Parties to Stockholm Convention endorse agroecology as the best alternative to endosulfan

Pesticide's use restricted to limited number of crops

At its sixth meeting, the Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the Stockholm Convention agreed that the best alternative to the hazardous pesticide endosulfan is agroecology. The Convention is a global treaty to protect public health from persistent organic pollutants (PoPs),
The parties agreed to list insecticide Endosulfan in Annex A of the Convention, thereby ending production and use of endosulfan, apart from use for specific pests on a limited number of crops.

The Stockholm Convention had listed endosulfan for global phase out in 2011. According to environmental forums, the pesticides officially suggested as alternatives were mostly hazardous as well.

During COP6, the Convention reviewed possible non-chemical alternatives, and found that a strong case could be made for ecosystem-based solutions. Late last week, delegates endorsed this approach.

"This is a significant victory for everyone who has been working to promote the safe, sustainable solutions of agroecology rather than replacing conventional chemical pesticides with other — sometimes just as hazardous — chemical pesticides," said Emily Marquez, a Pesticide Action Network (PAN) delegate from the US.

The secretariat collected additional information from Parties and observers and compiled a list by May 1, 2012, of 114 alternative substances for endosulfan that are applied to crops. Of these 114 substances, one compound (chromafenozide) was mentioned twice and another substance, tricloprid, was considered to be equal to thiacloprid. Of the remaining 112 entries, DDT was not considered as legal alternative and entry, and sulphur was not considered for screening since it is not possible to apply all Annex D criteria to an inorganic chemical. A total of 110 substances were considered further in the screening process. The screening process ranked the 110 chemical alternative substances with respect to their persistent organic pollutant (POP) characteristics.

Ecosystem approach

However, according to PAN, in the search for alternatives to replace endosulfan, of the 110 chemicals that the Convention’s panel of scientists came up with, 80 were either potential POPs or highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs). POPs like DDT and endosulfan are highly toxic, persist for a long time in the environment, accumulate in people's bodies and travel long distances from where they are originally applied.

At POP Review Committee (POPRC) 7, the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) informed the meeting that FAO’s approach to pest management was an ecosystem approach and stressed the importance of this approach for sustainable crop production intensification. It was decided that this approach would be used as the basis for evaluating non-chemical alternatives to endosulfan.

Agroecology combines science with indigenous and community-based experimentation, emphasising technology and innovations that are knowledge-intensive, low cost and readily adaptable by small and medium-scale producers.

The Convention document on evaluation of non-chemical alternatives to endosulfan evaluates the non-chemical alternatives in two parts: the first-part is an evaluation of ecosystem approaches to management of pests in the listed crop/pest complexes, and the second part is an evaluation of non-chemical alternatives that are used within the existing chemical input-based agricultural approach as simple substitutes for endosulfan.

The first part considers FAO’s approach to sustainable crop production intensification, including ecosystem-based IPM, organic agriculture, and community managed sustainable agriculture. Agroecological farming encourages the cultivation of resilience and maintenance of healthy ecosystem function over reliance on external inputs such as synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers and fossil fuels — all of which can have high energy, environmental and health costs.

The second part considers particular technical interventions that can be used in either an ecosytem approach or as substitutes within IPM or chemical-input based agriculture. These include natural plant extracts, attractant lures and traps, and biological controls such as pathogens, predators, and parasitoids.

The ecosystem approach is also supported by other high level international bodies and studies, such as the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and the International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides.

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