24 February 2004, Rome/Geneva -- The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade becomes international law and thus legally binding on its members today.
"This treaty will enable developing countries to avoid many of the mistakes made in the richer countries, where the misuse of chemicals and pesticides has too often harmed or killed people and damaged the environment," said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
"In this way all countries will be able to reap the benefits that chemicals and pesticides can offer while ensuring that their development is environmentally sustainable," he said.
"In many developing countries conditions do not allow small farmers to use highly toxic pesticides safely, the result is continued damage to the health of farmers and poisoning of the environment" said Jacques Diouf, the 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."
"The Convention will help countries to avoid using pesticides that are recognized to be harmful to human health and the environment and highly toxic pesticides that cannot be handled safely by small farmers in developing countries. The treaty promotes sustainable agriculture in a safer environment, thereby contributing to an increase in agricultural production and supporting the battle against hunger, disease and poverty," Dr. Diouf said.
Safer use of chemicals
Jointly supported by FAO and UNEP, the Rotterdam Convention enables countries to decide which potentially hazardous chemicals they want to import and to exclude those they cannot manage safely.
Where trade is permitted, requirements for labelling and providing information on potential health and environmental effects will promote the safer use of chemicals.
The Convention has been implemented on a voluntary basis since September 1998 in the form of the interim PIC procedure.
The Convention starts with 27 chemicals, but as many as 15 more pesticides and industrial chemicals, identified during the interim PIC procedure, are flagged also for inclusion at the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties.
This includes a range of highly toxic pesticides that are moving in international trade, such as parathion and monocrotophos, as well as five additional forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos which accounts for more than 90% of asbestos presently used and traded. The experience gained in evaluating these chemicals will facilitate the addition of more substances in future.
The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention will take place in Geneva from 20-24 September 2004.
Some 70 000 chemicals
Some 70 000 different chemicals are available on the market today, and around 1 500 new ones are introduced every year. This poses a major challenge to many governments that must attempt to monitor and manage these potentially dangerous substances. Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use has been severely restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed and used in developing countries.
The 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 six additional pesticides (binapacryl, toxaphene, ethylene oxide, ethylene dichloride, monocrotophos and DNOC) and one additional severely hazardous pesticide formulation (dustable powder formulations containing a combination of benomyl, at or above 7 per cent; carbofuran, at or above 10 per cent; and thiram, at or above 15 per cent 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. Since September 1998, four additional industrial chemicals (four additional forms of asbestos, namely amosite, anthophyllite, actinolite and tremolite asbestos) have been added to the interim PIC procedure.