FAO, WHO pesticide guidelines seek faster phasing out of toxins

Products with acute toxicity account for the high number of poisoning cases, particularly in the developing countries

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 12 May 2016

As part of a concerted effort, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization have released new guidelines in a bid to reduce damage by pesticides that pose high toxic risks to humans and the environment.

Products with acute toxicity account for the high number of poisoning cases, particularly in the developing countries, while products with chronic toxic effects may cause cancer or developmental problems in children.

In industrialised countries, “highly hazardous pesticides” may be no longer permitted or subject to strict use limitations, yet they often remain widely available in the developing countries.

Small-scale farmers in developing countries often do not have, or use, the necessary protective gear and mostly use back-pack sprayers that pose high risk of exposure.

Restriction on the use of such hazardous products often proves hard to enforce, leading to widespread use by untrained people.

Poisoning cases

A relatively small group of highly-hazardous pesticides is often the cause of the majority of poisoning cases. In many cases, these can be replaced by less hazardous products or, even better integrated pest management approaches that aim at reducing reliance on them.

The guidelines offer a roadmap 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 involves phasing out the product, but in cases where there are no other alternatives, other actions may be considered.

The 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.

Governments are encouraged to use the new guidelines and the toolkit to review their existing lists of approved pesticides and take necessary measures to reduce the risks to users, consumers and the environment.

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