Thousands of Farms Join with UNEP to Phase-Out Methyl Bromide
4 April, 2006 - More than 5000 farms and organizations today joined forces with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to accelerate the phase-out of an agricultural pesticide that damages the ozone layer, the Earth’s protective shield.
Methyl bromide has been used by farmers to kill pests in the soil before planting crops like tomatoes, strawberries, melons and flowers.
But in 1992 it was officially controlled as an ozone-depleting substance and is scheduled to be phased-out under the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty set up to protect the ozone layer.
The new International Partnership for Phasing-out Methyl Bromide brings together many farms and companies that have shown leadership in protecting the ozone layer.
These include farmers’ associations and supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer and Co-op – with international organizations such as UNEP, FAO, UNIDO, UNDP, GTZ, MPS and CAB International.
The Partnership aims to accelerate the world-wide switch from methyl bromide to ozone-friendly alternatives.
Shafqat Kakakhel, UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director and Officer in Charge, said: “The battle to restore the ozone layer, which protects all life on Earth from harmful solar Ultra Violet-radiation, has been one of the great environmental success stories with a wide range of chemicals such as Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) already largely phased out under the Montreal Protocol”.
“However methyl bromide, one of the last on the list, is proving harder to remove with some farmers convinced that the alternatives are ineffective or too costly. By demonstrating the fact that thousands of farms and companies can grow, source and sell products without using this chemical, the Partnership sends a clear signal that a methyl bromide-free world is possible sooner rather than later,” he added.
A survey carried out for the Partnership has so far identified more than 5000 commercial farms that produce tomatoes, peppers, melons, strawberries, and flowers without using methyl bromide. The farms are located in more than 30 countries around the world.
The Partnership plans to establish a business-to-business (B2B) net-based service, linking grocery stores seeking goods produced without methyl bromide with farmers and suppliers who do not use methyl bromide. This will link with agricultural certification organizations (e.g. MPS, AENOR) so that companies can confidently purchase flowers, strawberries, tomatoes, melons, and other products that are certified as grown without methyl bromide.
Farms and companies that join the Partnership have already stopped using methyl bromide or will pledge to halt their use of methyl bromide by September 2007, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol.
The Partnership is a public-private initiative, which encourages companies to take voluntary steps to augment national environmental regulations that control methyl bromide.
Statements by leadership companies and organizations that support the International Partnership:
"Farmers in Almería region produce almost 60 per cent of the vegetables exported from Spain – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, and others” said Mr Juan Colomina Figueredo, Managing Director of COEXPHAL Association of Farmers and Exporters of Fruit and Vegetables in Almería Spain. “Several years ago our farmers eliminated methyl bromide from this very large agricultural region, and supermarket customers are happy with the results. Our farmers also found that alternatives are economically viable in this highly competitive sector."
“4,500 farms in more than 30 countries are members of the international MPS organization that certifies standards of good agricultural practice. These farms produce cut flowers, ornamentals and vegetables without using any methyl bromide.” said Mr. Theo de Groot, Managing Director of MPS. “Organizations like MPS audit and certify the farms, ensuring that supermarkets and other customers will receive products that are better for the environment and society.”
‘Marks & Spencer supports the desire to see a world growing fresh produce without needing to use methyl bromide,” said Mr Emmett Lunny, Senior Technologist, Marks & Spencer supermarket. “Sterilising the same piece of land, without rotations, is not good agricultural practice. There are many other options available (chemical & non-chemical) backed up by scientific research. Our Egyptian strawberry supplier, for example, has this year completely phased-out methyl bromide.”
“Methyl bromide is a broad-spectrum pest control method which kills both harmful and beneficial organisms” said Dr Niek van der Graaff of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). “FAO has facilitated farmers’ field school training and IPM learning for growers in Africa and other regions, enabling them to adopt more sustainable pest control methods and thereby eliminate methyl bromide. Farmers are pleased with the use of certain non-chemical alternatives for soil pest control because they are economically feasible and environmentally safe. FAO provides technical support to continue activities to phase-out methyl bromide soil treatments through IPM training.”
