Exporting toxicity

Chemicals banned in the US as poison are shipped to developing nations as pesticides

Published: Friday 15 February 2002

a recent analysis of us customs department records has exposed the double standards being applied by America. According to the figures, nearly 29,484 tonnes of pesticides that are banned or severely restricted in the us were exported between 1997 and 2000. Fifty-seven per cent of these products were shipped to the developing world and almost half of the remaining 43 per cent were dispatched to European ports, with possible final destinations in developing nations.

Although no such transactions were recorded for the year 2000, shipments of several banned pesticides were noted between 1997 and 1999. The study, conducted by Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (fase), was published recently in the International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (ijoeh).

"Pesticide poisoning has long been a problem in developing countries," says Joe LaDou, the editor of ijoeh. "There is an urgent need for more attention to these issues, and increased funding for research into occupational and environmental health effects," he adds.

The recommendations for decreasing pesticide use include prohibiting the export of banned or never-registered pesticides from the us, empowering the Environmental Protection Agency (epa) to evaluate the hazards posed by pesticides exiting the us and improving the information to be divulged on pesticides.

"The fact that no banned products were exported in 2000 seems to indicate that recent international efforts such as the pic (prior informed consent) and pops (persistent organic pollutants) treaties are making a difference," says fase vice president Carl Smith, who authored the paper. "But exports of products that cannot be safely used in developing countries remain unacceptably high," he feels.

However, if the volume of India's imports of chemicals from the us is a pointer, the developing world is likely to remain a favourite dumping destination. According to foreign trade figures of India, the us exported chemicals worth approximately Rs 578 crore to India from April-September 2001.

"Under pic, the us has to inform Indian importers about the status of specific pesticides in their country. If they are manufactured in India or their use permitted in the country, the us can export them to us even if they are banned in America," says a director in the department of chemicals and petrochemicals. In India, pesticide usage is governed by the Insecticides Act of 1968 which is reviewed from time to time.

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