The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says many banned or severely restricted pesticides in industrialised countries are still marketed and used in the developing world.

“Some 70,000 different chemicals are available on the market, and 1,500 new ones are introduced every year. This poses a major challenge to many governments, who must attempt to monitor and manage these potentially dangerous substances,” explained the Rome-based agency at a meeting of officials from over 100 governments (8-12 October 2001) to discuss the implementation of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for hazardous chemicals and pesticides and a voluntary interim PIC procedure.

The Convention reduces the risks associated with chemical use, particularly in developing countries, and limits its introduction into countries without safety assessment. The PIC procedure helps governments decide whether to accept imports of hazardous chemicals.

FAO deputy Director-General David Harcharik commented: “Global agreements such as the Rotterdam Convention serve to provide a level of control and can help to mitigate the negative effects of globalisation.” He urged countries to ratify the Convention in time for the World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002.

Pending the Convention’s full implementation, governments have agreed to apply the PIC procedure voluntarily. Since 11 September 1998, the Rotterdam Convention has received 73 signatures and been ratified by 16 governments; it will enter into force 90 days after the 50th ratification.

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By Hilmi Toros, correspondent