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12 rich countries seek exemption from ban on ozone-destroying pesticide - UN

12 rich countries seek exemption from ban on ozone-destroying pesticide - UN

A dozen developed countries will ask for transitional exemptions to the ban on the ozone-destroying and highly toxic pesticide methyl bromide as delegates gather for a three-day United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting starting tomorrow in Montreal, Canada.

At the talks on the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the requests to employ methyl bromide for "certain critical uses" after the phase-out date of 1 January 2005 for industrialized countries will come from Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States, UNEP said.

"Granting limited exemptions to the (Montreal) Protocol's increasingly strict controls will ensure that the transition to ozone-friendly solutions does not cause farmers and other users of methyl bromide undue economic pain," UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said today.

Methyl bromide is used as a fumigant for high-value crops, for pest control and for the quarantine treatment of agricultural commodity exports, UNEP said. Meanwhile, any destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer allows ultra-violet-C (UV-C) and increased levels of UV-B radiation to reach the Earth's surface.

Possible dangers to human beings from UVs include more melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, more eye cataracts and weakened immune systems, according to UNEP. Risks to animal and plant life include reduced plant yields, injury to ocean ecosystems and reduced fishing yields, adverse general effects on animals and damage to plastics.

The requests for exemptions from the 12 countries total some 17,000 tons. Of this amount, the UNEP Technology and Economics Assessment Panel (TEAP) is recommending approval of 12,900 tons. The Parties to the Protocol met last November in Nairobi, Kenya, to consider the exemptions, but were unable to finalize a list.

In 1997 total world consumption was 37,640 tons, of which 75 per cent was used in the developed countries. The figure dropped to 15,073 tons in 2002, about half of which was used by the developed countries, UNEP said.

The agency predicts that the ozone layer will return to normalcy in about 50 years, but only if the Montreal Protocol's phase-out schedules are fully respected.