05 September 1994 00:00 [Source: ICB]
MANDATORY RULES allowing shipments of banned or restricted chemicals only with the prior agreement of the importing country are on track and 'will be brought in', according to the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), Elizabeth Dowdeswell.
Speaking to ECN at the recent international conference on chemical safety in Stockholm, Dowdeswell said the problems associated with chemicals, especially pesticides, in general lay not with the producers but with the users. 'Industry has made substantial progress in the last ten to 15 years in becoming aware of the risks [of chemicals] and taking action,' she said, but despite this progress 'the international community is increasingly talking about moving to a tougher legal system'.
At the moment, only voluntary guidelines exist for the 'prior informed consent' (PIC) procedure. This is based on the principle that shipments of chemicals either banned or restricted in the country of export should not proceed without first obtaining the agreement of the importing country.
PIC recommendations were added to two voluntary codes in 1989 - the London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information in International Trade and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides. For the last few years attempts have been made by Unep to draw up a convention that would make PIC obligatory for contracting parties.
But Dowdeswell does not see a PIC convention as a panacea. 'I don't put all my faith in one instrument,' she said. 'Legal agreements do not pull in everyone - enforcement remains the real problem.'
Barbara Dinham of The Pesticides Trust agrees with Dowdeswell. 'The PIC procedure is working quite well as it is,' she told ECN after the conference. 'I sympathise with the idea of a convention but I do not think it will solve all the problems.'
Dinham said a major concern of the trust is the production and export of restricted pesticides by developing countries to other developing countries. For example, Hindustan Insecticides in India manufactures and exports DDT - banned in the developed world.
Like other environmental groups, the trust wants far greater investment in alternatives to pesticides, such as integrated pest management.
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