Daily News Archive

Researchers Call for Unbiased List of Most Important Pesticides Worldwide
(from October 15, 2002)

An article in the English peer reviewed journal The Lancet (Pesticide Poisoning In The Developing World--A Minimum Pesticides List, Lancet 2002; 360: 1163-67) written by public health academics calls on the international community to establish a model pesticide list in an effort to reduce pesticide poisoning and contamination worldwide.

The call comes in light of the success of the World Health Organization (WHO) model essential drug list, which has led to better supply and safer use of important drugs in developing countries and elsewhere. The list consolidated 300 essential drugs used worldwide and provided independent information on risk and benefits of use.

The article states that:
In parts of the developing world, pesticide poisoning causes more deaths than infectious diseases. Use of pesticides is poorly regulated and often dangerous; their easy availability also makes them a popular method of self-harm. In 1985, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) produced a voluntary code of conduct for the pesticide industry in an attempt to limit the harmful effects of pesticides. Unfortunately, a lack of adequate government resources in the developing world makes this code ineffective, and thousands of deaths continue today.

Most pesticides are toxic to human beings; WHO has classified their toxic effects from class Ia (extremely hazardous) to class III (slightly hazardous) and then "active ingredients unlikely to present acute hazard". Most class-I technical grade pesticides are banned or strictly controlled in the regulated industrialized world, but not in developing countries, where class-I pesticides are freely available in places that do not have the resources for their safe use.

The article calls on WHO and FAO to develop a model minimum pesticide list. If effective, many of the pesticide deaths that occur every year could become distant memories. Like the WHO drug list, the pesticide model list would give governments that are under-resourced information to allow them to determine which pesticides suit their agricultural needs. Unbiased assessment and comparison of pesticides, not drawn from the very companies that profit from the proliferation of these pesticides, would be very useful for governments and small-scale farmers. Although enforcement of legislation would still often be difficult, a greatly reduced number of pesticides should simplify this process. A model list would allow legislators to decide which few pesticides should be used in their region and then actively register them; other pesticides would not be registered, removing a large number of obsolete and dangerous pesticides from circulation.

The full text of this article can be found at www.thelancet.com