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Global Coalition Urges China to Control Sales of Methyl Bromide
January 4, 2001
Fourteen consumer, health and environmental organizations from around the world have called on the government of the People's Republic of China to end the rapidly increasing production and consumption of the toxic, ozone-depleting pesticide methyl bromide. In a November letter to China's Environmental Protection Agency, non-governmental organizations (NGO) from six countries also urged the Chinese government to ratify an international treaty that sets a global ban on this pesticide.
China has become the leading producer and consumer of methyl bromide in the developing world. According to a 1999 report by UNIDO, China's consumption of methyl bromide was expected to increase from less than 500 tons in 1995 to over 4,000 tons in 2002, more than a 10-fold increase. In 1998, China produced 2,320 tons methyl bromide, making that country the largest producer by far in the developing world.
The groups also expressed concern about the aggressive marketing of methyl bromide by the Linhai Jianxin Chemical Co. Ltd. (based in Zhejiang, China). The letter states, "We are alarmed that a company in China is conducting a worldwide marketing effort for this dangerous pesticide that is known to be a potent ozone depleter and is already being phased out in industrialized countries. The Chinese government should investigate this type of activity, which clearly undermines the goals of the Montreal Protocol and its 175 signatory nations."
Noting that in December 1999, China stated its determination to protect the ozone layer and phase out ozone destroying chemicals, the NGOs urged the Chinese government to ratify the Copenhagen Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that bans ozone depleting chemicals. One hundred and eleven countries have signed the Copenhagen Amendment, which commits each signatory nation to control methyl bromide. The NGO letter concludes that "China's refusal to ratify this amendment constitutes a very serious threat to the global phaseout of this pesticide and to the success of entire Montreal Protocol." In fact the letter notes that without signing this amendment, countries that are signatories to the Montreal Protocol treaty are not permitted to import methyl bromide from China.
Methyl bromide is a highly toxic pesticide that is used around the world to grow crops like strawberries, tomatoes, flowers and tobacco. This pesticide is is a leading cause of ozone depletion, which is linked to rapidly increasing rates of skin cancer and eye cataracts, as well as potential threats to the human immune system. Scientists have estimated that bromine from methyl bromide is at least 60 times more destructive to the ozone layer on a per atom basis than chlorine from the better known chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Methyl bromide is also directly harmful to humans and can cause many serious health problems.
The organizations that signed the letter include the Center for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge (China), Environmental Working Group (USA), Ocean Heritage Foundation (Philippines), Pesticide Action Network North America (USA), Red de Acción sobre Plaguicidas y Alternativas en México, Sierra Club of Canada and the Yunnan Entomological Society (China).
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