PANNA: High Quantities of Poor-Quality Pesticides Sold in Developing Countries


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High Quantities of Poor-Quality Pesticides Sold in Developing Countries
March 9, 2001

Around 30% of pesticides marketed in developing countries with an estimated market value of US$900 million annually do not meet internationally accepted quality standards. In a joint statement, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that these pesticides are posing a serious threat to human health and the environment.

“These poor-quality pesticides frequently contain hazardous substances and impurities that have already been banned or severely restricted elsewhere,” said Gero Vaagt, FAO Pesticide Management Group. Such pesticides, he added, often contribute to the accumulation of obsolete pesticide stocks in developing countries.

The global market value for pesticides is estimated at US$32 billion in 2000, with the share of developing countries around US$3 billion. In developing countries, pesticides are used primarily for agriculture, but are also used for public health, such as insecticides for controlling insects spreading malaria.

The low quality of pesticides can be due to both poor production and formulation and the inadequate selection of chemicals. In many pesticide products, for example, the active ingredient concentrations are higher than internationally accepted tolerance limits. In addition, poor-quality pesticides may be contaminated with toxic substances or impurities.

When labeling and packaging is also taken into account, the proportion of poor-quality pesticide products in developing countries is even higher. The labeling is often written in the wrong language and fails to provide data on the active ingredient, application, date of manufacture and safe handling of the chemical. For the consumer, the label is usually the only source of product information. According to WHO, falsely declared products have continued to find their way to markets for years without quality control.

FAO and WHO said that the problem of poor-quality pesticides is particularly widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, where quality control is generally weak.

The UN agencies urged governments and international and regional organizations to adopt the world-wide accepted FAO/WHO pesticide specifications to ensure the production and trade of good quality products. Countries should make these voluntary standards legally binding.

The FAO/WHO standards are especially important for developing countries that lack the infrastructure for proper evaluation of pesticide products. Pesticide industries, including producers of generic pesticides, should submit their products for quality assessment to FAO/WHO.

FAO and WHO have agreed to cooperate in a joint program to develop specifications for pesticides. The FAO/WHO pesticide specifications can be found at and at

Source: WHO press release, February 1, 2001.

Contact: The World Health Organization, Headquarters Office in Geneva (HQ), Avenue Appia 20, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland; phone (41-22) 791 21 11; fax (41-22) 791 3111; email;

FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy; phone (39-6) 57051; fax (39-6) 57053152;

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

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