Vested interests again protect deadly substances at UN meeting

Exports of deadly substances including chrysotile asbestos and a slew of pesticides will not require a health warning after a handful of governments defended them at a United Nations conference.

The substances were being considered for inclusion on the UN Rotterdam Convention’s ‘prior informed consent’ (PIC) list, which would require exporters to inform importers of the potential risks. Both chrysotile and paraquat had also been recommended for inclusion by UN officials on numerous previous occasions.

Commenting on the failure of the UN Conference of the Parties to list chrysotile despite the long-term support of the overwhelming majority of governments for the move, Phillip Hazelton of the Asian Ban Asbestos Network (ABAN) said: “The long term blockage to listing chrysotile, the world’s biggest occupational disease killer, must end and it’s up to those countries who are as frustrated as we are, to do it. They must come forward with a viable solution to break the blockade on the listing of chrysotile asbestos.”

Pesticides Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP) expressed deep concern at the failure of the conference to list four of the five highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) proposed for inclusion on the PIC list.

A small number of countries blocked the listing of paraquat (Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile), fenthion (Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda), acetochlor (Argentina, Chile), and carbosulfan (Kenya, India, Brazil).

“It is highly disappointing that some policymakers still chose to misinterpret the Convention and to ignore the body of evidence of the serious harm these pesticides cause to human health and the environment,” said Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP executive director.

“The incredibly slow pace with which pesticides are listed in the Rotterdam Convention – which doesn’t even constitute a ban, and only requires Prior Inform Consent in trade – show that existing mechanisms will not satisfactorily solve the problem of pesticides use.”

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