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Millions May Be Poisoned Each Year From Pesticides - 2004-09-22

UN officials are warning that pesticides are poisoning millions of people every year, mostly farm workers in developing countries. The problem is one of the reasons for this week?s meeting in Geneva on the Rotterdam Convention, otherwise known as the pesticide treaty. Foreign ministers are due to meet Thursday and are expected to decide what actions can be taken.

Louise Fresco is head of the Agriculture Department at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. She?s attending the Geneva meeting and spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the extent of pesticide poisoning.

She says, ?We think there are between one and five million cases of pesticide poisoning every year. And there are probably a thousand or more, maybe several thousand deaths. It?s very difficult to say that exactly because the symptoms may be quite general like nausea and headaches and may look like ordinary food poisoning. But what is the most important thing is that 99 percent of the deaths that occur due to pesticides occur in developing countries, although those countries only use a quarter of the total production.?

Ms. Fresco blames that on a lack of protective gear, safety training or regulations, leaky containers, ignorance about the dangers of the chermicals and the fact that many labels are written in English, a language many farm workers in developing countries do not understand.

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