In the wake of contaminated lunches killing 23 children in India, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is calling for countries to step up efforts to ban use of deadly pesticides.
On July 16, the children fell ill and died after consuming food contaminated with monocrotophos, an organophosphorus pesticide banned in much of the world. However, the chemical remains in use in many developing countries—which, a FAO representative told FoodProductionDaily.com.
“Monocrotophos continues to cause problems in some countries, while many other countries have taken action to prohibit this pesticide,” said Harry van der Wulp, senior policy officer for Pest and Pesticide Management for the Rome-based FAO. “The event in Bihar was another reminder.”
International organizations like the World Health Organization and the World Bank have joined the FAO in working to keep highly hazardous pesticides out of the hands of farmers in India and other developing countries. Such small-scale farmers, the theory goes, lack the right training, equipment and storage facilities to manage them properly.
“We recommend governments review whether measures to ensure proper use of such products are adequate, and if not, to consider prohibiting these products,” van der Wulp said. “It is very difficult to ensure that products are used properly.”
van der Wulp added that proper protective gear can be problematic in developing nations, and proper disposal methods may be unavailable. For those reasons, he said, prohibiting such pesticides is the easier, safer route.
In a statement issued July 30, the FAO encouraged developing countries to promote use of non-chemical and less-toxic alternatives.
“Seeing that alternatives are available helps in making decisions to phase out highly hazardous products,” van der Wulp said.
Further, the statement pointed toward the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management (adopted by FAO member countries) as a good path to follow.
The Code, which establishes voluntary standards of conduct, is broadly accepted as the touchstone for responsible pesticide management. It prohibits the use and distribution of pesticides if risk assessment determines the product cannot adequately be handled properly and safely.