J. Delos Reyes and K.L. Heong, International Rice Research Institute, Los Baños, Philippines
The International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides was developed in support of food security, protecting human health and the environment. Adopted in 1985 it was later amended and revised in 2002. The Code provides standards of conduct for all public and private entities engaged and associated with the distribution and use of pesticides. Click here for a copy of the Code. The Code has been accepted and endorsed by 191 UN member nations, the pesticide industry, trade unions and NGOs. The list as of July 2009 is available here.
In the Berlin product stewardship dialogue, CropLife International launched Stewardship Vision 2020 as a pesticide industry stewardship program. Vision 2020 is committed to compliance with the Code and an e learning course on the Code is available.
Insecticide misuse continues to make farmers’ field vulnerable and induce planthopper outbreaks. This is a threat to rice production in ASEAN and the root cause is the lack of adequate regulations and/or their implementation in the pesticide market (house with no roof). This has resulted in pesticides being sold as FMCGs (fast moving consumer goods), like soft drinks, soap powder and tooth paste. Unlike in developed nations where pesticide marketing is better regulated in developing countries market practices violate many articles in the Code. Retailers sell pesticides together with food and candy items and household goods. The local retailers are also farmers’ main source of advice. Products are often advertised with implied messages of “more yields” and “more profits” and with various forms of incentives, like gifts, raffle tickets and free trips are included to entice buying. In the IRRI-FAO sponsored pesticide supply chain workshop, we conducted a group evaluation of some articles in the Code and their degree of non compliance in 9 countries (Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam). In Article 11 on advertising on page 24 of the Code, 11.2 states “Pesticide industry should ensure that:” followed by 18 sub-article statements. Only a few of these sub- articles were used in the evaluation where country representatives were asked to score the degree of noncompliance in their respective countries; “Never”, “Rarely”, “Sometimes” and “Always”. For instance in 11.2.1 – “all statements used in advertising are technically justified, 2 countries scored non-compliance as “always”, 5 “sometimes” and only 2 “rarely”. Some of the other sub-articles are shown in Table 1 below:
Table 1: Degrees of non-compliance to some sub-articles in Article 11.2 of the FAO Code of Conduct. Scores are number of countries, out of 9 that scored the articles’ noncompliance as “sometimes” and “always”.
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Article 11.1 of the Code also states “Government should control, by means of legislation, the advertising of pesticides in all media to ensure that it is not in conflict with label directions and precautions, particularly those relating to proper maintenance and use of application equipment, appropriate personal protective equipment, special precautions for children and pregnant women or the dangers of reusing container”. In most ASEAN countries, except perhaps Malaysia, such legislations are either not developed or developed but not implemented. Recently the Director General of Plant Protection Department (PPD) of Vietnam, Dr Nguyen Xuan Hong, issued an administrative order drawing attention to the violations. This is leading to a new Circular 18 to regulate pesticide sales and regulations that was announced by MARD recently and to be released in 2012.
Article 11.3 clearly states the “International organizations and public sector groups should call attention to departures from this Article”. However this is seldom done even though violations of the Code are clearly visible in the rural areas. Recently IRRI and FAO sponsored an international conference that focused on the threats of insecticide misuse to rice production. IRRI developed an Action Plan that calls for better pesticide marketing regulations.
Although the Code is basically voluntary and not legally binding, it does set forth standards of conduct towards responsible practices. Since Corporate Responsibility and Product Stewardship have recently become flagship programs in CropLife and some pesticide companies, there are lots that the pesticide industry can do to bring about product stewardship standards practiced in developing countries, especially rural communities, to the standards practiced in developed nations. Unsuspecting rice farmers in developing countries become primary victims of noncompliance to the Code. Not only is noncompliance to the Code endangering farmers, their families, neighbors and the environment it is also increasing the vulnerability of their crops to planthopper outbreaks and wasting valuable input resources.
IRRI calls for stricter controls on use of pesticides
Vietnam exports 6.994 million tons of rice year-to-date, targets 7.19 million tons by year-end.
Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Provinces Target 5.4 Million Annual Rice Exports, About 80% of the Nation’s Rice Export Target
Pest plagues drive Asian insecticide marketing crackdown. Food Navigator Asia.
Hanoi Conference on Insecticide Misuse – Report