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PANUPS: Unsafe Pesticide Use Common
P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network
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
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.
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