Published: Sunday 31 March 2002

Trade controls will be imposed on potentially dangerous pesticides and asbestos under a treaty aiming to protect workers in poor countries from hazardous exports. This was stated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recently. The UNEP statement said that an experts' committee had recommended three pesticides to be added to a list of 31 chemicals whose import can be "legitimately and unilaterally banned". These included insecticides such as monocrotophos, widely used in Asia to control insects and spider mites on cotton, citrus, rice, maize and other crops and five forms of asbestos.

Banned in Australia and Hungary, monocrotophos poses "an acute hazard to hundreds of thousands of farm workers, particularly in developing countries where the lack of protective clothing and mechanical equipment exposes people to harmful chemicals".

The recommendation to ban these pesticides and insecticides will be put forward for adoption by a negotiating committee of the Rotterdam Convention when officials from 100 countries meet at Bonn in Germany from September 30 to October 4, 2002.

The 1998 treaty gives a country the right to ban the import of chemicals or pesticides appearing on the agreed international list without the risk of trade retaliation. "Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use had been severely restricted in industrialised countries are still marketed and used in developing countries," the UNEP said.

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