Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)

The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty that came into force on 17 May 2004. It is designed to protect public health and the environment from the effects of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). These are chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods and are potentially toxic to humans and wildlife.

  • Chemicals are listed as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Stockholm Convention because they have been shown to have persistent and bio-accumulative properties, are toxic and/or are transported over a large distance from the place of use.
  • This does not necessarily mean they cannot be used safely and responsibly.
  • While we support any initiative which provides a real improvement in human health or environmental protection, we believe that all decisions under this and other international treaties should be based on sound scientific evidence of risk.
  • Consistency and uniformity of application is also needed, balancing risks, benefits and socio-economic needs, which may vary from country to country.

The plant science industry has an active involvement in the ongoing implementation of the Convention by providing expertise and data to the authorities and to the scientific committee o the Convention (POPRC) to help develop regulations that will contribute to better protection of the environment. This Convention established a global management process for chemicals that are persistent in the environment; that are toxic to a range of species; that accumulate in fatty tissue; and that may be transported long distances (Persistent Organic Pollutants). The Convention sets out several objectives including:

  • the elimination from commerce of identified POPs and others that may be identified in the future
  • encouraging the transition in commerce to safer alternatives
  • the clean-up of old stockpiles and equipment containing POPs, and
  • encouraging all stakeholders to work towards a POP-free environment

Several discontinued or little-used pesticides (including aldrin, heptachlor and DDT) are included in the first list of substances identified as POPs.  As technology has developed, many of the older and more persistent products have been replaced by newer, more effective ones. However, the fact that a chemical accumulates in fatty tissues and is persistent in the environment does not mean that it cannot be used safely and provide real benefits. A prime example is DDT, which if used at low levels as a residual indoor spray (IRS), remains a most effective and cheap anti-malarial treatment, and has been re-introduced into a number of sub-Saharan African countries for that reason.

CropLife International has shown its support for the new guidelines for Best Available Techniques (BAT) and Best Environmental Practice (BEP) that outline the ways of reducing unintentional POPs and managing POPs waste. We believe that an objective, evidence-based approach to risk management, through the framework of the Stockholm Convention, can deliver useful additional environmental protection. However, it must be used consistently and uniformly, taking into account not just risks but also benefits and socio-economic needs.

The Stockholm Convention and POPs Criteria

The screening criteria include identity, persistence, bio-accumulation, long-range transport and adverse effects. Any country that is a party to the Convention can submit a proposal for inclusion in the Convention to the secretariat for consideration. All criteria must be met and be regarded as scientifically justified by the Persistent Organic Pollutants Review Committee (POPRC) before the Committee can accept a proposal to list a new chemical as a POP. Following acceptance of a proposal, a risk-benefit profile is prepared and possible control measures considered. Depending on the risk profile and the risk management evaluation, the POPRC will recommend to the Conference of Parties (COP) whether the chemical should be subject to any controls. The COP formally makes the decision to list the chemical and specify its related control measures.

CropLife International is fully aligned with international industry positions and works closely with international bodies such as the International Council of Chemical Associations (ICCA) to ensure our views are fully representative.