GENEVA, Switzerland, November 28, 2003 (ENS):
Exporters of certain specified hazardous chemicals and
pesticides will be legally bound to notify importing
countries as of February 24, 2004 when an international
agreement on trade in these substances takes effect.
On Thursday, Armenia became the 50th country to ratify
the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent
(PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and
Pesticides in International Trade, triggering the 90
day countdown to the treaty’s entry into force.
“Inappropriate pesticides and their misuse still
threaten health and environment in developing countries,”
said Jacques Diouf, director-general of the UN Food
and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“We recognize that, in meeting the increased
demand for food production, pesticides will continue
to be used. The Rotterdam Convention provides countries
with a major tool to reduce the risks associated with
pesticide use,” Diouf said.
The convention enables importing countries to decide
which potentially hazardous chemicals they want to receive
and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. Most
of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, so far,
are developing countries.
When trade is permitted, requirements for labeling
and providing information on the potential health and
environmental effects is expected to promote safer use
There are a total of 31 chemicals currently subject
to the interim PIC procedure. Among these chemicals
are 21 pesticides, five industrial chemicals and five
severely hazardous pesticide formulations. Many more
substances are likely to be added in the future.
When the convention becomes legally binding 27 chemicals
will be governed by its provisions. Five additional
chemicals - dimefox, endosulfan, endrin, mevinphos and
vinclozolin - have been proposed for inclusion on the
Some pesticides covered by the convention, such as
methyl parathion, are extremely hazardous and can present
a severe threat to the health of farmers everywhere.
Methyl parathion is acutely toxic by all routes of
exposure, and the pesticide is a known carcinogen. Human
fatalities have been caused by ingestion, dermal adsorption,
and inhalation of parathion. As with all organophosphates,
parathion is readily absorbed through the skin.
In the United States, methyl parathion is approved
only for use in uninhabited open fields where it breaks
down due to sunlight. It is not approved for roach control
in homes. When applied in homes it can retain its toxicity
to the nervous system for years, and can cause headaches,
nausea, vomiting, cramps, weakness, blurred vision,
difficulty breathing, muscle spasms, convulsions, coma
and death in humans and domestic animals.
Under the convention, importing countries now will
be supplied with scientific information about any of
the listed chemicals proposed for import so they can
make informed decisions about their use.
“Thanks to the Rotterdam Convention, we now have
an effective system in place for avoiding many of the
deadly mistakes made in past decades when people were
less aware of the dangers of toxic chemicals,”
said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
“The convention, whose early entry into force
was urged by the World Summit on Sustainable Development
(WSSD) in Johannesburg last year, will contribute to
the WSSD’s aim of ensuring that, by the year 2020,
chemicals are used and produced in ways that minimize
significant adverse effects on human health and the
environment,” he said.
Some 70,000 different chemicals are available on the
market today, and around 1,500 new ones are introduced
every year. Many pesticides that have been banned or
restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed
and used in developing countries.
Diouf said today, "This new regime offers its member
governments, particularly in developing countries, the
tools they need to protect their citizens, clean up
obsolete stockpiles of pesticides and strengthen their
chemicals management. Governments need to become members
as quickly as possible so that they can reap these benefits
and participate in shaping key decisions that must be
taken next year."
The Rotterdam Convention covers the following 22 hazardous
pesticides - 2,4,5-T, aldrin, captafol, chlordane, chlordimeform,
chlorobenzilate, DDT, 1,2-dibromoethane (EDB), dieldrin,
dinoseb, fluoroacetamide, HCH, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene,
lindane, mercury compounds, and pentachlorophenol, plus
certain formulations of methamidophos, methyl-parathion,
monocrotophos, parathion, and phosphamidon. Since September
1998 five additional pesticides (binapacryl, toxaphene,
ethylene oxide, ethylene dichloride and monocrotophos)
have been added to the interim PIC procedure.
It also covers five industrial chemicals - crocidolite,
polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCB), polychlorinated terphenyls (PCT) and tris (2,3
The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties
to the Convention will take place in Geneva in late
2004. At its first meeting the Parties will decide on
including chemicals in the PIC list that have been added
during the past several years to the interim PIC procedure,
The will establish a Chemical Review Committee that
will evaluate future chemicals for the convention’s
list, adopt the rules of procedure and address issues
such as dispute settlement, compliance, financial rules,
and arrangements for the permanent Secretariat.
“Implementation of the convention will help countries
to control the availability of pesticides that are recognized
to be harmful to human health and the environment and
of highly toxic pesticides that cannot be handled safely
by small farmers in developing countries," said
The treaty promotes sustainable agriculture in a safer
environment," he said, "thereby contributing
to an increase in agricultural production and supporting
the battle against hunger, disease and poverty."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2003. All Rights