Advocacy network, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India, in a note on fifth international chemical conference, held in Bonn last month, has said that the global meet has prepared a framework on chemicals for a safer planet in order to phase-out pesticides internationally by 2035. The Indian delegates at the meet regretted that while more than 120 out of the 330 pesticides registered for use in India qualify to be “highly hazardous”, even though more than half of them are banned in multiple countries.
Stating that these pesticides cause severe health effects on people and causes destruction of environment, the meet was told, “Contamination of food commodities and environment, and unintentional / occupational poisoning and death in farming communities, as noted in the recent past in India highlights poor pesticide regulation in India”.
It has been agreed to phase-out Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHP) by 2035. This target is one of the 28 targets that have been agreed upon, as part of the Global Framework on Chemicals, established at the Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5). The Conference was conducted from 25th to 30th September in Bonn, Germany as part of Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM) process.
After hard negotiations, past 30 September,2023, the ICCM5 adopted the “Global Framework on Chemicals: For a planet free of harm from chemicals and waste”, which set forth the direction of global policy on chemicals and waste, including pesticides. Pesticide Action Network (PAN), represented by regional centers from Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Europe, and North America, and India, proposed phasing out the world’s most dangerous pesticides out of agriculture and prohibition of exports of pesticides banned nationally.
On 25 September 2023, Pesticide Action Network India (PAN India) as part of nearly 400 civil society from 74 countries, urged leaders at the historic global conference to act with urgency to phase out Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs).
HHPs are highly toxic pesticides responsible for a large number of these acute poisoning incidents. Each year, nearly 400 million farmers and farm workers are poisoned by pesticides, resulting in around 11,000 deaths – the majority of which occur in the Global South. In India, National Crime Records Bureau reports document more than 7,000 pesticide poisoning cases every year.
The petition letter to governments and other stakeholders of the Strategic Approach on International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was presented at the opening of the Fifth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM5).The letter points out “Other international policy forums and frameworks, including multilateral agreements on climate change and biodiversity loss, have made significant targeted political commitments on major crises that pose existential threats to humanity and the planet. However, HHPs have remained largely unaddressed.”
The letter had also urged ICCM5:
- To prohibit export of substances that are prohibited nationally, many of which will be HHPs.
- To prepare a target for all countries to implement policies and programs to support safer and more sustainable non-chemical alternatives to HHPs, especially agro-ecology; and
- To establish a Global Alliance on Highly Hazardous Pesticides working to phase-out HHPs.
At its conclusion, the ICCM5 adopted the following targets:
- “By 2035, stakeholders have taken effective measures to phase out HHP’s in agriculture where the risks have not been managed and where safer and affordable alternatives are available; and to promote transition to and make available those alternatives.”
- “By 2030, Governments work towards notifying or regulating or prohibiting the export of chemicals they have prohibited nationally, in line with their international obligations.”
- “By 2030, Governments implement policies and programmes to increase support to safer and more sustainable agricultural practices, including agro-ecology, integrated pest management and the use of non-chemical alternatives, as appropriate.”
We welcome the commitments made by governments to support safer and more sustainable agricultural practices, including agro-ecology. However, more needs to be done urgently and immediately.
Sri C. Jayakumar, a long time participant in SAICM processes from India, founder of Pesticide Action Network India, joins the optimism of PAN International that the establishment of a Global Alliance on HHPs at ICCMS would have built momentum towards the phase-out of HHPs. The Global Alliance on HHPS proposed by the African Region and agreed in the meeting strongly supported by PAN is expected to become a driver of coordinated global action on HHPS. The journey for chemical safety started in the earth summit in 1992 by setting up of IFCS (intergovernmental forum for chemical safety) have one more milestone of progress.
Dr. Narasimha Reddy Donthi, Adviser, Maharashtra Association of Pesticide Poisoned Persons and a public policy expert,comments,“it is indeed a land mark decision to establish a Global Framework on Chemicals at ICCM5, aimed to protect people and planet from harmful chemicals & waste. Even though some targets are too far, nevertheless the text has been agreed. Hopefully the targets would be revised with a shorter time frame in the days to come. Climate change negotiations under UNFCCC framework should integrate these commitments into NDCs and related monitoring process”.
PAN India supports the view that commitments made under the new framework are significant and believes that these commitment can catalyze action for global reforms on pesticide policy. India should prioritize the protection and well-being of farmers, children and rural residents in particular over the interests of profit, in order to achieve our vision of a planet free of harm from pesticides.
The Indian scenario
- Sri Naresh Pal Gangwar, official from Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Government of India, reportedly stated in the ICCM5that India has already banned 72 HHPs to move to safe alternatives and stressed that India needs robust technology transfer to achieve the sound management of chemicals.
- More than 120 out of the 330 pesticides registered for use in India, qualify to be highly hazardous as per the defined criteria set by Pesticide Action Network. The shocking fact is that, more than half of them are banned in multiple countries. These pesticides cause severe health effects on people and causes destruction of environment.
- Contamination of food commodities and environment, and unintentional / occupational poisoning and death in farming communities, as noted in the recent past in India highlights poor pesticide regulation in India.
- India needs to work on stringent regulatory measures towards its commitment to reduce burden from highly hazardous pesticides to its citizens and environment in dealing with nearly 36 % of the total registered pesticides in the country.