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States and businesses must prevent harm from highly hazardous pesticides – UN experts

GENEVA (28 September 2015) – Two United Nations experts on hazardous substance and waste and right to food have called today for an worldwide phase-out on use of highly hazardous pesticides that are inflicting significant damage on human health and the environment.

The experts’ appeal comes as States, businesses and other parties from around the world gather in Geneva, Switzerland, for the fourth meeting of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (28 September to 2 October 2015). This is the last gathering of its kind before 2020, the year by which States pledged to achieve sound management of chemicals following the 2002 Earth Summit.

“Workers, children and others at risk continue to suffer severe impacts from hazardous pesticides,” the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights and hazardous substance and waste, Baskut Tuncak, said. “Those living in danger cannot wait several years for the next opportunity. It is imperative that States take collective action now.”

Mr. Tuncak noted that, since the 2002 Earth Summit, coordinated global action to reduce highly hazardous pesticide use has not materialized. “Risks are particularly grave in developing countries, many of who import these highly hazardous pesticides despite having inadequate systems to reduce risks,” he said.

“There are still a significant proportion of pesticides being used around the world which can be considered as highly hazardous,” the expert warned, “despite international pesticide experts’ claim that there are almost always safer alternatives to highly hazardous pesticides.”

Criteria developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization include pesticides with high acute toxicity, with established chronic toxic effects including the ability to cause cancer even at very low exposure levels, or which are very persistent in the environment or in organisms.

“Often, the residues of these hazardous pesticides are found in the food that we consume and this impedes individual’s right to access safe healthy food. The exposure is particularly serious for farmworkers and their families. Children are exposed to highly hazardous pesticides through their mother’s milk,” the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, stressed. “Agro-ecology is a proven alternative to an intensive reliance on highly hazardous pesticides.”

“Urgent action is needed. States must reorient their methods of food production towards systems that inflict less harm, are more sustainable, and truly contribute to the realization of all human rights,” Ms. Elver urged.

Mr. Baskut Tuncak (Turkey) was appointed Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes by the UN Human Rights Council in 2014. Learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/ToxicWastes/Pages/SRToxicWastesIndex.aspx

Ms. Hilal Elver (Turkey) is a Research Professor, and global distinguished fellow at the UCLA Law School Resnick Food Law and Policy Center. She was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the Human Rights Council in 2014. Learn more: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Food/Pages/FoodIndex.aspx

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For enquiries and media requests, please contact Ahreum Lee (+41 22 917 9391/ ahreumlee@ohchr.org) and Orlagh Mccann (+41 22 917 9578/ omccann@ohchr.org) or write to srtoxicwaste@ohchr.org and srfood@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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