Key decisions regarding pesticides at the Conferences of Parties of the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Contributed by Melanie Bateman, CABI Switzerland

Key decisions regarding pesticides were made at the Conferences of Parties of the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. Picture taken by BRS MEAS
Key decisions regarding pesticides were made at the Conferences of Parties of the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. Picture taken by BRS MEAS

In May, the Conferences of Parties of the Rotterdam, Basel and Stockholm Conventions (Triple COPs) met in Geneva, Switzerland. These are the three major international conventions dealing with chemicals and hazardous waste at a global level, and one thing that they do is to list chemicals which the international community has found to pose a serious risk of harm to human health and the environment. Prior to this year’s COPs, hazardous pesticides already featured prominently in the lists of the Stockholm and Rotterdam Conventions, and the COPs in May considered the inclusion of additional pesticides in the lists of these two Conventions.

What chemicals are listed in the Annexes of the Stockholm Convention?
The annexes of the Stockhom Convention list chemicals which are persistent organic pollutants (POPs). These are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods, become widely distributed geographically, accumulate in the fatty tissue of humans and wildlife, and have harmful impacts on human health or on the environment. The 178 countries that are members of the Stockholm Convention have committed to eliminating most POPs from the environment, and therefore must take measures in this regard for the POPs listed in the Stockholm Convention Annexes.

At the meeting in May, the Stockholm Convention COP agreed to add the pesticide/disinfectant pentachlorophenol and its salts and esters to its list of POPs.

What chemicals are listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention?
Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention lists hazardous chemicals which its 154 member countries should only trade with a countries’ prior informed consent. Annex III chemicals have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by two or more member countries and the Rotterdam COP has decided to subject the chemical to the prior informed consent procedure. Annex III lists pesticides by active ingredient, e.g. azinphos-methyl, and it also lists specific “severely hazardous pesticide formulations”, e.g. dustable powder formulations containing a combination of benomyl at or above 7%, carbofuran at or above 10% and thiram at or above 15%. Severely hazardous pesticide formulations are proposed for inclusion in the Rotterdam list by developing countries or countries with economies in transition and they are pesticide formulations that the countries have found to produce severe health or environmental effects under the conditions of use in their country, e.g. where safety equipment is not readily available.

At the meeting in May, the Conference of Parties of the Rotterdam Convention considered adding methamidophos and trichlorfon as well as severely hazardous formulations of fenthion and paraquat dichloride to Annex III of the Convention. In the end, only methamidophos was added. (Previously, severely hazardous formulations of soluble liquid methamidophos that exceed 600 g active ingredient/l were already listed in the Rotterdam Convention. Now the active ingredient is listed without reference to specific formulations.)

For those pesticides where consensus could not be reached for listing (trichlorfon and the formulations of paraquat and fenthion), Clayton Campanhola, FAO Executive Secretary of the Rotterdam Convention, commented that “hazardous pesticides are not helping countries to produce more food with less, on the contrary: if badly managed, they cause negative impacts on natural resources and the health of rural communities and consumers.”

What next?
As indicated above, listing a pesticide in the Annexes of either Convention implies action. The inclusion of a chemicals in the annexes of the Stockholm or Rotterdam Conventions can prompt policy makers in governments to take further steps such as updating the list of pesticides registered for use in the country. Likewise, Plantwise has updated its own Pesticide Red List – http://www.plantwise.org/pesticide-restrictions. Per Plantwise policy, plant doctors should not recommend the use of chemicals on the Plantwise Pesticide Red List.

For more information on the outcomes of the Triple COPs, visit the BRS Synergies website.

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