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PANUPS: Unsafe Pesticide Use Common

                         P A N U P S
                   Pesticide Action Network 
                        North America
                       Updates Service
                   EMAIL: panna@panna.org

June 27, 1997

FAO Reports on Widespread Unsafe Pesticide Use 

The technology used to spray pesticides in most developing 
countries reflects technical standards of 40 years ago, 
resulting in  environmental damage and pesticides waste, 
according to recent press release by the UN Food and 
Agriculture Organization (FAO). The agency called for 
adoption of minimum standards for the safe and efficient 
application of agrochemicals through good quality equipment 
and better training of farmers.

According to FAO, farmers and equipment operators have 
insufficient knowledge about pesticides and correct methods 
of application. Extension services rarely have technicians 
with any specialized knowledge of application technology. "In 
many countries the only specialists offering advice to 
farmers on application technology, handling and calibration 
of their equipment are representatives of pesticide 
companies," said Theodor Friedrich of the FAO Agricultural 
Engineering Branch. "Many farmers still believe in high 
volumes, high pressure and high doses, as the most 
appropriate way to apply pesticides."

In many countries, much of the spraying equipment is in 
extremely poor condition, Friedrich noted. Nozzles are 
normally not replaced and are even enlarged on purpose to 
achieve higher flow rates.

In Pakistan, according to FAO, about 50% of applied 
pesticides are wasted due to poor spraying machinery and 
inappropriate application. Many farmers are not trained in 
safety aspects and indiscriminate use of pesticides resulted 
in groundwater pollution.

In India, high levels of pesticide residues in food crops, 
compared to the world average, are reported. According to 
FAO, this is an indication that pesticides are being used 
incorrectly. Although India has national standards for spray 
equipment, there are many small manufacturers serving local 
needs that do not comply with quality standards.

FAO stated that farmers in Thailand have paid little 
attention to the "proper use" of pesticides, according to 
surveys. Training on spraying equipment is low. A study in 
Indonesia reported that 58 percent of manual spray equipment 
leaked. In Malaysia, the lack of training, improper 
maintenance of spraying equipment and insufficient protective 
clothing are contributing to pesticide poisoning among spray 
operators. Pesticide residue in water was primarily due to 
excess pesticide use by farmers.

A report on Vietnam said that the supply of "safe" spray 
equipment was limited mainly due to the absence of national 
legislation and standards and a lack of training of 
operators. In the Philippines, sprayer leakage is very 
common, and the majority of farmers and equipment operators 
never receive any formal training prior to their first 
contact with pesticides and application equipment.

In Colombia, flowers are sprayed weekly with up to 6,000 
litre per hectare (l/ha) and in Brazil, application volumes 
of 10,000 l/ha in orchard crops have been reported. 
Application volumes at this rate cause run off and lead to 
soil and groundwater contamination, according to FAO. It 
stated that, for efficient pest control with appropriate 
technologies, less than 10% of these volumes would be more 
than enough.

Friedrich said that farmers could benefit from safe and more 
efficient pesticide application, saving large quantities of 
pesticides and money while achieving better pest control. FAO 
suggested that incentives for improved equipment quality 
should be created and that practical training of farmers and 
operators should be introduced working with small groups of 

According to Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, Senior Program Coordinator 
at Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), "safe use" 
training and better equipment comprise only a piecemeal 
response to the inherent dangers of pesticides. She stated 
that "governments would be better off investing their limited 
resources in strengthening farmers' capacity to develop 
locally appropriate, non-chemical ecological alternatives, 
which will not only ensure the safest approach to farming, 
but will avoid the extensive environmental, economic and 
health costs associated with continued pesticide use." 

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Press 
Release, May 29, 1997. 
Contact: PANNA

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