Regulatory Elements to Phase-out Pesticides Based on Human Rights Obligations

TWN Info Service on Biodiversity and TK, Sustainable Agriculture
27 September 2021
Third World Network

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Regulatory Elements to Phase-out Pesticides Based on Human Rights Obligations

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to food and the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes reported in 2017 that “pesticides are responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year, 99% of which occur in developing countries” and that “the most effective, long-term method to reduce exposure to these toxic chemicals is to move away from industrial agriculture”. Both Special Rapporteurs indicated that current regulatory standards are failing to protect humans and the environment from hazardous pesticides and that a lack of implementation, enforcement, as well as coverage gaps further exacerbate the situation.

Binding rules to prohibit Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) and phase out specifically those pesticides with known harmful effects on human, environmental, and ecosystem health, or more broadly prohibiting the packages related to them (e.g. monocultures, GMOs, synthetic fertilizers) are a highly relevant step to transforming food systems.

The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework currently being negotiated under the Convention on Biological Diversity includes a draft target on the reduction of pesticides by at least two-thirds, with proposals suggested by Parties to, inter alia, phase out HHPs in agriculture by 2030, and identify and phase out the most harmful pesticides and chemicals.

A recent paper by FIAN International, ‘Key Elements in Regulatory Frameworks to Ban Highly Hazardous Pesticides, Phase Out Other Pesticides, and Facilitate the Transition to Agroecology’, provides an initial set of elements for regulatory processes to those advocating for the transformation of food systems, with detailed recommendations for advocacy processes. The paper presents regulatory elements organized according to states’ human rights obligations to respect, protect, fulfill, promote; and progressively realize economic, social, and cultural rights, as well as elements related to non-discrimination, and the extraterritorial obligations of states, including cooperation. The proposed elements are grounded in a progressive interpretation of international human rights law, including relevant reports by the UN Special Rapporteurs on toxic substances and on the right to food.

The full paper is available here:


With best wishes,
Third World Network

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