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International Agreements and Treaties on Pesticides

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EPA works closely with other U.S. agencies, foreign governments, and international organizations to develop and strengthen international standards and approaches to the sound management of pesticides. Quite a few international agreements have been developed on different aspects of pesticides to strengthen protections across the globe.

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Canada-United States Binational Toxics Strategy

The Canada-United States Strategy for the Virtual Elimination of Persistent Toxic Substances in the Great Lakes Basin, known as the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy, provides a framework for actions to reduce or eliminate persistent toxic substances, especially those which bioaccumulate, from the Great Lakes Basin.  The Strategy was developed jointly by Canada and the United States in 1996 and 1997 and was signed April 7, 1997. Read more about the Great Lakes Binational Toxics Strategy.

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International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships

The International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-Fouling Systems on Ships was adopted by the International Maritime Organization in 2001.  Antifouling systems are used to prevent the attachment or reduce the growth of  fouling organisms (e.g., algae, barnacles) on ships’ hulls.  If untreated, antifouling organisms will increase the resistance of ships as they move through water, increasing fuel consumption and air pollution.   Antifouling systems are thus critical to ship operation, but some systems have been shown to have serious effects on the aquatic environment.  In particular, organotins, particularly tributyltin (TBT) compounds, are extremely toxic to nontarget organisms, including commercially important species, and are known endocrine disruptors.

The anti-fouling treaty calls for the prohibition of new applications of antifouling paints containing organotin biocides and the removal of such paints from vessel hulls, or alternatively, the overcoating of such paints to prevent the leaching of TBT into the aquatic environment.  EPA has canceled all TBT antifouling paint product registrations; cancellation of the last such registration was effective in December 2005.  The effective date is the last date the product can be sold by the registrant.  We expect that any remaining supplies of TBT antifouling paints have diminished greatly or been exhausted.  The anti-fouling treaty also establishes a process by which future restrictions on antifouling systems will be considered.  This process, patterned on the requirements of FIFRA, includes evaluation of both risks and benefits for antifouling systems proposed for control under the treaty.

The treaty was ratified by the requisite quorum of countries, and entered into force on September 17, 2008. The United States played a leadership role in drafting the treaty, but has not yet ratified the agreement. The United States continues to participate in developing guidance for implementing the treaty.  Read more about International Convention on the Control of Harmful Anti-fouling Systems on Ships. Exit EPA disclaimer


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International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water and Sediments

In February 2004, a Diplomatic Conference was held at the International Maritime Organization’s headquarters to finalize the text of an international treaty for the control and management of ships’ ballast water and associated sediments. Development of this treaty was prompted by growing awareness that ballast water discharges are a significant pathway for the introduction of harmful non-indigenous aquatic organisms and microbes that can cause environmental and/or economic damage. 

Fourteen sets of guidelines to provide guidance on technical implementation matters are in varying stages of development. The treaty will not enter into force until 12 months after ratification by 30 countries representing 35% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage. Key features of the treaty include the phase-out of ballast water exchange as the primary control mechanism and the phase-in of ballast water discharge standards to be started in 2009. 

EPA’s Pesticide Program is involved with development of treaty guidelines for risk assessments on pesticides that are being considered for use in treating the ballast water as well as reviewing pesticides for registration under FIFRA for use in treating ballast water. Read more about the treaty for the control and management of ships. Exit EPA disclaimer

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International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)

The International Plant Protection Convention is an international treaty to secure action to prevent the spread and introduction of pests of plants and plant products, and to promote appropriate measures for their control.  There are currently 161 governments (as of March 8, 2007) that adhere to this treaty.  It is governed by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), Exit EPA disclaimer which adopts International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs). Exit EPA disclaimer  The IPPC Secretariat Exit EPA disclaimer coordinates the activities of the Convention and is hosted by FAO.

USDA serves as the primary representative for the United States.  However, because the ISPMs adopted under the agreement are relevant to EPA’s regulation of certain biotech products, EPA participates in the development of the standards.  EPA’s activities primarily consist of participating in the development of the US government position and commenting on the draft standards; on occasion, EPA also participates in the negotiation of the ISPM.

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Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer

In response to the discovery of the Antarctic Ozone hole in 1985, governments and organizations sought to reduce the use of ozone depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), halons, and methyl bromide. The Montreal Protocol was created in an international effort to phase out the use of certain harmful chemicals.  The U.S. was one of the original signatories to the 1987 Montreal Protocol and the U.S. ratified the Protocol on April 12, 1988.  Congress then enacted, and President George H.W. Bush signed into law, the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 which included Title VI on Stratospheric Ozone Protection, codified as 42 U.S.C. Chapter 85, Subchapter VI, to ensure that the United States could satisfy its obligations under the Protocol. 

EPA issued new regulations to implement this legislation and has made several amendments to the regulations since that time.  EPA also has issued rulemaking addressing critical use exemptions for Methyl Bromide, one of the ozone depleting substances that is used as an agricultural pesticide (soil and structural fumigant to control a wide variety of pests). Read more about the Evolution of the Montreal Protocol. Exit EPA disclaimer

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North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

Signed in 1992 and ratified in 1993, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) covers Canada, the United States, and Mexico making it the world’s largest free trade area. NAFTA was created to promote conditions of fair competition by eliminating barriers to trade of goods and services. To address pesticide trade issues, the pesticides regulatory government agencies of the United States, Canada, and Mexico established the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Technical Working Group (TWG) in 1997. The primary objective of the NAFTA TWG is to develop easier and less expensive pesticide regulation and trade among the three countries while meeting the environmental, ecological, and human health objectives of NAFTA. TWG partners address trade issues, national regulatory and scientific capacity, and governmental review burden; and they coordinate regulatory decisionmaking and industry burden reduction. Read more about EPA’s pesticide activities relating to NAFTA.

