PANNA: Obsolete Pesticides--An Ongoing Dilemma


Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

Obsolete Pesticides--An Ongoing Dilemma

July 2, 1999

There are at least 100,000 tons of obsolete pesticide stockpiles in countries around the globe. Approximately 20,000 tons of these pesticides are located in Africa and the Middle East. While exact quantities are unknown, large stockpiles also exist in Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States. Poland, for example, has 60,000 tons of obsolete pesticides stored in various locations throughout the country. In addition, in many countries unquantified amounts of soil and building materials have been heavily contaminated by pesticides leaking from inadequate storage facilities.

Causes of the problem are many and include the banning of pesticide products after import into the country, supply of banned products to countries in the form of aid, oversupply or duplicate supply by different aid agencies, poorly packaged or labeled products and inappropriate formulations of pesticides for local use.

To date, UN-coordinated activities have resulted in the disposal of approximately 3,000 tons of obsolete pesticides from 14 countries at a cost of almost US$14 million. These efforts, however, are only the beginning. Twelve of these countries still have stockpiles requiring disposal. An additional 35 countries are waiting for clean-up operations to begin, while another nine African countries have not yet finished compiling information on obsolete pesticides within their borders.

Despite UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) efforts to raise money for the project, contributions from governments, industry and international agencies and institutions have been limited. To remove one ton of obsolete pesticides in Africa costs between US$3,500 and US$4,000. FAO estimates that disposing of all obsolete pesticides in Africa would cost US$80 to 100 million.

The chemical industry has promised to pay at least a quarter of this or approximately US$1 for every liter/kg of obsolete pesticide stocks removed in Africa and the Near East, but, according to FAO, the industry is "far from fulfilling its commitment." So far, only Shell International has contributed, paying US$300,000 to clean up dieldrin (a pesticide once produced by Shell and now banned in much of the world) in Mauritania. This is slightly more than 1% of the money spent on pesticide disposal in Africa since 1994.

Of the international agencies supporting development in the Third World, only FAO has made any contribution; nothing has been forthcoming from major international agencies such as the World Bank or regional development banks. The majority of the funding has come from development agencies in the U.S. and some European countries such as Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the Basque Country. No contributions towards cleanup efforts have come from the United Kingdom, France or Japan -- countries which have donated or exported pesticides to developing countries in the past.

Even when funding is available, clean up operations may not eliminate threats to human health and the environment. In Senegal, Rhone Poulenc (a French-based multinational agrochemical company) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are funding reformulation from liquid to powder of 86,000 liters of the insecticide carbaryl The liquid carbaryl was originally supplied for aerial application but was so corrosive that it damaged the aircraft. Carbaryl, a potential human carcinogen, is a World Health Organization Class II (moderately hazardous) pesticide, a type of pesticide that FAO recommends not be used in developing countries.

Recent reports about the reformulation plant in Senegal highlighted many health and safety issues regarding impacts on workers, local residents and the surrounding environment. While USAID is currently addressing these concerns, such problems serve to illustrate the need to look beyond reformulation as a solution. Supporters argue that such a project helps to develop local chemical management and production capacity; however, rather than eliminating health and environmental threats, reformulation puts a large volume of toxic pesticides back into circulation.

Delegates from 16 African countries attending a recent workshop on obsolete pesticides developed a list of recommendations based on experiences in their countries. The recommendations included formulating national strategies and policies that lead to integrated pest management and including public interest groups in committees planning for obsolete pesticide stockpile disposal.

For more information on obsolete pesticides, visit the UN FAO web site at http://www.fao.org/news/199 9/990504-e.htm

Sources: Pesticides News 44, June 1999. "Pesticides Trust Activities in the area of prevention, management and disposal of obsolete pesticides," May 1999.

Contact: The Pesticides Trust, Eurolink Centre, 49 Effra Road, London SW2 1BZ, United Kingdom; phone (44-171) 274 8895; fax (44-171) 274 9084; pesttrust@gn.apc.org; web site http://www.ful.ac.be/hotes/sandrine/pestrust.htm.

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