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International Summit Seeks To Standardize Pesticide Regulations for Specialty Crops

(Beyond Pesticides, December 10, 2007) In a global first, over 300 crop safety and pesticide management officials and other experts met last week to discuss challenges associated with pesticide use on “specialty crops” like garlic, ginger and chilies. The Department of Agriculture (USDA), the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization and the Environmental Protection Agency organized the week-long Global Minor Use Summit, which took place at the FAO Headquarters in Rome, Italy. Unlike large-area, highly-traded crops such as corn, wheat, rice or cotton, specialty crops have traditionally been produced in relatively small amounts. As a result, studies on the use of pesticides in the cultivation of specialty crops have not been as systematic or widespread as they have been for major cash crops. Producers, many of them in the developing world, face barriers to export their goods to overseas markets with strong safety standards for imports.

International trade in specialty crops is booming, thanks in part to increased levels of human migration and modern preservation and transportation techniques. FAO data show that trade in non-traditional agricultural exports is worth more than US$30 billion a year. Developing countries have a 56 percent share of that trade. “For some countries and crops, like green beans in Kenya and exotic fruits in Malaysia, these ‘minor crops’ aren’t minor at all — national economies depend on them,” according to Gero Vaagt, a specialist with FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division.

“There has been considerable interest in the opportunities which the fair trade and organic markets could offer to producers or exporters of non-traditional products, particularly those in developing countries,” according to the FAO technical paper, The market for non-traditional agricultural exports. “It is apparent, however, that the current market for fair trade and organic produce is still small relative to that for conventional produce and vulnerable to over-supply,” the FAO report continues, taking a cautious approach to organic agriculture.

The conference focused on how producers can more easily export non-traditional crops, as import standards aimed at protecting human health become increasingly strict, especially in developed countries. One major problem is that there are gaps at the international level in terms of registered uses for pesticides on specialty crops. Registration is the process through which national authorities evaluate which pesticides can be used by growers, and under what conditions. If a pesticide is permitted for use on certain crops, maximum residue limits (MRLs) are set that aim to quantify how much pesticide residue a product can safely contain. Prior to seeking approval, manufacturers typically conduct extensive field tests and other studies whose results are used by regulators when deciding to approve and register a pesticide. Since this involves a significant financial investment, they tend to focus on pesticides used on major crops only.

“There is little financial incentive for studies of pesticide use for minor crops, and as a result accepted MRLs are lacking, especially at the international level,” explained Shivaji Pandey, Director of FAO’s Plant Protection Division. “This means that when a specialty crop reaches an import market it can be rejected. The pesticide found on it might have been properly applied and existing in safe amounts, but because there’s no registered use for it on that crop, it fails the ‘zero tolerance’ litmus test.”

“What we’re trying to do is to look at ways to come up with more harmonized protection measures for these crops that are efficient, suit the needs of farmers, facilitate trade, ensure food and environmental safety, and benefit consumers,” Pandey said. In particular, he added, following the summit, FAO hopes to see more MRLs for pesticides used on specialty crops established at the international Codex Alimentarius level. Codex is a joint FAO-World Health Organization body that sets international standards for food safety, standards which are relied upon by the World Trade Organization when resolving trade disputes concerning food safety and consumer protection.

Source: AllAfrica.com


One Response to “International Summit Seeks To Standardize Pesticide Regulations for Specialty Crops”

  1. 1
    Ahmad Mahdavi Says:

    Bridging the gap between South and North for pesticide/ chemical regulations and research
    The situation of pesticide and chemical market, advertising, transportation and distribution, labeling, worker protection and in general regulatory activities in developing countries is very bad and need immediate support from international scientific community and also from international regulatory agencies to prevent more misuse. Due to the lack of regulatory bodies and enforcement in these countries and specially lack of proper labeling and distribution and finally lack of knowledge in final consumer many cases of suicide using pesticides happens every year in each of these countries. Pesticides are sold in food stores and sometimes in open containers with no labels. Reading the labels before use rarely happens due to lack of ability for reading. In most of these developing countries there is absolutely no enforcement power (if there is a written regulations at all) and licensing procedure for agricultural worker protection and these workers do their spraying with any type of equipment that they can find with no protecting clothing.
    Role of local governments and politics: Due to the unstable situations of governments in many of developing countries some very important tasks like pesticide/ chemical regulations and enforcement are ignored and in most cases they only exist on paper. In some of these countries mafia like groups are clearly involved in pesticide marketing and distribution and they also cover some government agents. Unfortunately the recent Global political problems and also the very recent food and environmental crisis are adding to the problem by widening the gap between North as the provider of these compounds and also the place of research bodies and regulatory agencies and South as the receiver of these compounds (sometimes as gift!) and as the blind consumer. Perhaps the worst part of governments and political roles in this bad scenario in developing countries is that all of international conventions that deal with Global pesticide/ chemical problems are in the hand of governments in developing countries and in absolute control of them and this is a big problem. These governments simply and rudely send their political and in most cases non-scientific agents to these international conventions like Stockholm, Basel, IFCS etc. and in surprise these international conventions accept these governmental agents instead of genuine scientific people. I as a pure scientist putting my life on this science for good think that now in the 21 Century it is the time that those people involved in international conventions give more opportunities to representatives of NGOs from developing countries, to the real academic/ scientific people from developing countries instead of only dealing with governments.
    Role of scientific/ academic research: Unfortunately academics and those scientists employed by these governments cannot do so much to solve the problem. In most of these developing countries research funds are not available or if it is, is not distributed correctly to reach the real final scientist to conduct the research. Due to the lack of local research on pesticide/ chemicals in these countries scientists use those regulations provided by researchers from developed World and also from Global regulatory agencies and this in part makes more problems. For example regulations written for developed countries are not suited for developing countries due to the lack of proper infrastructures and also different consuming/ eating habits. In oil producing developing countries allocation of the research money is not correct and is never distributed according to the need and according to the country’s problem but unfortunately the money is simply allocated to unnecessary programs and in most of these countries to research on military etc.
    Consumer lack of knowledge in developing countries: One big difference between consumers in Northern and Southern countries is level of knowledge of final consumers. In developed countries not only most of people are more scientifically educated as compared to the people in developing countries but also many other factors help the final consumer in developed World about compounds like pesticides. In developed countries many NGOs and community workers are working to make the people aware about what they consume and eat but in developing countries not only the existence of NGOs is under threat but also there is no community work.
    With best regards,
    Ahmad Mahdavi,
    PhD, pesticide environmental toxicologist, Sustainable agriculture and environment,
    Guelph, Ontario.
    [email protected] and [email protected].

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