New UNEP report provides action to minimize adverse health and environmental impacts of pesticides and fertilizers

Nairobi, 8 December 2022 – A United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report provides new insights into actions stakeholders could take to minimize the adverse impacts of pesticides and fertilizers on human health and the environment.

The Environmental and health impacts of pesticides and fertilizers and ways to minimize them The report, written in close collaboration and consultation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), highlights the need for transformative action and better management of pesticides and fertilizers as global demand and use of the products increases.

The report outlines six priority transformative actions to improve pesticide and fertilizer management:

  • Encouraging healthy and sustainable consumer choice and consumption;
  • Fundamental change of crop management and adoption of ecosystem approaches;
  • Promoting circularity and efficiency of resources;
  • Use economic tools to create a level playing field for greener products and approaches;
  • Adopting integrated and life cycle approaches for sound pesticide and fertilizer management;
  • Strengthening standards and adopting corporate policies for sustainable supply chain management.

Alongside the transformative actions are 13 priority actions to improve pesticide and fertilizer management. These include, among others, prioritizing the development of and access to low-risk pesticides and bioprotectants, and expanding training to all relevant stakeholders in fertilizer and nutrient management.

The world population is expected to grow from 7.8 billion in 2020 to almost 10 billion by 2050. Food demand is projected to grow by 60 percent, meat production by nearly 70 percent, aquaculture production by 90 percent, and of dairy products by 55 percent.

Global demand for crops has boosted the agrochemicals market. For example, the global sales revenue of inorganic fertilizers was approximately USD 151 billion in 2018 and is projected to grow by 3.8% between 2020 and 2025.

The benefits of pesticides and fertilizers are significant. Pesticides reduce crop loss, reduce the spread of human-borne diseases, extend the shelf life of agricultural products, increase livestock yields, and provide better protection for wooden structures. Fertilizers contribute to increased yields, are used to improve the quality of food and feed, and reduce the need to convert land to agriculture.

However, numerous studies have linked exposure to pesticides and fertilizers to serious human health consequences such as cancer, effects on the reproductive, immune and nervous systems; along with disruptions to vital ecosystems and the spread of aquatic hypoxic zones.

Despite many peer-reviewed scientific studies and consolidated knowledge on the adverse effects of pesticides and fertilizers at the global level, gaps in knowledge and information remain.

“As the report concludes, we still have gaps in knowledge that urgently need to be filled and options for action considered. Focusing on methodologies, tools, approaches and policies that directly strengthen pesticide and fertilizer management to minimize adverse effects on our health and the environment is key to a sustainable, safe and clean future for all,” said Jacqueline Alvarez , Head of the Chemicals and Health Division of UNEP.

The development of this report was made at the request of Member States as indicated in resolution 3/4 adopted at the third session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). The resolution requests the Executive Director of UNEP to submit a report on the environmental and health effects of pesticides and fertilizers and ways to minimize them, given the lack of data in this regard, in cooperation with the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and other relevant organizations to the fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly.’

NOTES TO EDITORS

About UNEP

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and fosters partnership in environmental care, inspiring, informing and empowering nations and people to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

For more information, please contact:
Moses Hosani Media Officer, United Nations Environment Programme

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