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The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said highly hazardous pesticides should be phased out in developing countries.
It said the tragic incident in Bihar- India, where 23 school children died after eating a school meal contaminated with monocrotophos, is an important reminder to speed up the withdrawal of highly hazardous pesticides from markets in developing countries.
A statement signed by Erwin Northoff of the FAO Media Relations in Rome and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday noted that the monocrotophos is an organophosphorus pesticide that is considered highly hazardous by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO).
It said the experience in many developing countries shows that the distribution and use of such highly toxic products very often poses a serious risk to human health and the environment.
“The incident in Bihar underscores that secure storage of pesticide products and safe disposal of empty pesticide containers are risk reduction measures which are just as crucial as more prominent field-oriented steps like wearing proper protective masks and clothing," the statement said.
“The entire distribution and disposal cycle for highly hazardous pesticides carries significant risks. Safeguards are difficult to ensure in many countries.”
It said among international organizations, including FAO, the WHO and the World Bank, there was consensus that highly hazardous products should not be available to small scale farmers who lack knowledge and the proper sprayers, protective gear and storage facilities to manage such products appropriately.
FAO, therefore, recommends that governments in developing countries should speed up the withdrawal of highly hazardous pesticides from their markets.
The statement said non-chemical and less toxic alternatives are available, and in many cases Integrated Pest Management can provide adequate pest management that is more sustainable and reduces the use of pesticides.
It said the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, adopted by FAO member countries, established voluntary standards of conduct for all public and private entities involved in pesticide management. This Code has been broadly accepted as the main reference for responsible pesticide management.
The Code states that prohibiting the importation, distribution, sale and purchase of highly hazardous pesticides may be considered if, based on risk assessment, risk mitigation measures or good marketing practices, they are insufficient to ensure that the product can be handled without unacceptable risk to humans and the environment.
The statement held that for monocrotophos, many governments have concluded that prohibition is the only effective option to prevent harm to people and the environment.
It said this pesticide is prohibited in Australia, China, the European Union and the United States and in many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
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