Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention/ Food and Agriculture Organisation Dr Christine Fuell told participants from Small Island Developing States and the Asia-Pacific region that the meeting had more to do with country leaders having the power to control the importation of hazardous chemicals.
“It is not a ban on the trade or on the chemicals but it does give country leaders the power to make decisions regarding certain chemical imports,” Fuell said.
The key aim was for nations to share responsibility, share information and control the trade in chemicals, she said.
“You can consent to that or not, you can say ‘yes’ or say ‘no thank you.’ It is entirely about enabling parties to make up their own minds based on all available information.
“Who are we to tell you what you need and what you want but it’s you telling us what you need and want?”
The convention, which has 155 parties came into force in 2004. The Cook Islands’ is already a party and has been a good example to other Pacific countries, says Fuell.
Cook Islands MoA Director of Research and Development Division William Wigmore said it would take time for farmers to accept any change in the way they controlled weed growth on their plantations.
He hoped the week’s meeting would help the Ministry of Agriculture come up with ideas and recommendations on how farmers could cut down the use of paraquat and other chemicals. Minister of Agriculture Kiriau Turepu said a container of diluted paraquat had been imported to Rarotonga earlier this year. He regarded the importation of a diluted product as good news for a safer environment and for human health. However, he was dismayed when farmers declared the diluted product to be useless.
“From the farmers’ perspective they said it didn’t kill the weeds and we tried explaining to them (about the use of chemicals).
They would rather see something that they apply and get results from immediately.”
Turepu said the outer islands purchased more of these chemicals than did farmers on Rarotonga, but they did not understand their side effects.
The meeting, which will end today, is funded by the European Commission (EC), co-funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and implemented by the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention in collaboration with partners, including the Cook Islnds Ministry of Agriculture.