Two United Nations experts have called for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming, and move towards sustainable agricultural practices.
Their 7 March 2017 report, which is highly critical of the claims made by the pesticide industry, notes chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.
The experts for the UN’s Human Rights Council note: “The assertion promoted by the agrochemical industry that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security is not only inaccurate, but dangerously misleading.” It adds: “The industry frequently uses the term ‘intentional misuse’ to shift the blame on to the user for the avoidable impacts of hazardous pesticides. Yet clearly, the responsibility for protecting users and others throughout the pesticide life cycle and throughout the retail chain lies with the pesticide manufacturer.”
Farmers and agricultural workers, communities living near plantations, indigenous communities and pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to pesticide exposure and require special protections, the report notes.
It was authored by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on Toxics, Baskut Tuncak. They told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that widely divergent standards of production, use and protection from hazardous pesticides in different countries are creating double standards, which are having a serious impact on human rights.
The Special Rapporteurs pointed to research showing that pesticides were responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year. The overwhelming number of fatalities, some 99 per cent, occurred in developing countries where health, safety and environmental regulations were weaker. Urging a new approach to farming, they say: “It is time to overturn the myth that pesticides are necessary to feed the world and create a global process to transition toward safer and healthier food and agricultural production.”