Ethiopia slams industry inaction on old pesticides
ROME - Ethiopia has criticised the international pesticide industry for failing to contribute to the cost of disposing of thousands of tonnes of ageing toxic waste stored at dumps around the country.
The Global Crop Protection Federation (GCPF), representing about 90 percent of the industry, in May asked Ethiopia for permission to audit obsolete pesticide dumps to assess its share of the cost of removing almost 3,000 tonnes of waste.
A clean-up operation by Finnish waste treatment company Ekokem began in Ethiopia in April. Donations by the U.S., Dutch and Swedish governments are enough to dispose of 1,500 tonnes, but no funds have been forthcoming so far to cover the rest.
"The response from GCPF is not encouraging and efforts to secure the pledged funds have not been successful," said a letter to Brussels-based GCPF from Ethiopian Deputy Agriculture Minister Belay Ejigu, made available to Reuters yesterday.
Belay, who has called the dumps a "time bomb", was referring to a GCPF pledge to contribute one U.S. dollar per kg of obsolete stocks for products originating from its members.
GCPFs members include Aventis CropScience, BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta.
Belay said he was pleased to note GCPFs willingness to contribute financially to the clean-up but noted no action yet.
"The (Ethiopian) Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have tried to contact....GCPF for its implementation and so far there is no clear indication to the actual involvement," he added in the letter addressed to GCPFs director-general Christian Verschueren and dated June 12.
DUMPS IN RESIDENTIAL AREAS
In April, officials of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) visited Ethiopia, where they found metal drums leaking toxic waste at obsolete pesticide dumps in residential areas.
Responding to GCPFs May 11 letter seeking access to Ethiopias pesticide dumps, Belay said that GCPF had always had open access to the sites to assess its share of clean-up costs.
"Access to the stocks has never been denied and...GCPF members can at any time visit all the 949 sites if they wish," Belay said.
A pesticide industry source said that GCPF had a working assumption that its member companies had supplied some 600 tonnes of the pesticide waste in Ethiopia.
Pesticides usually have an expiry date of two years after manufacture. Yet waste has accumulated in Ethiopia over more than 30 years, Ethiopian and FAO officials said.
They said the build-up was due to bad management of pesticide deliveries by the government and donors, and unscrupulous marketing by the chemicals industry of pesticides that were in many cases not needed.
The problem of obsolete pesticide waste is not restricted to Ethiopia. FAO estimates that more than 500,000 tonnes of ageing pesticide waste are seriously threatening the health of millions of people and the environment in nearly all developing nations.
Story by David Brough
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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