FAO Pesticide Registration Toolkit - better decision for better lives
(http://www.fao.org/pesticide-registration-toolkit/en/) Pesticides play an important role in agriculture and in public health and by extension in eradicating hunger, food insecurity and improving farmers' and people’s livelihoods. However, pesticides are toxic chemicals and must be rigorously evaluated before they are allowed to be used in a country. Most pesticide regulatory authorities in developing countries do not have sufficient resources to do so, and pesticide use conditions tend to be more risky than in industrialized countries. In order to help pesticide registrars in low and middle income countries to make informed decisions about the acceptability of pesticides under local conditions, FAO has developed the Pesticide Registration Toolkit. The Toolkit is a web-based, interactive, multi-language registration handbook, intended for daily use by all those involved in pesticide registration. It helps authorities in countries with limited resources to make informed decisions on pesticide approvals, including technical, scientific and regulatory aspects related to risk assessment. The FAO Toolkit has now been on-line for almost four years, and more than 400 pesticide registration staff have been trained globally (for more than 71 countries) on its use. The Toolkit contents are regularly updated and new modules and tools are continuously under development. The layout of the Toolkit has recently been renewed resulting in a more responsive and user-friendly website.
Pesticide registration authorities in many developing countries face serious challenges such as insufficient staff, lack of an adequate registration scheme, limited technical expertise, lack of local risk assessment procedures and limited access to information. This means that exhaustive evaluation of pesticides, as carried out in countries with greater technical capacities, is generally not feasible. Registration is a national/regional process that can be complex and resource/knowledge intensive and it integrates data of several areas: it collects and reviews many scientific and technical data on health and environmental effects on pesticides, while taking into account social and economic aspects. The three dimensions of sustainability (environment, social and economic) are considered. The Pesticide Registration Toolkit has been designed as a digital, easy-to-use tool to help registrars with limited resources to make smart use of existing information to mitigate these constraints, and make informed decisions through the optimal use of existing data, methods and evaluations. The Toolkit provides a unique, easy and innovative access to, and gathers in one place, reliable international information sources and links to methodologies and strategies for registration from reputable entities that can be adjusted to the level of available resources in the country. Beyond enhancing registrars’ personal capacities, it also participates to foster changes at the institutional level, so that national decisions are sounder and the overall environment and global health are improved. As such, the Toolkit responds to the needs and capacities of registration authorities in developing countries.
The Toolkit is an essential instrument in the sound management of pesticides. The sound management of chemicals for the control of pests and plant diseases contributes to a large number of SDGs. It ensures healthy lives and promoting well-being (SDG3) and Responsible Consumption and Production (SDG12), by setting the Maximum Residue limits in food, by supporting countries to assess the risks of pesticides and make informed decisions to reduce exposure to chemical pesticides for producers and consumers and by promoting the use of sustainable alternatives. It also contributes in many ways to the eradication of hunger (SDG2) to give access to nutritious, balanced and safe food and to the fight against the effects of climate change (SDG13), by improving institutional capacities to shift to sustainable and climate smart agriculture and adopt integrated practices that reduce pesticide pollution and sustain the conservation and use of biodiversity and ecosystems (SDGs 6 & 15).
The Toolkit has been online since 2016 following extensive consultations and expert meetings in various areas (e.g. efficacy, aquatic risks, worker exposure, pollinator risks, etc). Further to English, it is available in French and Spanish since 2017 and it will also be launched in Russian and Arabic in 2021. The Toolkit is composed of various functional parts to help national pesticide registration staff carry out their regular tasks: ● Assess what data may be required for the evaluation of a specific type of pesticide for a particular purpose. These include chemical pesticides and biopesticides for agricultural and public health uses. ● Evaluate the technical aspects of the pesticide registration dossier submitted by the applicant, using broadly accepted methods or existing assessments from reputable registration authorities. ● Choose the appropriate pesticide registration strategy and procedures, depending on available local resources and priorities. ● Find pesticide-specific information, such as registrations in other countries, scientific reviews, hazard classifications, labels, MRLs and pesticide properties. ● Make their own decisions on whether to register a pesticide, depending on what decision criteria they use, and what risk mitigation measures to apply. As an on-line tool, the Toolkit is easily maintained and new information is added as it becomes available. In addition, technical content is also updated and enriched. In 2020, new modules were added on “registration criteria“ (i.e. criteria that are applied by countries when making a decision to register, or refuse registration, of a pesticide) and on the assessment of pesticide effects to soil organisms. While the Toolkit is an on-line handbook for self-use, FAO is also accompanying countries with the navigation of the Toolkit and most importantly with the relevant use of the information provided, so that countries can make better informed decisions. FAO has therefore been rolling out a training programme consisting of one-week national or regional workshops with all those interested in getting FAO assistance (subject to availability of FAO resources). In terms of resources utilized in the project, it has been a combination of financial inputs to both support the development of the Toolkit and ensure its regular update and maintenance. Funds from FAO, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Swedish Chemicals Agency and the Rotterdam Convention were pulled together to develop this project. In addition, in-kind support from countries and regional institutions are also of great contribution for Toolkit training sessions.
