Opening remarks of the 2017 COPs High Level Segment

Ms. Maria Helena Semedo
FAO Deputy Director-General - Climate and Natural Resources
4 May 2017, Geneva Switzerland

Excellencies, Distinguished panelists and guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my honour to join you here today in Geneva. Food is the most basic human right yet nearly 800 million people still suffer from hunger in the world. For the most part, they live in rural areas of developing countries and are involved in agriculture. A half a billion smallholder farmers ‐who produce 80 percent of the food supply in their countries – are struggling to make a living. The world’s poor and hungry are most vulnerable to the adverse effects of hazardous pesticides, chemicals and wastes that are the focus of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.Growth in the agriculture sector remains one of the most cost‐effective means for developing nations to reduce poverty and end food insecurity. This is why sustainable agriculture and food security go hand‐in‐hand in achieving the aims of the 2030 Agenda to eradicate hunger and all forms of malnutrition. FAO’s strategic framework is aligned to this global vision, integrating agriculture, forestry and fisheries with the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. Sustainable agriculture must also contribute to detoxifying the air, water and soil.

Ladies and gentlemen,

FAO works with countries to reduce the foot print of agriculture and to address the underlying causes of pollution that could compromise agriculture. FAO hosts over 70 instruments and mechanisms on the sustainability of sectoral and cross‐sectoral issues. Among them is the Rotterdam Convention, in partnership with UNEP. To deal with harmful chemicals in pesticides, FAO‐WHO International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management provides standards of conduct on sound pesticide management for all stakeholders involved in the pesticide life cycle from formulation to disposal. If misused, pesticides suppress the natural pest control mechanisms of agro‐ecosystems and exacerbate pest problems. There are adverse effects of pesticides on biodiversity, such as the decline in the populations of birds, insects, and other pollinators which are vital for food production. Pollinators are responsible for about 35 percent of the world’s crop production, increasing outputs of about 75 percent of the leading food crops worldwide. Therefore, to guarantee food for all, it is crucial to ensure that pesticides do not threaten pollinators. Addressing the use of highly hazardous pesticides and promoting good agricultural practices to minimize the use of agrochemicals have been a special focus area for FAO.

To give another example, the quantity of plastic and microplastic debris in the ocean has become a growing international concern in recent years. Marine litter and microplastics add to the challenges currently faced by fisheries and aquaculture. To help detoxify our oceans and seas, FAO has teamed with UNEP to identify possible measures and best available techniques and environmental practices to prevent the accumulation of microplastics in the marine environment.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Be assured that FAO is committed to exploring innovative solutions, supporting dialogue, sharing information and enabling policies towards sustainable agriculture and a future detoxified. To do so, FAO promotes an ecosystem approach for the integrated management of land, water and living resources for conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. By working at the field level, the benefits of more efficient use of inputs, such as pesticides, are evident. