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Press Release 98/52 


Rotterdam, 10 September - Many pesticides banned or severely restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed and used in developing countries, threatening millions of farmers and the environment, the FAO Director-General, Dr. Jacques Diouf warned today.

"The distribution of pesticides is not regulated in most developing countries. The infrastructure to control these toxic compounds is also insufficient and there is a shortage of trained farmers and workers," Dr. Diouf told ministers and senior officials attending an international conference in Rotterdam. The meeting is expected to adopt and sign a legally-binding Convention on the Trade in Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides.

The Convention "is an important step forward in helping countries to decide whether they wish to use and import extremely hazardous substances", Dr. Diouf said. "Pesticides should not threaten the welfare, health or lives of farmers."

The treaty requires that harmful 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. Other pesticides will be subject to the same procedure when it is evident that they are too dangerous to be used in developing countries. Countries are also obliged to stop national production of those hazardous compounds. The Convention covers a list of 27 chemicals and pesticides but many more are likely to be added in future.

"Feeding the world without pesticide use remains elusive", especially with some 800 million undernourished people in the world today and the global population expected to grow by an additional 2.5 billion people by the year 2025, Dr. Diouf said. However, intensification in agricultural production should be sustainable and should protect human health and the environment.

Many non-chemical plant protection methods such as biological control and the use of genetically altered organisms are promising, the FAO Director-General said. However, their wide-scale application is not always straightforward or easy; many methods seen as solutions today may present their own problems at the time of their widespread application.

Most farmers in developing countries cannot handle highly toxic pesticides safely, Dr. Diouf noted. The Convention aims to restrict the access to these toxic substances.

FAO is committed to environmentally sound agricultural programmes, Dr. Diouf emphasized. The UN-agency successfully promotes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programmes in developing countries. "These programmes have shown that agricultural production can increase while pesticide use decreases," he said.

The Convention on trade in hazardous chemicals will help to reduce pesticide hazards and support the search for sustainable plant protection programmes.

However, the treaty does not substitute for the empowerment of farmers to apply sustainable pest management methods, he said.


For further information please contact:

John Riddle
FAO Information Officer
Tel. 39 06 5705 3259
Fax 39 06 5705-3699
e-mail: [email protected]



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