Quebec, Canada, June 27, 2005 (ENS): Alternatives
to an effective pesticide that is also an ozone depletor
are now being evaluated in agricultural production areas
of Florida, say plant pathologists with the U.S. Agricultural
Research Service. The search for alternatives to methyl
bromide is intensifying now because the deadline for
phaseout of the pesticide by industrialized countries
was January 1, and many countries including the United
States, are failing to meet that target.
The 189 member governments of the Montreal Protocol
on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will decide
this week on how best to manage the phaseout of methyl
bromide, a pesticide and soil fumigant for strawberries,
flowers and other high-value crops that also damages
the Earth’s protective ozone shield.
They will also consider the level of funding that should
be made available during the period 2006 to 2008 to
enable developing countries to continue complying with
their numerous reduction obligations under the Protocol.
Even industrialized countries are struggling to phase
out methyl bromide, considered essential in the production
of pepper, strawberry, tomato and flower crops in Florida
and elsewhere in the United States and around the world.
Soil solarization, a technique that captures radiant
heat energy from the sun, is one non-chemical alternative
to methyl bromide.
Another non-chemical alternative is the use of biological
agents to enhance disease resistance, such as beneficial
soil bacteria that colonize plant roots and protect
Many farmers have eliminated or reduced the use of
methyl bromide by switching to other fumigants and to
non-chemical measures, such as grafted plants and barrier
Still, 16 countries are requesting "critical use
exemptions" under the protocol in 2006 for certain
crops in order to buy more time for adopting more technically
or economically feasible alternatives.
The Montreal Protocol allows governments to apply for
exemptions when there are no technically or economically
feasible alternatives or for health or safety reasons.
Eleven countries received a total of 13,438 metric
tons of exemptions for the first year after the agreed
phaseout date, January 1, 2005.
At the protocol’s regular high level conference
last November, developed countries were granted 11,000
tons of exemptions for 2006. Another 3,000 tons were
approved on an “interim basis.”
Because they were unable to complete the list of 2006
exemptions as expected, governments decided to reconvene
for a one-day Extraordinary Meeting of the Parties on
July 1 to finalize the status of the 3,000 tons. A similar
situation occurred last year, for the first time in
the protocol’s history, showing what a struggle
growers and shippers are having to phase out methyl
The countries that have requested exemptions for 2006
are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Greece, Ireland,
Italy, Japan, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland,
Portugal, Spain, the UK and the US.
“Governments need to ensure that the trendline
for exemptions points downward year by year,”
said Executive Director Klaus Toepfer of the United
Nations Environment Programme, under whose auspices
the protocol was negotiated.
“This will not only accelerate the ozone layer’s
return to health but will send the right signal to their
own farmers and to developing countries, whose methyl
bromide phaseout has already begun and is to conclude
by 2015,” Toepfer said.
The Open-Ended Working Group will consider additional
requests for 2006 exemptions totalling 325 tons and
requests from 15 countries for 2007 exemptions totalling
Working group members will also review a recent survey
of how methyl bromide is used in the quarantine and
pre-shipment of agricultural exports - a use that is
not covered by the Protocol.
Developed countries have reduced the controlled production
of methyl bromide from 66,000 tons in 1991 to less than
24,850 tons in 2003. Developing country production fell
from a peak of over 2,380 tons in 1998 to some 960 tons
Destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer increases
the levels of UV-B radiation reaching the Earth’s
surface. Risks include more melanoma and non-melanoma
skin cancers, more eye cataracts, weakened immune systems,
reduced plant yields, damage to ocean ecosystems and
reduced fishing yields, adverse effects on animals,
and more damage to plastics.
The ozone layer is expected to stabilize and return
to health in 50 years or so – but only if the
Montreal Protocol’s phaseout schedules are fully
Also this week, the Working Group will consider a report
by the Protocol’s Assessment Panel that recommends
nearly $420 million in funding to support developing
country efforts to phase out all of their ozone depleting
This funding would constitute the fifth replenishment
of the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund.
During its first 15 years, the Multilateral Fund has
supported over $1.8 billion in projects and activities
in 139 developing countries. This support has helped
to phase out over 200,000 tons of ozone depleting substances.
The next replenishment will help developing countries
to further eliminate the use of these substances as
they look forward to their 2010 target for eliminating
CFCs, halons and other major ozone depletors.
The Extraordinary Meeting will be preceeded by a four
day session that opened today to prepare for the next
regular annual conference, the December 12-16 Meeting
of the Parties in Dakar, Senegal.
There are alternatives to methyl bromide, says Erin
Rosskopf, with the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory,
Fort Pierce, Florida, a U.S. Department of Agriculture
(USDA) research facility.
“An integrated approach that utilizes biologically
based pest management tactics, such as beneficial soil
bacteria, soil solarization, and biological control
agents combined with crop rotations and cover crops
will be a necessity in the future,” she said.
Attempts to identify chemical alternatives to methyl
bromide have led to the re-examination of existing soil
fumigants within the USDA," said Rosskopf.
“While an emphasis is currently being placed
on the short-term chemical replacements for methyl bromide
due to the urgency driven by the phaseout plan,"
she said, "there is a need to be visionary in the
development of more sustainable production systems for
methyl bromide-dependent crops."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All