Борьба с вредителями и обращение с пестицидами

Interview: FAO's Thaer Yaseen on pesticide laws, labs, and alternatives


Thaer Yaseen is the FAO Regional Plant Protection Officer for the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, which embraces 18 countries. He says we need to step up efforts to register and handle pesticides in accordance with the International Code of Conduct, which has been endorsed by FAO members and which forms a solid basis to manage them properly and to minimize their adverse effects.

TY: We conducted a global survey of HHPs in the NENA countries and the first thing we came up against is the lack of planning for sound chemicals management and of trained personnel. In some countries, we noticed the lack of an institutionalised system for the registration, monitoring, and use of pesticides.

This sometimes stems from outdated legislation, and weak enforcement of existing legislation: there is no proper system in place to trace, monitor and manage the pesticides throughout their life cycle. Some countries don't have accurate information on the origins of imported pesticides, their stockpiling or the condition of the stored products. In addition, there is a lack of data on the quantity of obsolete pesticides.

No labs, no traceability

Internationally accredited pesticide labs are required for quality control and to analyze active ingredients, impurities, and residues. The lack of accredited labs to carry out these tests efficiently, accurately and continuously is still a big gap in the region.

Several countries were left with no accredited labs at all in the wake of armed conflict and the destruction of infrastructure. This is the case of Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. In other countries, such as Lebanon, labs exist but can't run at full capacity because basic materials are lacking. In response, FAO set up a small project to provide the materials Lebanon needs to do the testing.

This also applies to pesticides being produced in the NENA countries. It's difficult to identify the active ingredients and their precise percentages because there are no labs to test them accurately, and no legislation to mandate controls and follow-up.

In addition, labelling is still an issue despite clear guidelines contained in the International Code of Conduct. For example some countries don't include any logos or warning signs on their labels. Also, many countries face a severe problem with the smuggling of pesticides, including internationally banned or restricted ones like Endosulfan, Carbosulfan and others.

Farmers lack information and protection

Lack of labs and improper labelling translates into lack of information on the health and environmental impact of the pesticides: the farmers are seldom aware that these substances might kill beneficial insects such as honey bees, induce stress on sprayed plants, and compromise the fertility of the soil.

In addition the farmers don't know how to read the labels, how to use the pesticides correctly, or how to protect themselves. They mix the chemicals without wearing gloves or masks.

So there is a need for capacity building from the farmers in the field all the way up to the ministerial level. It is very important to have national and regional pesticide planning and management strategies in place. These strategies could, for example, ensure that the right pesticides are imported in the right quantities. 

Which brings us back to the lack of updated legislation. Part of our job here is to raise the awareness of policymakers to fill this gap, and also to create a mechanism to review and update the list of banned pesticides in a regular and timely manner.

Biotechnical actions: small, practical and safe

The first question from most of the farmers in the NENA countries is: "I have this problem — what should I spray?" So we're trying to shift their attention to green, sustainable solutions, not just by what we say but also by showing them the alternative: Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which includes biological control. 

FAO is supporting the establishment of several labs to produce bio-pesticides in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen to provide the famers with evidence that you can control some pests and diseases with their indigenous natural enemies.

A tangible example was in Yemen during the conflict. Farmers were able to control the fall armyworm (an insect that affects many crops, mainly maize) with botanic pesticides from neem plants: we invited them to collect and boil the leaves and fruit, filter the solution and spray it. That worked very well.

We showed them that just by adding small quantities of a specific natural enemy here and there in the field they can interrupt the mating cycle of the harmful insects, so they won't be able to attack their crops and damage their food.

These are small, practical actions — we call them biotechnical actions. At some point the farmer comes to realize: "Why should I spray poison on my fruit, which will be eaten by me or my neighbours or my friends?" And this is how change happens. It's a slow process, and the countries need a lot of support. But to travel 100 miles, you have to take the first step. That is what FAO is trying to do in the region.