I have wonderful news to share. Delegates to the Stockholm Convention meeting in Geneva just agreed that the best alternative to the hazardous pesticide endosulfan is agroecology. This is a huge step that PAN and our allies have long pushed for.
The Stockholm Convention listed endosulfan for global phase out back in 2011. The pesticides officially suggested as alternatives were mostly hazardous as well, according to a careful PAN analysis. In an effort led by PAN scientist Dr. Meriel Watts, the Convention reviewed possible non-chemical alternatives, and found that a strong case could be made for ecosystem-based solutions. Late last week, the delegates officially endorsed this approach.
Dr. Emily Marquez from our U.S. team is in Geneva for the treaty meeting, and was part of the NGO group that worked hard to make this happen. She reports:
"This is a significant victory for PAN and everyone who has been working to promote the safe, sustainable solutions of agroecology rather than replacing conventional chemical pesticides with other — sometimes just as hazardous — chemical pesticides."
In the search for alternatives to replace endosulfan, the Convention’s panel of scientists came up with a recommendation of 110 chemical pesticides. Of these, 80 were identified by PAN scientists as either potential POPs or as Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) based on criteria develop by PAN International.
POPs, or Persistant Organic Pollutants like DDT and endosulfan, are highly toxic, persist for a very long time in the environment, accumulate in people's bodies and in the environment and travel long distances from where they were orginally applied.
The analysis of non-chemical alternatives to endosulfan conducted by Dr. Meriel Watts was critical in getting the Convention to issue a statement encouraging parties to adopt ecosystem-based approaches to agriculture as alternatives to endosulfan. As Dr. Watts put it:
"It's official. The Stockholm Convention participating countries agree that ecosystem-based pest management should be the priority for replacing endosulfan."
PAN advocates the use of agroecology and ecosystem-based approaches to pest management, rather than reliance on synthetic pesticides. In line with best international practice in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), an insecticide should be seen as a last resort, with the primary focus placed on pest management practices that prevent the need for a spray application.
Agroecology combines science with indigenous and community-based experimentation, emphasizing technology and innovations that are knowledge-intensive, low cost and readily adaptable by small and medium-scale producers.
Agroecological farming encourages the cultivation of resilience and maintenance of healthy ecosystem function over reliance on external inputs such as synthetic chemical pesticides, fertilizers and fossil fuels — all of which can have high energy, environmental and health costs.
PAN stands with our allies to congratulate the treaty delegates for taking this decision. We hope that the ongoing work of the NGO community will help move countries to quickly take up agroecology as an alternative to endosulfan and other hazardous pesticides.