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Governments discuss banning toxic pesticide at UN-organized meeting

Governments discuss banning toxic pesticide at UN-organized meeting

Governments at a United Nations-organized meeting in Bonn, Germany, are contemplating adding a highly toxic pesticide to the list of those controlled under an international treaty.

Concerned over the health impact of the insecticide monocrotophos, officials from 100 countries are debating whether all formulations of the chemical should be added to a list of pesticides subject to the "prior informed consent procedure" under the Rotterdam Convention.

The Convention's scientific body has recommended that monocrotophos be included on the treaty's list, which currently includes over 30 substances.

"The uncontrolled marketing of highly toxic pesticides like monocrotophos poses serious risks to poor farmers in developing countries," said Louise Fresco, Assistant Director-General for Agriculture at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

FAO and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) say that monocrotophos poses an acute hazard to hundreds of thousands of farm workers, particularly in developing countries where the lack of protective clothing and appropriate application equipment makes it more likely that people will come in direct contact with chemicals. Medical effects include nausea, diarrhoea, blurred vision, and, in severe cases, respiratory depression, convulsions and death.

"Thanks to the Convention, we now have an effective system in place for avoiding many of the deadly mistakes made in past decades when people were more naïve about the dangers of toxic chemicals," said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Topfer.

The agencies said toxic pesticides remain a part of a broader problem. Often created by major multinationals, these substances are widely manufactured and their use continues, despite growing evidence of illness and death. The Convention gives importing countries the information to exclude potentially hazardous chemicals and stops countries from exporting against the wishes of importing countries.