Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
PIC Treaty Now Legally Binding
On November 26, 2003 Armenia became the 50th country to ratify the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC treaty). This benchmark means that the treaty will officially come into force on February 24, 2004, 90 days from the ratification date. The PIC treaty, which has been implemented on a voluntary basis since it was signed in 1998, provides an early warning system for trade of hazardous pesticides. It requires that an importing country be informed when a pesticide or other chemical is banned in other countries for health or environmental reasons, and gives the receiving country the right to refuse importation of such chemicals.
“Pesticides remain a major cause of ill-health and fatalities around the world,” says Barbara Dinham of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK. Dinham, who has been actively involved in development of the PIC process from the outset, adds “PAN particularly welcomes the way the Convention will help identify pesticides causing problems in the field under the conditions of use in poor rural areas.”
This approach to curbing pesticide trade was conceived by Pesticide Action Network International in the early 1980s in response to aggressive marketing and sales in developing countries of pesticides that had been banned in industrialized nations. According to PANNA’s Monica Moore, “a blizzard of chemicals” was moving through customs in developing countries that did not have the capacity to regulate or the right to refuse this toxic cargo.
For example, 96 tons of DDT, banned in the U.S. in 1972, were exported by U.S. companies in 1991. Customs records at U.S. ports document 3.2 billion pounds of pesticides crossing international borders between 1997 and 2000–in each of those years at least 21.7 million pounds were pesticides banned or severely restricted in the U.S. After PIC came into voluntary operation in 1998, exports of restricted use pesticides began to decline. Six million fewer pounds of these chemicals were shipped from the U.S. in 2000 than in 1997.
Controversial issues during the negotiation of the PIC treaty focused largely on the process of adding new chemicals to the PIC list. Key areas of debate were the number of national bans or severe restrictions needed to trigger listing under PIC, and questions of what constitutes “evidence of harm,” particularly in countries where lack of poison control centers and public health and environmental agency infrastructure make documentation of problem chemicals nearly impossible.
An Interim Chemical Review Committee (ICRC) was established in 1999 to examine the notifications of bans and severe restrictions during the period of voluntary implementation and to continue to add pesticides with a valid notification to the PIC list. The list of PIC chemicals now includes 32 chemicals, 27 of which are pesticides.*
Bringing legal strength to the PIC treaty is one of many signals that the international community is moving toward precautionary approaches that will provide real protection for human health and the environment. UNEP Executive Director Klaus Topfer credits the Rotterdam Convention for putting “an effective system in place for avoiding many of the deadly mistakes made in past decades when people were more naïve about the dangers of toxic chemicals.”
Sources: Global Pesticide Campaigner, December 2002, December, 2001, December 1998; PIC Secretariat, http://www.pic.int; EuropaWorld, “Governments Discuss Banning Toxic Pesticide,” 4/10/2002, http://www.europaworld.org/week99/governmentsdiscuss41002.htm.
* Chemicals on PIC list: Adrin, Binapacryl, Captafol, Chlordane, Chlordimeform, Chlorobenzilate, DDT, Dieldrin, Dinoseb and dinoseb salts, 1,2-dibromoethane (EDB), Ethylene dichloride, Ethylene oxide, Fluoroacetamide, HCH (mixed isomers), Heptachlor, Hexachlorobenzene, Lindane, Mercury compounds, Pentachlorophenol, 2,4,5-T, Toxaphene, Methamidophos, Methyl-parathion, Monocrotophos (soluble liquid formulations), Monocrotophos (all formulations), Parathion, Phosphamidon, Crocidolite, Polybrominated biphenyls, Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), Polychlorinated terphenyls (PCT), Tris (2,3-dibromopropyl) phosphate
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