Rotterdam Convention on Trade in Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides Enters into Force


The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade becomes international law and thus legally binding on its members today.

UNEP-FAO News Release

Rotterdam Convention on trade in hazardous chemicals and pesticides enters into force

Treaty provides a first line of defence against hazardous chemicals and pesticides

GENEVA/ROME, 24 February 2004 -- The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade becomes international law and thus legally binding on its members today.

"This treaty will enable developing countries to avoid many of the mistakes made in the richer countries, where the misuse of chemicals and pesticides has too often harmed or killed people and damaged the environment", said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

"In this way all countries will be able to reap the benefits that chemicals and pesticides can offer while ensuring that their development is environmentally sustainable", he said.

"In many developing countries conditions do not allow small farmers to use highly toxic pesticides safely. The result is continued damage to the health of farmers and poisoning of the environment", said Jacques Diouf, the Director-General from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). "We recognize that, in meeting the increased demand for food production, pesticides will continue to be used. The Rotterdam Convention provides countries with a major tool to reduce the risks associated with pesticide use."

"The Convention will help countries to avoid using pesticides that are recognized to be harmful to human health and the environment and highly toxic pesticides that cannot be handled safely by small farmers in developing countries. The treaty promotes sustainable agriculture in a safer environment, thereby contributing to an increase in agricultural production and supporting the battle against hunger, disease and poverty", Mr. Diouf said.

Jointly supported by FAO and UNEP, the Rotterdam Convention enables countries to decide which potentially hazardous chemicals they want to import and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. Where trade is permitted, requirements for labelling and providing information on potential health and environmental effects will promote the safer use of chemicals.

The Convention has been implemented on a voluntary basis since September 1998 in the form of the interim PIC procedure. This interim period has provided an opportunity to gain experience and to develop operational procedures and processes that should allow for a fast start to implementing the legally binding Convention.

The Convention starts with 27 chemicals, but as many as 15 more pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been identified during the interim PIC procedure are flagged for inclusion at the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 1) to the Convention. They include a range of highly toxic pesticides that traded internationally such as parathion and monocrotophos, as well as five additional forms of asbestos (including chrysotile asbestos, which accounts for more than 90 % of asbestos presently used and traded). The experience gained in evaluating these chemicals will facilitate the addition of more substances in the future.

The first meeting of the Conference of the Parties will take place in Geneva from 20 to 24 September 2004. In addition to incorporating additional chemicals into the Convention, this meeting will take decisions on several important administrative and procedural topics, including rules of procedure, financial rules, provisions for non-compliance and the physical location of the permanent Secretariat. The meeting will also establish a Chemical Review Committee that will evaluate future chemicals for the Convention's list and consider such issues as its relationship to the World Trade Organization and a strategy for regional delivery of technical assistance.

Some 70,000 different chemicals are available on the market today, and around 1,500 new ones are introduced every year. This poses a major challenge to many governments that must attempt to monitor and manage these potentially dangerous substances. Many pesticides that have been banned or whose use has been severely restricted in industrialized countries are still marketed and used in developing countries.

As of 19 February 2004, there were 60 State Parties to the treaty, including Canada. The US has signed the Convention but not ratified.

Note to journalists: For more information, please see or contact the FAO or UNEP press offices.

FAO: For interviews or further information, please contact Erwin Northoff of FAO in Rome at (+39-06) 5705-3105, fax 5705-4974, e-mail

UNEP: At UNEP's Nairobi headquarters, please contact Eric Falt, Spokesman and Director of Information, at +254-20-62-3292, +254-733-682656 (cell), e-mail:; or Nick Nuttall, Head of Media Relations, at +254-20-62-3084, +254-733-632755 (cell, e-mail: In Geneva, contact UNEP Information Officer Michael Williams at +41-22-917-8242/8196/8244, +41-79-409-1528 (cell) or e-mail:

Jim Sniffen Information Officer
UN Environment Programme
New York
tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210

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