UN agency calls for faster disposal of toxic pesticide waste stocks

UN agency calls for faster disposal of toxic pesticide waste stocks

Spraying pesticide in Eritrea
More than 500,000 tonnes of banned or expired pesticides are seriously threatening the health of millions of people and the environment in nearly all developing states and countries in transition, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in a new report issued today.

According to FAO, the figures are dramatically higher than previous estimates of around 100,000 tonnes. In Asia, the quantities of obsolete pesticides are estimated at over 200,000 tonnes, in Africa and the Near East at over 100,000 tonnes, and in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union at more than 200,000 tonnes. The agency is still preparing inventories for Latin America.

"The lethal legacy of obsolete pesticides is alarming and urgent action is needed to clean up waste dumps," said Alemayehu Wodageneh, FAO expert on obsolete pesticides. "These 'forgotten' stocks are not only a hazard to people's health but they also contaminate natural resources like water and soil. Leaking pesticides can poison a very large area, making it unfit for crop production."

The major pesticide producers are based in Europe, the United States, Japan, China and India. Because large sums of money are involved in pesticide supply, a variety of hidden interests may play a role in decisions concerning pesticide procurement or donation. Often these interests are not strictly related to the best technical solution to pest problems, the report says.

In its new report, FAO calls upon chemical companies represented by the Global Crop Protection Federation (GCPF), to contribute urgently to the global disposal of pesticides produced by GCPF member companies. "Support from industry is crucial for the future disposal of pesticides because aid agencies of donor countries cannot cover all the costs without a substantial contribution from industry," the FAO expert said.

The report, which was co-published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), will be discussed at an international donor meeting in Rome from 10-11 May.