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New Pesticide Agreement Will Help Save Lives In Developing Countries - 2002-11-04


The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO, says a new international code of conduct has been adopted for the distribution and use of pesticides. The FAO says it “should significantly reduce the threats posed by the chemicals in developing countries.”

UN officials say the “use of pesticides in developing countries remains a major risk.” For example, the World Health Organization says each year “there are twenty five million cases of pesticide poisoning.” As many as twenty thousand people – mostly in developing countries – die as a result. What’s more, long term exposure to the pesticides can cause “chronic illness, including cancer, reproductive and neurological” problems.

Peter Kenmore, a Food and Agriculture Organization pesticide expert, says the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides can reduce the threat posed by the chemicals.

He says, "Risk elimination, if possible, but in any case risk reduction across the board in terms of the ways that pesticides are used, the kinds of pesticides that are used, the kinds of decisions that are made – whether or not to use pesticides. And this is in this risk reduction framework. And I think that’s also very important."

The FAO says the code is considered the globally accepted standard for pesticide management – and is recognized by “governments, the pesticide, food and equipment industry, traders, environmental groups” and others. Mr. Kenmore says for most, the code is voluntary.

"Yes, it is a voluntary code," he says. "On the other hand, membership of Crop Life International, which is the international association of pesticide manufacturers, which is the majority of but not all international pesticide manufacturers – that group has made compliance with the code mandatory for its members. But, in terms of international law, it is a voluntary code."

He says the impact of the code will be great.

"It means that the range of pesticides that are available in developing countries begins to be less toxic than it used to be. It begins to have less risk. Chemicals are eliminated. Chemicals are withdrawn from sale. Chemicals are banned in these countries that weren’t before. So that the range of chemicals allowed into a developing country shifts toward lower risk chemicals than they used to be, certainly when compared with ten years ago," he says.

The new code also calls on manufacturers to recall pesticides posing “an unacceptable risk to people, animals and the environment.” The production and export of “cheap pesticides such as organophosphates and carbamates continues.” However, those chemicals are being monitored and controlled through other agreements, such as the Rotterdam Convention on dangerous chemicals.

The Food and Agriculture Organization says if the code is fully implemented, there will be fewer toxic waste clean-ups and fewer poisonings, thus saving millions of dollars.

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