Public interest groups threw their weight behind a proposal to establish a Global Alliance to Phase-out Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) at the forthcoming meeting of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4) in Geneva, Switzerland on September 28 to October 2.
Through an appeal sent to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority, 25 groups endorsed the letter by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) and the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) asking the Government of the Philippines to support the proposal to set up the Global Alliance towards a progressive ban of HHPs and their substitution with ecosystem-based alternatives
In December 2014, the entire African region at the Open-Ended Working Group of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) called for a Global Alliance to Phase-out HHPs that was widely supported and resulted in an agreement to develop a proposal for such an approach for ICCM4.
The Joint Meeting on Pesticide Management by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had earlier noted that risk reduction from HHPs could include a progressive ban of these compounds.
According to the FAO website, “a considerable proportion of the pesticides still being used in the world can be considered highly hazardous, because they have a high acute toxicity, have known chronic toxic effects even at very low exposure levels, or are very persistent in the environment or in organisms, for example.”
FAO, WHO and the United Nations Environment Programme have set out some reasons for taking action on HHPs, including the link between exposure to HHPs and the rising incidence of cancer and developmental disorders and the adverse effects on children who are especially vulnerable to pesticides during critical periods of development. The UN agencies also cited the costs to society of these impacts and noted that lack of capacity limits the ability of many developing countries to adequately manage risks from pesticides.
Joining PAN and IPEN in pushing for the establishment of the Global Alliance at ICCM4 were the Action for Nurturing Children and Environment, Arugaan, Alyansa Tigil Mina, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Cavite Green Coalition, Citizens Organization Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Consumer Rights for Safe Food, Ecological Society of the Philippines, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Go Organic Davao City,
Also backing the initiative were the Green Convergence, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Interface Development Interventions, Kinaiyahan Foundation, Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng mga Maralita ng Lungsod-Cebu, Ligdung Sumbanan Alang sa Kabataan sa Sugbo, Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying, MESA, Miriam P.E.A.C.E., Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Philippines for Natural Farming, Inc., Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Inc., and the Zero Waste Philippines.
The Global Alliance to Phase-out HHPs could learn from the success of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint established at ICCM2 in 2009 “to help achieve international goals to prevent children’s exposure to lead paint and to minimize occupational exposures to lead paint,” the groups said.
The proposed Global Alliance to Phase-out HHPs could have the following objectives:
(a) To raise the awareness of government authorities and regulators, farmers and rural communities, private industry, consumers, workers, trade unions and health-care providers about the harms of HHPs and the availability of safer alternatives;
(b) To catalyze the design and implementation of appropriate prevention-based programs to phase-out HHPs, replace them with non-chemical alternatives, agro-ecological and other ecosystem-based approaches to sustainable food and fiber production, and public health vector control, as a priority.
(c) To provide assistance to farmers to enable them to phase out HHPs while maintaining their agricultural livelihood;
(d) To provide assistance to health professionals on identifying and reporting pesticide poisonings to promote efficient surveillance and identification of HHPs;
(e) To provide assistance to government authorities with identifying appropriate alternatives, particularly for public health vector control;
(f) To promote the establishment of appropriate national regulatory frameworks to stop the manufacture, import, sale and use of HHPs, as well as the sound disposal of HHPs; and
(g) To provide guidance and promote assistance to identify, avoid and reduce exposure to HHPs including for communities near areas of cultivation and urban areas.