Sunday, May 5, 2013

COP 6 Stockholm Convention, Headway achieved – ecosystem based approaches to pest management made priority

May 2, 2013
Chela Vázquez

Government delegates and observers at ExCOPs-2, Geneva
It was rather an exhilarating moment when the delegation from PAN and IPEN witnessed 164 governments agreed that ecosystem-based approaches to pest management be made a priority. Governments recommended this approach when choosing alternatives to endosulfan, a dangerous insecticide targeted for global elimination. This pronouncement appears to signal that international policies may start to change as governments begin to take action to rid agriculture of toxic chemicals.

“This is a great move forward”, said Dr. Meriel Watts of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific. “Ecosystem-based approaches to pest management have been shown to improve farmers’ income, food security and health, and to be better for the environment. Farmers become less reliant on expensive inputs and their production systems are more resilient in the face of climate change and other stressors. So this decision is very supportive of farmers, and we call on all governments to now rapidly assist their farmers to change from endosulfan-dependent chemical intensive farming to ecosystem-based approaches such as agroecology and organic farming.”

Dr. Meriel Watts delivered a statement on ecosystem-based alternatives to endosulfan
Tiffany Immingan from Saint Laurence island in Alaska making a statement at COP 6 of the Stockholm Convention.

Indigenous people from the Arctic pleaded with governments to stop releasing toxic persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that reach their traditional food and endanger their way of life. People in the Arctic have been found to have the highest concentration of POPs in their blood and breastmilk. POPs, such as endosulfan and DDT, bioaccumulate in high quantities in the Arctic due to a global phenomenon that carry and deposit these toxic chemicals in the Arctic, thousands of miles away from the place of application. 

The 6th. conference of the Parties (COP 6) to the Stockholm Convention met in Geneva, in simultaneous and back to back meetings with COP 11 of the Basel Convention and COP 6 of the Rotterdam Convention, April 28-May 10, 2013

New persistent organic pollutants have been ‘virtually’ approved for listing in the convention (awaiting official adoption on Thursday), such as the flame retardant HBCD and a proposed recycling exemption for HBCD was rejected. These are victories in the struggle to protect human health and the environment.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Syngenta’s paraquat up for global review

Woman worker spraying paraquat in a banana plantation in China. Picture provided by the Pesticide Eco-Alternative Center, Yunnan, China.

Next week, governments from around the world will decide whether to put strict controls on Syngenta's highly toxic herbicide paraquat — or maintain the status quo.

This pesticide has long been banned in its country of origin, Switzerland, and its use is highly restricted in most industrialized nations, including the U.S. Yet it continues to be sold indiscriminately in developing countries where farmers and workers often cannot read technical labels and are unable to protect themselves from the pesticide's harmful effects.

Next week's decision could change all of this, as delegates to the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent — a global treaty governing trade in toxic chemicals — meet in Geneva. In an open letter to these government officials, groups around the world insist on global controls on this acutely toxic herbicide that is hurting thousands of peasants and farmers in the developing world.

Prior informed consent


The Rotterdam Convention dictates that countries be informed before importing toxic chemicals that have been banned in other countries. Countries can then take action and ban the import and use of the chemical, or impose strict restrictions.

Paraquat (and specifically the paraquat dichloride 20% formulation, also known as Gramoxone Super) was proposed for inclusion on the "Prior Informed Consent" list by Burkina Faso; this proposal will be considered behind closed doors at next week's meeting.

The open letter, signed by 89 organizations from 35 countries and led by PAN International and our partners at the Berne Declaration, urges governments to rise to the occasion and take action on paraquat. It highlights the importance of the decision, especially in developing countries:

Paraquat is a highly hazardous herbicide, with no antidote, responsible for causing deaths and severe injuries to agricultural workers, farmers, and rural communities worldwide.

Many very poor people, especially in Asia and Latin America, have experienced severe health harms, and some have even died from exposure to paraquat. The herbicide is used to kill weeds in oil palm plantations, as well as in rubber, bananas, coffee, pineapples, rice, corn, and other crops.

Documented health effects of exposure to the chemical include Parkinsons’s disease, neurological disorders, endocrine disruption, and cancer.

Moneymaker for Syngenta


Paraquat is an important moneymaker for its creator and main manufacturer, the Swiss company Syngenta. Despite bans in many countries — including Switzerland — international policies allow exports of this antiquated herbicide for continued use in poor communities around the world.

Now is the time to bring this dangerous chemical under control. Governments must heed the clamor of workers, farmers, women and children around the world, and take action.

PAN International is asking that concerned citizens around the world call Ministries of Environment and Foreign Relations and ask them to say YES to the inclusion of paraquat dichloride 20% formulation in the Rotterdam Convention when governments meet next week.