New UN pesticide guidelines seek faster phase-out of risky toxins

Posted May 15, 2016 by Karen Graham
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has released new guidelines aimed at reducing the damage done by pesticides that pose especially high toxic risks to human health and the environment.
Tropical smallholder farmers do not always use protective gear while handling pesticides.
Tropical smallholder farmers do not always use protective gear while handling pesticides.
Harry vanderWulp/FAO
Products with a high toxicity level account for the high numbers of acute poisoning cases seen worldwide, particularly in developing countries, while products with chronic toxicity effects can cause cancer and developmental problems in growing children, reports the FAO.
One of the big problems worldwide is in controlling the use of highly toxic pesticides. In industrialized countries, most hazardous pesticides are regulated or no longer permitted to be used. In developing countries, they are still widely available.
Even when a very hazardous chemical is permitted to be used in an industrialized country under strict limitations, reports AgroPages, it was found that in developing countries, these same products could cause serious problems because of the different circumstances involved in their use.
The FAO says that small-scale farmers in the developing world often don't have or cannot afford the necessary protective equipment needed to apply these dangerous chemicals, often using pack-pack sprayers that expose them to almost direct contact with the chemicals.
It is fairly obvious what happens when any restriction on the use of highly hazardous products proves difficult to enforce. This leads to widespread use by untrained persons, high numbers of poisoning cases, contaminated food and drinking water and long-term environmental damage.
Guidelines focus on the worst culprits
The Guidelines offer a road map to help countries identify and deal with highly hazardous pesticides. This involves inventory taking, assessing risks and actual needs, and then taking appropriate risk mitigation measures. In many cases, this will mean phasing out the product, but where there are no good alternatives, other risk mitigation actions may be considered.
FAO has also launched a Pesticide Registration Toolkit to assist governments in conducting hazard and risk assessments as part of their national pesticide approval process. This toolkit can also be used to re-assess products that have been approved in the past, but are now identified as highly hazardous.
The push for improved regulation of highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) came about when the SAICM International Conference on Chemicals Management adopted a resolution calling for concerted action to address HHPs. The FAO and WHO encourage governments to use the guidelines and toolkit to improve their management of HHPs and reduce their risk to consumers.