The Rotterdam Convention assists Parties to reduce risks from certain hazardous pesticides in international trade. The Convention, together with the Stockholm and Basel conventions and FAO’s voluntary Code of Conduct, promotes a life cycle approach and provides the necessary tools for managing pesticides.

Role of Pesticides

Used judiciously and appropriately, pesticides can help to protect food and other crops from excessive damage by pests and diseases, and can also protect human and livestock health from vector-borne diseases. Pesticides also play important roles in the protection of fresh produce during transport over long distances; in ensuring that shipments of fresh food do not carry unwanted pests and diseases into importing countries; and in the preservation of stored bulk foods such as grain. Over-reliance on pesticides, however, can damage the health of farmers and consumers as well as the environment and the economy. In many cases pesticide use can be reduced significantly without compromising production. Pesticide health and environmental issues are of global concern.

Issues addressed by the Rotterdam Convention:

  • 73% of the chemicals covered by Rotterdam Convention are pesticides;
  • 70% of the chemicals covered under the Stockholm Convention are pesticides.
  • Pesticides are one of the main chemical problems for developing countries.  Many exporting countries have very sophisticated systems to evaluate the risks of individual pesticides. They can decide whether or not to regulate them nationally, and yet still export them. Many developing countries do not have such capacities, hence they benefit from an international procedure that provides them with specific information on risks of certain hazardous pesticides in international trade which allows them to take better and informed decisions concerning futur imports (Import Responses Form) of certain hazardous chemicals in international trade  (Annex III Chemicals)
  • Some pesticides are so dangerous that they cannot be used safely under normal and affordable developing country conditions. Parties can report cases of pesticide poisoning (SHPF Forms).

Global Key facts

  • Pesticide sales are valued at about US$35 billion a year (FAO 2010).
  • An estimated 200 000 people a year die from pesticide poisoning.
  • Between one and three agricultural workers per every 100 worldwide suffer from acute pesticide poisoning and adolescents are often the victims, according to Childhood Pesticide Poisoning, 2004, published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Issues in countries addressed by the Rotterdam Convention

  • Pesticides based on certain active ingredients frequently are exported to or produced in developing countries. These are often more toxic and have a broader spectrum of non-target effects than other products. Pesticides that are banned in wealthier countries may still be exported to poorer countries.
  • Regulatory and enforcement capacity in developing countries is often weak. This can lead to farmers buying pesticides that are labelled incorrectly, have no labels or are labelled in languages farmers do not understand. The socio-economic and climatic conditions in many developing countries do not allow farmers to buy or wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Using certain formulations of pesticides can cause severe health and environmental problems under conditions of use. The impact of pesticides on human health needs to be better understood.

Technical Assistance programme

Technical assistance under the Rotterdam Convention complements FAO’s lead role in sustainable pesticide management.  The Rotterdam Convention offers assistance to Parties in reviewing their regulatory system, in taking decisions regarding import of certain pesticides, and by exchanging information on reasons for banning and restricting pesticides in other countries.  The Convention provides assistance to Parties to establish pilot projects to monitoring and reporting cases of pesticide poisoning (Technical Assistance Programme).

The Convention works in the areas of:

  • building institutional capacity to manage pesticides;
  • decisions regarding future imports of pesticides;
  • reducing risks of pesticide use;
  • specific activities to establish monitoring and reporting systems on pesticide poisoning.