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Sunday, Feb 24, 2002
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FAO for curbs on pesticides, asbestos
MUMBAI, Feb. 23
THE Food and Agricultural Organisation's (FAO) committee of Government-appointed experts the Interim Chemical Review's Committee (ICRC) has concluded that three widely-used pesticides and all forms of asbestos should be added to an international list of chemicals subject to trade controls. The pesticides are monocrotophos, Granox TBC and Spinox T.
The first one up for action is monocrotophos. This insecticide is used in developing countries, particularly Asia, to control insects and spider mites on cotton, citrus, rice, maize and other crops. "It is actively traded and is manufactured by more than a dozen firms, almost all in Asia,'' the FAO said in a press release.
Monocrotophos poses an acute hazard to farm workers and is also highly toxic to birds and mammals. ICRC's recommendation now goes forward to the Inter-Governmental Negotiating Committee of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, which meets in Bonn from September 30 to 4 October, 2002. If adopted, monocrotophos will join the PIC procedure.
The recommendation to add five remaining forms of asbestos to the PIC list (one is already listed) launches a process that will conclude in 2003. The committee's review of asbestos was triggered by bans in the EU and Chile. The attractions of asbestos include its high tensile strength, fibrous nature, resistance to heat, and inert chemistry. "Once widely used as insulation for houses and specialised equipment, asbestos was eliminated in many countries when it became understood that its tiny fibres were being inhaled into the lungs of workers and residents and causing cancer, other illnesses, and death", the FAO said.
The committee has also launched the process for listing the related pesticides Granox TBC and Spinox T, a mixture of fungicides and the highly toxic insecticide Carbofuran. Its findings pointed the finger at Granox TBC/Spinox T, which is used in a powdered form by peanut farmers.
In developed countries seeds are often treated and planted mechanically, thus protecting farmers from contact. In many developing countries, however, the farmer works without protective clothing and seeds manually. The resulting close contact with the pesticide produced hundreds of cases of poisoning featuring fevers, chest and abdominal pains, vomiting, insomnia and some deaths. The fourth chemical, DNOC, is an insecticide, weed-killer and fungicide. It is highly toxic to humans and also poses a high risk to other organisms. The review process was initiated by bans in Peru and the EU. Once widely used, DNOC is being targeted for inclusion in the PIC procedure in order to further reduce its remaining uses.
According to FAO, about 70,000 different chemicals are available on the market today, and 1,500 new ones are introduced every year. "This poses a major challenge to many Governments which must attempt to monitor and manage these potentially dangerous substances. Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use has been severely restricted in industrialised countries are still marketed and used in developing countries,'' the FAO said.
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