FAO organizes regional and national training sessions on the Toolkit upon request by countries. To date, more than 400 pesticide registration officers in 70 countries have been trained to navigate the Toolkit and use it effectively. Collected feedback at the end of each training session on the Toolkit has been very positive. Suggestions made by trainees for new topics to be covered in the Toolkit are included, whenever feasible, in the updating programme. The main impact is that national authorities are better equipped to make informed decisions on how to evaluate a pesticide dossier and eventually to approve or reject a pesticide authorization. In addition, FAO and the Rotterdam Convention Secretariat are cooperating on this project. Many workshops and webinars have been jointly organized. The common objective is that Rotterdam Convention Parties, through use of the Toolkit, make improved notifications, including sound risk assessment, of their “final regulation actions” (to ban or severely restrict a pesticide because of human health or the environmental concern) that will eventually lead to listing the chemical in Annex III to the Convention. FAO is currently actively engaged in addressing Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs), an Emerging Issue of Concern under the SAICM. HHPs are a special topic of the Toolkit and this section has been used to raise awareness about HHPs and to support countries tackling this important issue.
Among the main enabling factors to the Toolkit success: Adaptability: the Toolkit is adaptable to the resources available for pesticide evaluation in the local context. It is not a one size fit all manual Constant upgrading: being managed by FAO, the Toolkit benefits from a team of experts that are involved in all global dialogues and processes on topics related to sound management of pesticides. As such, new modules, tackling emerging problems, are constantly developed and existing modules upgraded. Continuous learning: participants to trainings join a community of practitioners that endure their learning process through exchanges of ideas and discussion of problems The main constraints encountered so far with the Toolkit are the need for a stable internet connection and the availability of funds to maintain the platform and offer trainings free of charge to member countries. Furthermore, successful implementation of the practices promoted in the Toolkit is highly dependent on national policy priorities. Countries in which the protection of human health and the environment, or promotion of sustainable agricultural production, are high on the agenda, also tend to take better environmentally sound decisions with respect to pest and pesticide management. In countries where this is not (yet) the case, national resources intended for sound decision making may be more limited, constraining effective implementation of the Toolkit in pesticide registration.
The Toolkit sustainability is based on several factors. Firstly, as it is managed by FAO and constantly updated with new modules and relevant information, it remains up to date and, as such, respondent to actual needs. Secondly, the Toolkit is accompanied by a community of practice (Toolkit Forum), so users can rely on constant feedback and support should they encounter any problems in its use. Finally, while training facilitates the use of the Toolkit and creates professional linkages by getting people together, the Toolkit is provided with videos and materials that can allow a potential user to familiarize with it independently. Moreover, FAO is working on developing e-learning modules that will facilitate even more self-learning on the Toolkit. Therefore, practices that are encouraged through the Toolkit in various ways are inherently made sustainable. The Toolkit replicability is also ensured by the nature of the practice itself. The Toolkit is first to be seen as a self-learning tool. In addition, FAO national and regional trainings on the Toolkit contribute to enhancing the practice and making it known and adopted more widely. Feedback from users at the end of training sessions has always been very successful and trainees have indicated they would communicate and “advertise” about the Toolkit to their work colleagues. One registrar in Morocco had indicated that he found the practice so useful to its daily work that he would ask all his staff to refer to it. So the replicability of the practice that contributes to making better decisions on pesticides in order to give access to nutritious, balanced and safe food and a better environment, and thus to supporting SDG3 (for good, healthy lives and promoting well-being) and SDG2 (for eradication of hunger), is ensured. In addition, action is underway to extend the practice more widely beyond agricultural pesticides and to cover public health pesticides ; and plans are developed to extend the practice to biological pesticides that present safer alternatives to chemical pesticides and that better ensure environment and biodiversity protection.
The impact in terms of Covid 19 on the Toolkit activities has been determined by the limitation of travel and gathering. FAO is currently developing a training package for more on-line training to continue to facilitate and expand the practice. The Toolkit, as a web based tool, supported by its community of practise, has allowed the continuity of the registration processes in countries in time of Covid.
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