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AGRICULTURE

Observers join RC, SC members’ chemical review committees for meetings
Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Rome
In keeping with the recent calls for commitments from all to contribute towards a pollution-free planet, experts and observers joined members of the Rotterdam (RC) and Stockholm (SC) Conventions’ chemical review committees for back-to-back meetings in Rome in recent days and reviewed a record number of chemicals for inclusion in annexes of the two Conventions, both of which aim to protect human health and the environment. This was stated by the United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

While three more chemicals have been recommended for inclusion in the Rotterdam Convention, two more have been recommended for inclusion in the Stockholm Convention. Over 250 experts and observers in total, from all regions of the world, gathered at FAO’s headquarters in the Italian capital to conduct back-to-back meetings focused on the review of scientific information on toxic chemicals, with a view to recommending inclusion in the annexes of the two conventions, thus becoming regulated by international law.

According to the latest FAO data, international pesticide sales are valued at up to $480 billion a year. UNEP estimated that as many as three per cent of those working in agriculture worldwide suffered from acute pesticide poisoning, with adolescents facing a higher risk.

The Rotterdam Convention - which currently has 159 Parties - provided an early warning on the trade of certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides, through the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure, a mechanism that requires Parties to take informed decisions on the future import of these chemicals.

The 13th meeting of the Chemical Review Committee (CRC) of the Rotterdam Convention, which was held back-to-back with the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) and concluded on October 26, 2017, successfully recommended to the Conference of the Parties (COP) the listing of phorate, acetochlor and hexabromocyclododecane in Annex III of the Convention. 

Acetochlor, a selective herbicide, has been used on maize in Sahelian west African countries. It poses a high risk to aquatic organisms as well as long-term risks to herbivorous birds and to humans.

Phorate, a pesticide, has been used for example in Brazil as an insecticide in potato, coffee, beans and corn, and is considered one of the most toxic organophosphate AChE inhibitors.

Hexabromocyclododecane is a brominated flame retardant already listed in the Stockholm Convention in Annex A and used as a flame retardant additive to provide fire protection during the service life of vehicles, buildings or articles as well as protection while stored and in selected electronic products.

In reflecting on keys to the successful meetings, William Murray, executive secretary, Rotterdam Convention (RC), FAO, said, “National capacity-building has contributed substantially to sound chemical management, which is essential to sustainable agriculture and, ultimately, food security.”

“Notwithstanding the scientific and technical aspects of the work of the CRC, the outcomes are felt at a much wider spectrum of the global chemical and waste management agenda, including implications for human and environmental health, sustainable development, food security and socio-economic considerations,” said Rolph Payet, executive secretary, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, UNEP.

“These decisions will further protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and will guide the international community towards not just a pollution-free planet, but also towards implementing the SDGs through the sound management of chemicals and waste,” he added.

The Stockholm Convention - which currently has 181 Parties - aims to eliminate or restrict the use of chemicals referred to as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), which are among the most toxic substances found on earth and thus posing serious threats to human health and the environment.

The next step will be for the respective COPs to decide whether to formally list these chemicals at their next meetings in Geneva in April 2019.

The 13th meeting of the Stockholm Convention’s POPRC met between October 17 and 20, 2017, and recommended listing by the next COP of two highly toxic chemicals, namely dicofol, and PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds, in respectively, Annex A and Annex A or B to the Convention.

On PFOA, its salts and PFOA-related compounds, further work is expected by the Committee at its next meeting to define the need for possible specific exemptions for certain applications in the view of strengthening its recommendation to the COP. 

Dicofol is an organochlorine pesticide structurally similar to DDT. Often used as a foliar spray on agricultural crops and ornamentals, and in or around agricultural and domestic buildings for mite control.

PFOA (pentadecafluorooctanoic acid), its salts and PFOA-related compounds are used in a wide variety of applications and consumer products across many sectors, including the semiconductor industry, the imaging and printing industry, textiles, fire-fighting foam and medical devices.

The Committee was also satisfied that the proposal submitted for listing PFHxS, its salts and PFHxS-related compounds to the annexes of the Convention met the required criteria, moving this group of substances to the next stage of the listing process, which requires the development of a risk profile.

PFHxS are used as surfactants to make fluoropolymers and as water- and stain-protective coatings for carpets, paper and textiles.

Stressing that the listing of chemicals into the Conventions' annexes contributes to the broader international push for a pollution-free planet, Carlos Martin-Novella, deputy executive secretary, BRS, said that such scientific processes informed the global high-level political commitment on pollution, which will be negotiated at the forthcoming UN Environment Assembly, slated to take place in Nairobi between December 4 and 6, 2017.

This meeting, UNEA-3, has as its overarching vision a world without pollution and the sound management of chemicals and wastes feature as one of 6 sub-themes. Work from Committees such as this provides the foundation, the building blocks, for such grand and noble statements.

The next meetings of the Conferences of Parties (COPs) for both conventions, together with that of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, will be held in Geneva in April 2019.
 
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