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UNEP Calls Again for Limits on the Ozone-Depleting Methyl Bromide
(Beyond Pesticides, September 20, 2004)
The U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) announced on Wednesday that the world should crack down on the use of the pesticide methyl bromide which is damaging the ozone layer.

In an effort to highlight the continued destruction of the ozone layer, in 1994 UNEP declared September 16 “International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.” The UN organization is also distributing a new cartoon to teach children and adults about the ozone layer through a character called Ozzy Ozone. Despite such efforts, politics and economics continue to rule over the best intentions of conservations.

The Bush administration has lobbied hard for continued American use of the ozone depleting pesticide methyl bromide, in spite of the availability of less harmful alternatives. In March 2004, the Bush Administration won exemptions from the Montreal Protocol treaty totaling 35% of its 1991 baseline level, or 8,942 metric tons, and violated the original agreement of the Montreal Protocol, which allowed exemptions of no more than 30 percent. The move made a mockery of the historic 1987 agreement, where industrialized countries agreed to phase out all uses of methyl bromide by 2005 with interim cutbacks of 70 percent by 2003.

Klaus Töpfer, executive director of the UNEP, said in a statement that there were "significant knowledge gaps" on the worldwide usage of methyl bromide and is urging countries to back a global survey, being carried out for UNEP’s Ozone Secretariat, so that governments can be better informed on the precise quantities of the chemical being used globally.

Töpfer is calling on nations to "redouble efforts to assess the quantities being used to kill pests on shipments of rice, maize, nuts and other big commodity export crops," according to a Reuters UK article. But there are “lingering loopholes for methyl bromide,” said UNEP, such as animal fodder, cut flowers, hides and consignments in wooden pallets, which are still exempted from the international phase out. Some experts estimate that as much as a fifth of worldwide usage is excluded from controls, said UNEP.

TAKE ACTION: Use the cartoon to teach children and others about the damage to the ozone layer. Write President Bush in the White House and insist that the U.S. comply with the Montreal Protocol and begin implementing alternatives. For more information, see the Greenpeace Ozone Layer Campaign.