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
“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 of chemicals.
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 PIC list.
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
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,”
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 dibromopropyl) phosphate.
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
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 Diouf.
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
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