UN food agency adopts an international code on pesticide use

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today adopted a revised International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides aimed at significantly reducing the threats posed by agro-chemicals in developing countries. The revised Code, adopted at an FAO meeting in Rome, promotes practices that minimize potential health and environmental risks associated with pesticides. It also addresses their entire life-cycles, from development, regulation, production, management, packaging and labelling to distribution, application, use and disposal. The Code also calls on industry to supply only pesticides of adequate quality, and to pay special attention to the choice of pesticide formulations and to the packaging and labelling in order to reduce risks to users and minimize adverse effects on the environment. Describing it as the globally accepted standard for pesticide management, an FAO senior official, Gero Vaagt, said the new code “reflects more strongly than ever the responsibility of governments, the chemical and food industry, traders, pesticide users, public interest groups and international organizations in reducing the health and environmental risks associated with pesticide.” In many developing countries, the use of pesticides remains a major risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that each year there are 25 million cases of pesticide poisoning and as many as 20,000 unintentional deaths, primarily in developing countries. Long-term regular exposure to pesticides often causes chronic illnesses, including cancer as well as reproductive and neurological effects. While more than 80 per cent of pesticides are applied in developed countries, 99 per cent of all poisoning cases occur in developing countries where regulatory, health and education systems are weakest, according to FAO. “If all parties concerned applied the Code, many lives would be saved, environmental damage would be avoided and agricultural production would become more sustainable,” Mr. Vaagt said. read more