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New treaty to reduce risks from hazardous chemicals and pesticides

Geneva/Rome/Nairobi, 1 September 1998 - A new international convention on hazardous chemicals and pesticides will be adopted and signed by Ministers and senior officials from countries all over the world meeting in Rotterdam from 10-11 September.

The legally binding treaty will reduce the environmental and health risks posed by hazardous chemicals and pesticides. It will protect millions of farmers, workers, and consumers in developing countries and reduce threats to the environment, according to the the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This will be achieved by helping governments to prevent chemicals that they cannot safely manage from being imported into their country. If a government does choose to accept an import of a hazardous chemical or pesticide, the exporter will be obliged to provide extensive information on the chemical's potential health and environmental dangers. In this way, the treaty will promote the safe use of chemicals at the national level, particularly in developing countries, and limit the trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides.

"With some 70,000 different chemicals on the market and 1,500 new ones being introduced every year, many governments are unable to monitor and manage the many potentially dangerous substances crossing their borders every day," said UNEP Executive Director, Mr. Klaus Toepfer. "By shining a spotlight on the problem and setting up trade controls and information exchange procedures, this new treaty will help to save lives and reduce the poisoning of the environment," he said.

The Convention will initially cover 22 pesticides and 5 industrial chemicals(*), but many more are expected to be added in the future.

"Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use has been severely restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed and used in developing countries. These chemicals pose serious risks to the health of millions of farmers and the environment," said FAO Director-General, Dr. Jacques Diouf. "The Convention is an important step forward in helping governments to decide if they want to use and import those hazardous substances or not. The new Convention will contribute to our efforts to intensify agriculture in developing countries in a sustainable manner."

The two-day meeting in Rotterdam is officially known as the "Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade." The negotiations were jointly organized by FAO and UNEP. The treaty text was agreed by 95 countries at an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting on 14 March 1998 in Brussels.

The treaty will have to be ratified by at least 50 states before it enters into force. To avoid any delay and to make the Convention work immediately, the countries are expected to approve an interim procedure on the voluntary implementation of the Convention until such time as it enters into force and becomes legally binding.

Starting on Thursday, 10 September, 10.30 a.m., the Conference will adopt the treaty as well as a resolution on the interim period. The signing ceremony will be held on Friday morning. This will be followed by a series of country statements.


Note to journalists:
The meeting will be held at the World Trade Center in Rotterdam (contact number during the meeting is +31 10 405 4444). For further information before the meeting, please contact Erwin Northoff of FAO in Rome at (+39 06) 5705 3105, fax 5705 4974, e-mail, or Michael Williams of UNEP in Geneva at (+41 22) 917 8242, fax 797 3460, e-mail Official documents and other information can be found on the Internet at

(*) The Convention will cover the following 22 hazardous pesticides: 2,4,5-T, Aldrin, Captafol, Chlordane, Chlordimeform, Chlorobenzilate, DDT, Dieldrin, Dinoseb, 1,2-dibromoethane (EDB), Fluoroacetamide, HCH, Heptachlor, Hexachlorobenzene, Lindane, Pentachlorophenol and Mercury compounds and certain formulations of Monocrotophos, Methamidophos, Phosphamidon, Methyl-parathion and Parathion. It will also cover the following 5 industrial chemicals: Crocidolite, Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB), Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCP), Polychlorinated Terphenyls (PCT) and Tris (2,3 dibromopropyl) phosphate.

UNEP News Release 1998/85

Wednesday 09 Sep 1998
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