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North American Regional Initiatives on POPs: North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation

Under the auspices of the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) of North America, Mexico, Canada and the United States have developed a regional initiative on the “Sound Management of Chemicals,” which was formally adopted in October 1995. Under this initiative, the Commission can develop Regional Action Plans, which identify activities that reduce or eliminate risks from chemicals of concern. The Commission has already established such plans for polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and the pesticides DDT, chlordane and lindane and is finalizing action plans on monitoring and assessment for dioxins, furans, hexachlorobenzene, and mercury.

EPA chaired the CEC group charged with developing and implementing the North American Regional Action Plan (NARAP) for lindane, which encourages the phase-out of this POP pesticide for agricultural use in all three North American countries. One of EPA's goals for the CEC work has been to ensure that criteria for POPs identification and approaches for control are consistent with the related global POPs and UNECE LRTAP initiatives. The work of the CEC has been highlighted in the global POPs negotiating sessions as a model for regional action.  The work on the DDT and Chlordane NARAPs has been completed, as there is no longer any production or use of the two pesticides in the CEC region. Read more about EPA's leadership role in the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

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POPs Protocol to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP)

Before the negotiations for the global Stockholm Convention started, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) sponsored negotiations on a regional treaty to address specific regional concerns on persistent organic pollutants.  This legally-binding treaty was adopted in June 1998 and entered into force in October 2003.  Under the treaty, known as the POPs Protocol, countries agree to control, reduce, or eliminate discharges, emissions, and losses of the following list of 16 listed POPs: aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),  polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, hexabromobiphenyl, chloredone, hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH mixed isomers including lindane) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). 

The POPs Protocol specifies a scientific and procedural review process that could lead to the addition of other POPs chemicals of regional concern.

Learn more about POPs: A Global Issue, A Global response.

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Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade

PIC was adopted on September 10, 1998 by a Conference of Plenipotentiaries in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The Convention entered into force on February 24, 2004.

The objectives of the Convention are:

The Convention creates legally binding obligations for the implementation of the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure. It was built on the voluntary PIC procedure, initiated by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1989.

As of July, 2008, the United States is a Signatory to the Convention, but not a Party. For the United States to become a Party, the Convention must be ratified by the Senate and implementing legislation must be passed.

Major Provisions:

The Convention covers pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health or environmental reasons by Parties and that meet the specifications of the Convention.  The Convention requires that a chemical or pesticide must be banned or severely restricted by two or more countries in two regions of the world. 

Annex I specifies the information that must be contained in the notice of control action. 

Annex II specifies the criteria by which the action is evaluated for inclusion. 

Annex III is a list of all those chemicals that have been included.  Severely hazardous pesticide formulations that present a hazard under conditions of use in developing countries or countries with economies in transition may also be nominated for inclusion in Annex III.

Annex IV contains the information requirements and the evaluation criteria.

Annex V contains information requirements for export notifications required by the Convention.

Annex VI outlines process for settlement of disputes under the Convention.

Currently, there are 39 chemicals listed in Annex III of the Convention and subject to the PIC procedure, including 24 pesticides, 6 severely hazardous pesticide formulations and 11 industrial chemicals. The current substances listed are shown on the Rotterdam Convention Web site. Exit EPA disclaimer

The PIC Procedure:

The Conference of the Parties (COP) decides on the inclusion of new chemicals. Once a chemical is included in Annex III, a "decision guidance document" (DGD) containing information concerning the chemical and the regulatory decisions is circulated to all Parties.  Parties have nine months to prepare a response concerning the future import of the chemical.  The response can consist of either a final decision (to allow import of the chemical, not to allow import, or to allow import subject to specified conditions) or an interim response. Decisions by an importing country must be trade neutral (i.e., apply equally to domestic production for domestic use as well as to imports from any source).

The import decisions are circulated by the PIC Secretariat and exporting country Parties are obligated under the Convention to take appropriate measures to ensure that exporters within its jurisdiction comply with the decisions.

It is important to note that while the Convention relates primarily to chemicals and pesticides that have been “banned or severely restricted,” inclusion in the Convention does not constitute a global “ban” on the listed substances.  The PIC provisions enable Importing Parties to make an informed decision, with information provided through the Convention, about whether or not to import the chemical or pesticide in question.  Parties may decide to permit import, prohibit import, or impose import conditions.

Other Information Provisions:

In addition to the PIC Procedure itself, the Convention also includes: 

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Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants

Pesticides that enter the air or water do not stop at country borders. EPA works with other countries, institutions, and stakeholders to address issues related to persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that move in the environment. POPs are a concern for the following reasons:

The United Nations Environment Program sponsored negotiations to address the global problems associated with POPs.  The United States joined forces with 90 other countries and the European Community to sign a groundbreaking United Nations treaty in Stockholm, Sweden, in May 2001 that entered into force in May 2004.  Under the treaty, known as the Stockholm Convention or the POPs treaty, countries agree to reduce or eliminate the production, use, and/or release of the following12 POPs:  aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mirex, toxaphene, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs),  polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans.

The Convention specifies a scientific and procedural review process that could lead to the addition of other POPs chemicals of global concern.

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