Campaigners call for United Nations body to end link to pesticide organisations

Pesticides Action Network UK (PAN UK) has reiterated the concerns of hundreds of organisations over the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s (FAO) ongoing collaboration with a global association of the world’s biggest pesticide manufacturers, CropLife.

In October 2020, the FAO and CropLife signed a Letter of Intent (LOI), which saw both bodies agree to explore collaborations on broad areas of work.

This letter prompted a huge global backlash from nearly 200,000 individuals and hundreds of civil society, Indigenous Peoples organisations and philanthropic groups, who highlighted that CropLife member companies have “interfered in national policy and exert enormous pressure on governments that take measures to protect people and the environment from pesticide harms”.

This strong backlash stopped the LOI from moving forward into a more formal memorandum of understanding. However, PAN UK has said that the LOI - which has no expiry date and did not undergo the FAO’s new due diligence process for private sector engagements - remains in place.

Ahead of the COP15 Biodiversity summit, which is currently taking place in Montreal, PAN UK have submitted a letter to FAO deputy director Beth Bechdol calling for “greater transparency and accountability regarding the FAO’s ongoing and deepening collaboration with CropLife”, undersigned by 11 environmental groups.

The letter calls on the United Nation’s body to “prioritise people-led agroecology as an innovative climate resilience solution and ensure that the climate and science strategies do not give precedence to pesticide and fertiliser products nor private sector entities affiliated with human rights violations or environmental destruction”.

Keith Tyrell, director of PAN UK and chair of PAN International, told ENDS: “FAO needs to wake up to the fact that the pesticide industry is part of the problem.  We need to support farmers to reduce their reliance on pesticides, not foist more chemicals on them.  It is perfectly feasible to keep yields high and protect nature. 

“Chemical pollution – including pesticides – is one of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss globally and with COP15 opening this week, governments need to tackle the problem of pesticide use head on.”

He highlighted that farmers are “happy” to cut use of pesticides, especially with rising costs, but what is missing is “political will”. He added the FAO “Should stop listening to misleading industry propaganda and do what’s best for farmers and nature.”

The PAN UK letter was submitted ahead of the FAO’s 171st Session on 5 December.

FAO and CropLife have been contacted for a comment.