The Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC)

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade is a global treaty that came into force in February 2004.  As of October 2014, 154 countries, called Parties, had ratified the Convention. It has the aim of protecting human health and the environment by promoting information exchange on pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted in Parties and by making the PIC procedure legally binding.

  • The key provisions of the Rotterdam Convention are information exchange on potentially hazardous chemicals, pesticides and pesticide formulations as well as the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure.
  • The PIC procedure enhances the control of certain substances in international trade – importing Parties to the Convention have to decide whether or not they consent to imports of PIC listed chemicals and exporting parties must ensure that their exporters comply with the decisions.
  • The PIC listing of a substance does not represent a global ban of a substance nor a recommendation to ban the substance.
  • PIC listing does also not mean that a substance cannot be used safely.
  • The PIC listing process is a procedural process and does not involve a risk evaluation by the Convention’s Chemical Review Committee (CRC).
  • Intentional misuse is not a reason for including pesticides in the PIC list.
  • CropLife International supports the PIC in principle; however, PIC cannot be a substitute for national or regional regulatory systems.
  • CropLife International retains a strong interest in the integrity of the processes under the legally-binding Convention.

 

The PIC procedure

The PIC procedure allows Parties to the Convention to make informed decisions on the import of substances and pesticide formulations listed in Annex III of the Convention, the so-called PIC list. To facilitate this decision making, so called Decision Guidance Documents are prepared by the Chemical Review Committee (CRC) which are mainly based on the rather limited information received from notifying Parties. Exporting Parties must ensure that their exporters comply with the decisions of the importing Parties. In the absence of a decision from an importing Party, the export may proceed if (i) the pesticide is registered in the Party, (ii) it has previously been used or imported into the Party, or (iii) an explicit import consent has been sought and received by the exporter.

If an importing Party decides not to consent to further imports or to consent to imports only under certain conditions, the decision must be equally applied to imports from all sources and to domestic manufacturing for local use. PIC must not be used to protect the local market from competition.

Making a chemical or pesticide formulation subject to the PIC procedure does clearly not mean that the chemical or formulation is globally banned, recommended for banning or cannot be used safely.

The PIC listing process is a rather procedural act. For a chemical, it is triggered by notifications of final regulatory actions (i.e. bans or severe restrictions) from at least two Parties of at least two PIC Regions. A Party that is a developing country or a country with an economy in transition can propose the listing of a severely hazardous pesticide formulation (SHPF) if it experiences problems with this formulation under conditions of use. The Chemical Review Committee (CRC), the technical body of the Convention, reviews the notifications and SHPF listing proposals for certain criteria and decides on the listing recommendation. The listing process does not involve a risk evaluation by the CRC. This would also not make sense as every Party must consider its own legislation and prevailing conditions of use in the safety assessments of pesticides and industrial chemicals. The final listing decision is made by the Conference of the Parties (COP).

Intentional misuse of chemicals and pesticide formulations is not in itself an adequate reason to make them subject to the PIC procedure.

 

CropLife International’s position on PIC

CropLife International and its legacy organization have supported the principles of PIC since their adoption in 1989 as a voluntary procedure under the International Code of Conduct. They provide additional safeguards to protect human health and the environment, especially in those countries where effective regulatory controls are inadequate. However, PIC cannot be a substitute for robust and effective national or regional regulations,which are of overarching importance to all matters of pesticide registration and overall management of pesticides.

Unfortunately, a number of doubtful listing recommendations have been made by the CRC in recent years. CropLife International would wish that the CRC in its reviews apply more appropriate standards for listing criteria and consistently require documented evidence on the basis of final regulatory actions and claims made in notifications and SHPF listing proposals.

CropLife International strongly objects the current interpretation of “intentional misuse” as provided by UNEP’s Legal Service. Although requested by the COP, the decision body of the Convention, it was not further discussed and not adopted.

CropLife International regularly raises observed issues related to the operation of the Convention in interventions in CRC and COP meetings as well as in submissions.