“UNIDO has been working since 1997 with farms in developing countries, providing training and helping to adopt MB alternatives on farms”, said Mr Guillermo Castellá Lorenzo, Programme Manager, Multilateral Environmental Agreements Branch of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization. “To date these projects have phased-out more than 3100 tonnes of methyl bromide. In our experience, with proper training and technology-transfer, farms can successfully produce crops like flowers, tobacco, tomatoes, peppers, melons, and strawberries without using methyl bromide.”
"We are pleased to support the Partnership to reward farmers for protecting the stratospheric ozone layer" said Dr. Suely Carvalho, Chief Montreal Protocol Unit, Energy and Environment Group, United Nations Development Programme. "Within its role to link and coordinate global and national efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals, UNDP assists countries to both protect the environment and reduce poverty. In this regard, UNDP has been working with many countries to eliminate the use of methyl bromide. UNDP is committed to ensure the goals of the Montreal Protocol are met".
Notes to Editors
Organisations that support the Partnership include the following:
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Co-operative Group UK
MPS agricultural certification programme
Marks and Spencer
CAB International agricultural organisation
Parts of the ozone layer have become significantly thinner (depleted) compared to the 1970s, due to the use of chemicals such as CFCs, halons and methyl bromide (MB). A Canadian government study in 1997 estimated that phasing-out ozone-depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol will prevent the occurrence of about 129 million cases of eye cataracts and 20 million cases of skin cancer, as well as providing other health benefits. In addition, it prevents damage to fisheries, damage to agriculture and industrial materials, giving a net benefit of more than US$ 224 billion.(1) Protecting the ozone layer therefore prevents huge costs to industry, government and public health.
As a result of controls place on MB by governments of the world under the Montreal Protocol, the consumption of MB in industrialised countries was reduced from more than 56,000 tonnes in 1991 to about 14,500 tonnes in 2003 (excluding quarantine treatments), and consumption has also been reduced in many developing countries. Globally, 106 countries reported that they did not consume MB in 2003, except for treatment of quarantine pests in some cases – 55 of these countries used MB in the past.
As a result, the quantity of MB detected in the atmosphere has fallen significantly since 1998.(2) While this shows admirable progress, scientists have warned against complacency - many small, remaining uses of MB risk negating the gains achieved to date.(2) Scientists have noted that the ozone layer will not recover if the Montreal Protocol phase-out commitments are not implemented in full.
Reports and case studies published by UNEP, the Methyl Bromide Technical Options Committee (MBTOC), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), European Commission, Nordic Council of Ministers, and other bodies, have identified a wide range of chemical and non-chemical substitutes that control the same pests for which MB is used. These substitutes are now used by many farms and companies in all regions of the world.
Farms and companies who comply with certified standards of agricultural production such as AENOR UNE 155001 (fruit and vegetables), MPS (flowers, fruit and vegetables) and EUREP-GAP (flowers), are not permitted to use MB.
For information about the Montreal Protocol: http://www.unep.org/ozone
(1) Source: ‘Science Symposium: Challenges and Perspectives – Ozone Layer Protection’ in ‘Report of 16th Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol’ UNEP/OzL.Pro.16/17, UNEP 2004, pages 98-100.
(2) Source: ‘The Right Choice at the Right Time. The Global Benefits and Costs of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer’ Environment Canada, Government of Canada 1997.
For more information please contact Nick Nuttall, Spokesperson, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya.Tel: +254 20 7623084, Mobile in Kenya +254 (0) 733 632755, Mobile when traveling +41 79 596 57 37, Fax +254 2 623692, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Elisabeth Waechter, UNEP Associate Media Officer, on Tel: +254 20 7623088, Mobile: +254 720 173968, E-mail: email@example.com
UNEP News Release 2006/23