New guidelines, called the “International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management”, aimed to reduce the damage done by pesticides that pose especially high toxic risks to human health and the environment, were released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2016.
Products with high acute toxicity account for high numbers of immediate poisoning cases, particularly in developing countries, while products with chronic toxicity effects may cause cancer or developmental disorders among growing children.
In industrialised countries, such so-called "highly hazardous pesticides" may be no longer permitted or subject to strict use limitations, yet they often remain widely available in developing countries. Even hazardous products that are still permitted in industrialised countries can cause severe problems in the developing world, where use circumstances can be very different.
Better integrated pest management approaches could reduce the reliance on pesticides
Small-scale farmers in developing countries in particular often do not have, or use, the necessary protective gear and mostly use back-pack sprayers that pose high risk of exposure.
Restrictions on the use of such highly hazardous products often prove hard to enforce, leading to widespread use by untrained persons. High numbers of poisoning cases, contaminated food and environmental damage can be the result.
A relatively small group of highly hazardous pesticides is often the cause of the majority of poisoning cases. In many cases, these can be replaced by less hazardous products or, even better, by integrated pest management (IPM) approaches that aim at reducing reliance on pesticides.
The Guidelines offer a road map to help countries identify and deal with highly hazardous pesticides. This involves inventory taking, assessing risks and actual needs, and then applying appropriate risk mitigation measures. In many cases, this will be phasing out of the product, but in cases where there are no good alternatives, other risk mitigation actions may be considered.
The local conditions of use and feasibility of control measures should be an important factor in decision taking.