was then amended in 1989 to include the provisions for the Prior-Informed-Consent procedures known as the PIC-procedure and now covered under the 'Rotterdam Convention on the PIC procedure for certain hazardous chemicals pesticides in international trade. FAO and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) provide jointly the Secretariat for the implementation of this Convention. This amendment was introduced following public concern on the export of banned pesticides to developing countries.
In August 1986, i.e. immediately after the adoption of the original Code, FAO issued a questionnaire to governments to monitor the observance of the Code; this questionnaire was intended to assess the so called pre-Code conditions. In 1993, a second questionnaire was sent out to determine the degree and nature of changes that had occurred during the 6-7 years since the first questionnaire. Positive developments were identified in the areas of pesticide legislation and awareness.
However, major weaknesses still remained, in particular in developing countries. This was one of the reasons to initiate the process to revise the existing version of the Code in 1999. Another reason was the adoption of the Rotterdam Convention in September 1998 which made the articles on the PIC procedure redundant in the amended version of the Code.
The revision process included government consultation, participation of other UN-agencies and the pesticide industry as well as NGOs. It was finalized in November 2002 through the adoption of the Revised Version by FAO's Council on behalf of the 31st Session of the FAO Conference. This Revised Version received the full support from all governments of FAO member states. The debate on the revised version was very intense among governments, a clear indication of the relevance of this document to the countries.
During the revision, the question came up to convert this voluntary document into a legally binding document. The FAO Panel suggested that due to the comprehensive nature of the Code such a process would take a very long time, the outcome would be unclear and the delivery of guidance on pesticide matters, in particular to countries with limited resources, would be required immediately.
Upon adoption the revised version was immediately welcomed by NGOs, in this case by Pesticide Action Network (PAN), then CropLife International confirmed its full support by making adherence to the Code of Conduct a condition of membership. Generic manufacturers associations, such as the European Crop Association (ECCA) and more recently ALINA, the Latin-American Association of generic manufactures have officially confirmed to FAO their support for the Code.
Other UN-agencies, in particular WHO, refer to the Code in guidelines for pesticides used in public health and in other documents.
There is a tremendous continuous interest and reference to the Code today by the principal stakeholders, governments and pesticide industry as well as other important players such as NGOs and UN-Agencies. The present Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) process is just another example and some workshop participants might have been involved in this process in some way.
What specific relevance does the Code have for in the Asia-Pacific region and what has happened here? Following the request of various countries from the region expressing their difficulties in implementing the Code, FAO obtained support from Japan for a 5 year trust fund project. This project started in 1988 and covered 23 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The project was later also extended to the Caribbean islands. The objective of this project was to support countries in their abilities to implement the Code, in particular to establish registration schemes, strengthen national capabilities, and promote harmonization and the exchange of information. While progress has been made in various countries in some of these areas, the project failed to establish linkages/partnership/involvement to such regional organizations as the Asia and Pacific Plant Protection Commission (APPPC), or to subregional organizations for South Asia and to ASEAN for Southeast Asia.
Today, FAO has received requests from various countries to strengthen parts of Code implementation on a national basis, e.g. from Sri Lanka and regionally within ASEAN from Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. This project proposal for TCP funding will hopefully be addressed by FAO in the next biennium 2006-2007.
Which trends can we observe today, and what challenges are there?
The world pesticides market has been stable at around US$ 27-28 billion of annual sales over the last years. However, we see regional differences, e.g. an increase in the Asian region and a slight decrease in Europe. It is very important to note the growth of generic products. In Europe today more than 70 percent of the pesticides sold are generic one's and by 2011 it is expected that 96 percent of all pesticides sold in Europe will be of a generic nature. Here in the region, China and India have become important manufacturing countries of generic pesticides.
We observe a further increase in the trade of agriculture products on a global and regional level, but globalization and regionalization also means the need for the development of international or regional standards. The relevance of Codex Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs), which are based on the recommendations of the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR), have gained significantly in importance as these Codex values are the referee values under the WTO-SPS agreement in cases of dispute on pesticide residues. In Europe, supermarkets have developed their own standards going beyond Codex values, which are called EURO GAP, in order to respond to growing consumer awareness.
The growth of consumer awareness is another factor. The press, or better said the media, play an important role. And this role goes beyond awareness of the quality of agricultural products. It also addresses confidence in government decision-making procedures, how well pesticides are regulated, how, e.g. their use is controlled, and how the environment is preserved. Such issues are often covered by the media and they get strong public attention. In various countries here in the region, NGOs representing civil society play an important role in developing, creating and strengthening confidence in government decision-making processes.
Pesticide quality and illegal trade of pesticides are other concerns of today. FAO/WHO estimate the quantity of substandard pesticides sold in developing countries to reach 30 percent. This year, the Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals in China provided data on their quality control analysis and stated that 14 percent of the pesticides were substandard. In South Africa, it was 19 percent. But this is not only a problem of developing countries. In Belgium, 25 percent substandard pesticides were found, and in Germany the figure was around 17 percent. Illegal trade and counterfeit products are often mentioned at international gatherings.
We still observe undesirable side-effects of pesticides. Pesticide poisoning remains very high in particular in the South Asian region. Recent data indicate that 300 000 deaths per year may occur in the Asia-Pacific region. These figures are based on recent studies carried out in Sri Lanka. Availability and accessibility of pesticides play an important factor in order to reduce risks of misuse including self-harm.
For the following reasons, the Code of Conduct is still very relevant and attractive:
The revised version of the Code of 2002 addresses all of today's challenges and many more aspects; this confirms the Code as an up-to-date document.
Another factor is related to the matter itself, to pesticides. The management of pesticides requires capacity and capabilities. It is a difficult task to handle them properly!
The Code is comprehensive; it addresses the full life cycle of a pesticide, from production to use and - if necessary - to disposal, i.e. "protection at every step of the way" as stated in the Code's brochure.
It is also integrative, promoting cooperative action and cooperation between governments, UN-agencies and others, between exporting and importing countries, and between neighboring countries.
And it is also integrating other international agreements and international measures.
It is a flexible instrument and might lead to legally binding measures as the example of the Rotterdam Convention demonstrates.
It is an example of applied shared responsibilities, primarily between the two principal stakeholders, government and the pesticides industry, but also between importing and exporting countries, and it encourages the involvement of NGOs, farmer associations, the food industry, etc. It is clear that shared responsibility is a difficult task to put into practice, but the Code identifies the primary responsible actors.
The present revised version of the Code is an up-to-date standard for pesticide management; but it is also a dynamic instrument. Its effectiveness and relevance should be assessed periodically as Article 12 of the Code states. The new guidelines on monitoring and compliance of the Code, which we shall look at during this seminar, are of high importance in this context.
The Code, together with its supporting documents, embodies a modern approach to sound pesticide management and it serves as a point of reference on all pesticide matters for all who are engaged and associated in the life cycle of a pesticide.
Finally, it is an accepted tool which should be applied nationally, regionally and internationally, and the implementation of the provisions of the Code is the key to this, which will then lead to the protection of human and environmental health, to sustainable agricultural development and to better economic, social and environmental conditions. Something we all are interested in!
All these points together make the Code an attractive instrument, and that is it's secret.