ROME, 4 November 2002 -- A
revised 'International Code of Conduct on the
Distribution and Use of Pesticides' should
significantly reduce the threats posed by agro-chemicals
in developing countries. The Code was adopted by the FAO
will continue to be a major factor in agricultural
production. However, the improper distribution and use
of pesticides and highly toxic compounds, in particular
in developing countries, continues to cause health and
environmental problems," said Gero Vaagt, Senior
Officer, Pesticide Management.
"The new Code reflects more strongly than
ever the responsibility of governments, the chemical and food
industry, traders, pesticide users, public interest groups and
international organizations in reducing the health and
environmental risks associated with pesticide. It promotes
Integrated Pest Management and natural pest control
The Code is the
globally accepted standard for pesticide management, FAO said.
"If all parties concerned applied the Code, many lives
would be saved, environmental damage would be avoided and
agricultural production would become more sustainable,"
"The voluntary FAO
Code has raised awareness of pesticide hazards since its
adoption in 1985. Most developing countries have introduced
legislation or regulations related to the distribution and use
of pesticides. However, a strict enforcement of the Code is now
of the new Code was not easy," Vaagt said.
"Different interpretations on product protection among
countries reflected conflicts of interest between large
multinationals and smaller companies that mainly produce generic
products. This delayed the adoption of the Code by one
In many developing
countries, the use of pesticides remains a major risk. The World
Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year there are 25
million cases of pesticide poisoning and as many as 20,000
unintentional deaths, primarily in developing countries.
Long-term effects of regular exposure to pesticides often cause
chronic illnesses, including cancer, reproductive and
While more than 80
percent of pesticides are applied in developed countries, 99
percent of all poisoning cases occur in developing countries
where regulatory, health and education systems are weakest.
In many of the poorest countries
agro-chemicals are not handled or stored within even minimal
standards. Highly toxic products are easily available while
protective clothing is often too expensive for poor farmers or
impossible to wear in humid and hot environments.
The FAO Code sets standards for governments, the
pesticide, food and equipment industry, traders, environmental
and consumer groups, trade unions and international
organizations and strengthens the monitoring and observance of
pesticide industry and international organizations recognize the
voluntary Code. Compliance with the Code is obligatory for the
members of Crop Life International, the international
association of pesticide manufacturers. Several governments have
incorporated the Code, or parts of it, into their national
The revised Code
promotes practices that minimize potential health and
environmental risks associated with pesticides. It addresses the
life-cycle of pesticides: from their development, regulation,
production, management, packaging and labelling, to their
distribution, application, use and control and disposal.
The revised Code calls upon industry
"to supply only pesticides of adequate quality, and to
pay special attention to the choice of pesticide formulations
and to the presentation, packaging and labelling in order to
reduce risks to users and minimize adverse effects on the
recall pesticides that pose an unacceptable risk to people,
animals and the environment, the Code says. Unfortunately, the
production andexport of highly toxic and cheap insecticides such
as organophosphates and carbamates continues.
The Code promotes Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
strategies that reduce the reliance on pesticides. IPM
emphazises the growth of healthy crops and encourages natural
pest control systems. "Experience from numerous FAO
projects shows that this approach offers the chance to
drastically reduce the use of pesticides and to increase
yields," Vaagt said.
The FAO Code
urges countries to prevent the accumulation of obsolete
pesticides and used pesticide containers. The pesticide industry
should assist in the disposal of toxic pesticide waste in an
environmentally sound manner. According to FAO estimates, more
than 500,000 tonnes of old and unused pesticides that have been
banned or have expired are seriously threatening the health of
millions of people and the environment in nearly all developing
countries and countries in transition.
"Besides saving lives, applying the Code
means avoiding toxic waste - millions of dollars for clean-up
operations could be saved and spent on training, research and
application of environmentally-friendly pest control
measures," Vaagt said.