UN Special Rapporteurs Call for Global Pesticides Treaty | SDG Knowledge Hub | IISD

Hilal Elver, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, called for a comprehensive convention to regulate and phase out hazardous chemical pesticides in agriculture, and promote a transition to sustainable agriculture practices.

They issued a joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council on 7 March, alongside a report submitted to the 34th session.

7 March 2017: Two UN Special Rapporteurs jointly called for a comprehensive convention to regulate and phase out hazardous chemical pesticides in agriculture and promote a transition to sustainable agriculture practices.

It is misleading to claim that pesticides are vital to ensuring food security, said the Special Rapporteurs.

The Rapporteurs issued their joint statement on 7 March 2017, at a session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, Switzerland. Hilal Elver, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, and Baskut Tuncak, the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, said “excessive use of pesticides are very dangerous to human health, to the environment and it is misleading to claim that they are vital to ensuring food security.”

In a report submitted to the Council, the Rapporteurs call for a comprehensive, binding treaty to regulate hazardous pesticides throughout their life-cycle. The treaty would generate policies to cut chemical pesticide use worldwide, and develop a framework for banning and phasing out highly hazardous pesticides. The experts also say the treaty should impose strict liability on pesticide producers and promote agroecology. They offer numerous recommendations for national governments, including comprehensive national action plans that include binding, measurable, time-limited reduction targets for hazardous pesticides, and provide incentives to promote alternatives to their use.

Elver and Tuncak said hazardous pesticides seriously affect human rights, citing impacts such as 200,000 acute poisoning deaths, and suspected links to cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, hormone disruption, sterility and development disorders, among other health problems. They said agricultural workers, indigenous communities, pregnant women and children are particularly at risk, and require special protections.

The Rapporteurs say divergent national standards and controls on pesticides have led to “double standards.” In countries with less stringent enforcement mechanisms, they explain, “the burden of the negative effects of pesticides is felt by poor and vulnerable communities.” They urge “harmonized, stringent regulations on the production, sale and acceptable levels of pesticide use.”

Their report also notes that while the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) controls several hazardous pesticides, its coverage is limited and many hazardous pesticides do not meet all of its listing criteria. As for the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, the report points out that its consensus decision-making approach has resulted in a small number of countries obstructing the listing of known hazardous pesticides, such as paraquat. More importantly, says the report, no existing binding international instrument addresses hazardous pesticides throughout their life-cycle.

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