Stocks Poison Latin America
(Beyond Pesticides, June 2, 2005) The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced Monday that stocks of unused and obsolete toxic pesticides in Latin America are three to five times higher than previously thought.
"Previous FAO estimates, based on information provided by countries, suggested a total of about 10 000 tons of chemicals requiring disposal in the region," said Mark Davis, coordinator of FAO's obsolete pesticides program. Since that time a more frightening picture has begun to emerge indicating that stocks are far higher and are currently estimated to be between 30 000 and 50 000 tons," he added.
The storage or dumping of pesticides is not well known or quickly discovered, but the effects can quickly become apparent. In Paraguay, the Paraguay River, which flows into Argentina and the Atlantic Ocean, has suffered heavy contamination as have villagers who use the River. Symptoms of chronic poisoning have been reported. FAO tells similar stories coming out of Bolivia and Columbia.
In September 2004, FAO expressed similar urgent warnings that high quantities of toxic chemical waste from pesticides are “posing a continuing and worsening threat to people and the environment in Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.”
Countries calling upon FAO for help in safely removing and disposing of the toxic substances are now met with wringing hands as FAO funds for its Obsolete Pesticides Programme have completely run out.
Obsolete pesticides are left over primarily from pesticide campaigns used for cotton and other cash-crop production. The campaigns are promoted by the chemical industry and usually supported by international and U.S. agricultural and other advisors. The more pesticides are used, the more they need to be used – a phenomenon referred to as the pesticide treadmill. High pesticide usage results in weed and insect resistance, which then leads to a continuing arsenal of more potent toxic chemicals. Stockpiles accumulate when pesticides are either replaced or banned and not disposed of or removed.
Even after pesticides are discontinued due to overwhelming evidence of unacceptable dangers posed to people, workers, wildlife, water or the land, they are still exported and sold to unsuspecting countries that often have loose regulatory control over pesticide use, handling, and labeling. From 1997 to 2000, the U.S. exported nearly 65 million pounds of banned or severely restricted pesticides, according to a Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education analysis of U.S. Customs records published in Vol. 7, No. 4 2001 International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (see Daily News). More than half of the pesticide products were sent to developing countries.
The Special Rapporteur to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (Geneva), Fatma Zora Ouhachi-Vesely, called the U.S. practice of exporting banned pesticides immoral."Just because something is not illegal, it may still be immoral. Allowing the export of products recognized to be harmful is immoral," she said.
TAKE ACTION: Support Beyond Pesticides’ stance that EPA prohibit the export of banned, severely restricted or discontinued pesticides to foreign countries. To learn more this argument, see page 4 of Beyond Pesticides comments to EPA on the “Globally Harmonized System” or contact Beyond Pesticides. Write U.S.EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and demand that these banned pesticides not be exported.