|OTTAWA - The United States and other major powers last week agreed to delay the implementation of a deal to stop using a pesticide which is known to destroy the ozone layer, officials said.|
Methyl bromide, a fumigant that kills soil and food pests, is due to be phased out by developed nations by January 1, 2005, under the 1987 Montreal Protocol to protect the atmosphere.
But delegates at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Montreal agreed that the United States and 10 other developed nations - which say they have yet to find a viable alternative - would be given exemptions allowing them to use the fumigant at least until the end of 2005.
\"The high demand for exemptions to the methyl bromide phaseout shows that governments and the private sector will have to work much harder to speed up the development and spread of ozone-friendly replacements,\" United Nations Environment Program director Klaus Toepfer said in a statement.
U.S. growers say they are concerned about a rule in the protocol that allows developing nations an extra 10 years, until 2015, before they have to phase out use of the pesticide.
The United States, the European Union and Japan have cut the use of newly produced methyl bromide to 30 percent of 1991 levels. Overall U.S. use is closer to 35 percent because farmers are utilizing stockpiles of the fumigant.
Friday\'s deal was reached after the United States backed down from initial demands for a three-year deal which would have increased its use of the chemical to 37 percent of 1991 levels over the next two years and by an unspecified level in the year after that.
\"We\'re disappointed we didn\'t get a deal over three years,\" said Claudia McMurray, the chief U.S. negotiator at the talks.
\"The idea (of an increase to 37 percent) is not dead by any means,\" she told Reuters, saying U.N. officials would discuss the request later this year.
The 1987 Montreal Protocol requires more than 180 signatory states to phase out the use of nearly 100 chemicals that damage the ozone layer, the part of the atmosphere that protects the Earth from ultraviolet radiation.
David Doniger, policy director at the U.S.-based advocacy group Natural Resources Defense Council, said Friday\'s agreement was at best neutral.
Story by David Ljunggren
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE