PRAGUE, Czech Republic, November 29, 2004 (ENS):
An international conference on safeguarding the ozone
layer ended here Saturday with a green light for the
United States and other industrialized countries to
continue using methyl bromide as a pesticide and soil
fumigant. The chemical destroys the Earth's protective
ozone layer, and it was supposed to be phased out in
2005, but the requesting countries say there is no effective
The meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol was
attended by over 500 participants representing 126 countries,
in addition to delegates from United Nations agencies,
intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations,
scientists, and representatives from industry and agriculture.
The governments agreed to exemptions for developed
world growers totaling just over 2,600 tons of methyl
bromide for 2005 in addition to just over 12,150 tons
agreed to at a special meeting in March this year.
Based on recommendations by the scientific and technical
panels to the Protocol, governments agreed to grant
farmers in industrialized countries a total of just
over 11,700 tons worth of exemptions in 2006.
A further 3,000 tons worth of exemptions were also provisionally
approved for 2006 and they will be reviewed by the scientific
and technical experts over the coming months.
The experts will report back to governments as to whether
these 3,000 tons should be formally granted or whether
reliable, ozone friendly alternatives exist. This will
be debated at a special one day meeting or Extraordinary
Meeting of the Parties scheduled for late June or early
July next year.
Governments agreed that the levels of exemptions granted
should take into account existing stockpiles of unused
or recycled methyl bromide.
In a statement issued at the close of the meeting,
the U.S. State Department said the exemptions will provide
"a much needed degree of certainty for the agricultural
groups that rely on methyl bromide because technically
and economically feasible alternatives are not yet available."
The chemical is used on some 100 U.S. crops.
The Netherlands, on behalf of the European Union, expressed
concern at the large amount of critical use exemptions
requested for methyl bromide, and called for a decrease
in use of the chemical.
In Prague, Claudia McMurray, deputy assistant secretary
for Environment Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental
and Scientific Affairs, U.S. State Department, said
the United States has phased out over 95 percent of
its consumption of ozone depleting substances since
the protocol took effect in 1989. "The total amount
of our 2006 methyl bromide request corresponds to only
about 1.5 percent of our overall use of ozone depleting
substances in 1989," she said.
Under an agreement made in the mid-1990s, the chemical
is scheduled for a full phase out in developed world
agriculture next year. In 1991 consumption of methyl
bromide was around 63,800 metric tons.
But some farmers in Australia, Europe and the United
States claim that the current alternatives to methyl
bromide in some places and for certain crops such as
strawberries and tomatoes, are not sufficiently effective.
They have requested exemptions from the deadline for
2005 and 2006.
Klaus Toepfer, the executive director of the United
Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which hosts the
Ozone Secretariat at its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya,
said, " I am delighted that governments could agree
on such as range of sometimes difficult issues. I am
also delighted that their decisions were based on sound
Alternatives to the ozone depleter are emerging. On
November 2, Arysta LifeScience Corporation received
registration for Iodomethane for insect control on imported
timber in Japan, the world's first registration of Iodomethane.
The chemical has been developed by the Methyl Bromide
Alternative Urgent Development Program supported by
Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Iodomethane's Japanese registration is the result of
a collaboration involving the Japan Fumigation Technology
Association and Yokohama Plant Protection Station.
While the target crop of this registration is imported
timber, Arysta also has been developing Iodomethane
as a soil fumigant for control of nematodes, weeds and
fungi in crops such as strawberries, tomatoes and peppers
and melons. Non-food crop production such as turf and
cut flowers as well as orchard and vine crops are also
The company said it will soon seek approvals for the
chemical as a methyl bromide replacement in North America,
Europe, Central and South America and the Middle East.
In Prague, governments agreed to a global survey of
the amounts of methyl bromide used in quarantine and
pre-shipment applications. The survey will be carried
out by scientific and technical experts to the Montreal
Quantities used by farmers for fumigating soils is
well known, but the precise levels used to treat shipments
of large commodity crops such as rice and cornand consignments
in wooden pallets is unknown.
Experts estimate that in 2002 the quantities were around
11,000 metric tons increasing to 18,000 tons in 2004.
But these estimates may be too low because not all countries
are supplyingaccurate figures on the precise levels
being used. The survey is aimed at resolving these uncertainties
and may be a first step towards controlling the levels
of methyl bromide used in quarantine and pre-shipment.
The intention to end methyl bromide use a some time
in the near future was evident at the meeting, said
the UNEP chief. "Throughout our discussions all
governments stated clearly that they had every intention
to phase out methyl bromide and that these critical
use exemptions are temporary measures," Toepfer
The meeting also granted essential use exemptions for
ozone depleting chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs) used in metered
dose inhalers to treat respiratory illnesses. Under
the agreements, the United States has been granted 1,900
tons of CFCs and Europe several hundred tons for use
in inhalers containing the chemical salbutamol.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All