Legally binding convention to control trade in hazardous chemicals adopted in Rotterdam

Ministers and representatives from 63 countries and the European Community adopted and signed a new, legally binding, international convention on the trade of hazardous chemicals and pesticides in Rotterdam on 11 September. The Rotterdam Convention will protect the health of farmers, workers and consumers in developing countries and reduce threats to the environment, according FAO and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

"Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use has been severely restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed and used in developing countries. These chemicals pose serious risks to the health of millions of farmers and the environment," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. "The Convention is an important step forward in helping governments to decide if they want to use and import those hazardous substances or not."

The Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade requires that hazardous chemicals and pesticides that have been banned or severely restricted in at least two countries shall not be exported unless explicitly agreed by the importing country. If a government should choose to import a hazardous chemical or pesticide, the exporter will be obliged to provide extensive information on the potential hazards for health and the environment.

The Convention also includes pesticide formulations that are too dangerous to be used by farmers in developing countries. Countries are also obliged to stop national production of those hazardous compounds.

"With some 70 000 different chemicals on the market and 1 500 new ones being introduced every year, many governments are unable to monitor and manage the many potentially dangerous substances crossing their borders every day", said UNEP Excecutive Director Klaus Töpfer.

Some 22 pesticides and five industrial chemicals will be covered intially by the Convention, but many more are expected to be added in the future.

The Convention will enter into force once it has been ratified by 50 countries. To ensure that work under the Convention can begin immediately, the countries adopted an interim procedure on the voluntary implementation of the Convention until such time as it enters into force and becomes legally binding.

11 September 1998

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