Rainforest Alliance statement addressing misconceptions regarding Private Voluntary Standards and Annex III-listed pesticides.
Reducing the use of Highly Hazardous Pesticides in our Certification Program
The use of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) in the agriculture sector is widespread and has many negative effects on the health of farmers and their communities. It harms biodiversity, including farm ecosystems on which future agricultural productivity depends. The Rainforest Alliance Certification Program is one of the largest sustainability standards in the world. We certify bananas, cocoa, coffee, tea, and many other tropical commodities. Many HHPs are already prohibited by our Sustainable Agriculture Standard. Globally, more than four million certified farmers and farmworkers are demonstrating that safer alternatives for these harmful pesticides work well in practice—enabling farmers to run profitable businesses and contribute to global food supplies. Nevertheless, excessive pesticide usage and continued application of HHPs remains a major concern. Much more action is needed from all relevant stakeholders to reduce their use and curtail the negative consequences for people and nature.
The Rotterdam Convention needs to protect people and nature from hazardous pesticides
The Rotterdam Convention is an important platform to catalyse global action on harmful pesticides. It provides important information-sharing tools to help vulnerable farming communities—especially in low-income countries—from the high risks of hazardous chemicals. However, in recent decades, the positive impact of the Convention has been significantly reduced; many of the chemicals that have been recommended for listing by the expert Chemical Review Committee have been blocked from inclusion in Annex III of the Convention. This action—taken by only a small minority of countries— prevents these chemicals being subject to the Prior Informed Consent procedures of the Convention. This, in turn, denies importing countries essential information about the hazards associated with their use, thus limiting their ability to control the negative effects.
Private Voluntary Standards are not a barrier to trade
A small number of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention are hesitant to support the listing of chemicals in Annex III, ostensibly because the setting bodies behind Private Voluntary Standards (PVS) use this list to inform their own pesticide-use requirements. This, in turn, is mistakenly perceived by Parties to be a barrier to trade.
The concern over the use of “Rotterdam Status” by PVSs misinterprets how listing is used by sustainability standards. First of all, PVSs use a variety of scientific resources when making decisions on restrictions—and listing under the Rotterdam Convention is only one of these sources. Secondly, far from disadvantaging growers and being a trade-barrier, the addition of certain chemicals to a PVS’ prohibited or restriction list can open the door to increased investment and technical support. The Rainforest Alliance, for example, consults farmers when a substance is prohibited, and we often provide advice or even trainings to help them transition. In trade terms, we and other standards are non-discriminatory; all requirements apply equally to all producers, regardless of geographical location.
The example of paraquat is very clear. A small number of countries have repeatedly blocked the listing of paraquat under the Rotterdam Convention, yet the Rainforest Alliance has never allowed its use (dating back to the development of our first standard in 1992). Similarly, almost all of the “candidate” pesticides currently proposed for listing by the Candidate Review Committee are already restricted or prohibited by not only the Rainforest Alliance, but also several other PVSs. This is shown in the table in Annex I. Listing under the Convention will therefore have limited effect on the actions of the PVS.
- Failure to list certain hazardous chemicals will not prevent the Rainforest Alliance from taking steps to improve safety and sustainability in our supply chains.
- Most of the “candidate” pesticides proposed for listing by the Chemical Review Committee are already restricted or prohibited by the Rainforest Alliance.
- The Rainforest Alliance’s pesticide restrictions do not discriminate against producers in certain geographies. Rather, they target support to producers to help them transition away from hazardous pesticides. Our goal is to maximise the number of producers in our programs, not to exclude them.
- The Rainforest Alliance bases its decisions to restrict or prohibit pesticides on a wide variety of scientific sources.
- The nine PVSs in the ISEAL IPM Coalition have already taken action on 653 pesticides, while Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention lists just 36 pesticides or pesticide formulations.
- The principle that third-party organisations use the information provided in the listing process is well established and encouraged by UN FAO and WHO (e.g., in the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.)
The Rainforest Alliance has more than three decades of experience in the development and revision of prohibited and restricted pesticides lists. Our first-hand experience has shown us that farmers rapidly adapt to the new requirements and do not leave our programs in significant numbers when new pesticides are listed. The Rainforest Alliance and other PVSs are therefore not a barrier to trade. To the contrary, we are making a significant contribution to reducing global use of hazardous pesticides, while ensuring that certified farmers continue to run productive and profitable farms. We call on all Parties of the Rotterdam Convention to support us in this effort and ensure listing of all chemicals identified as hazardous by the Chemical Review Committee.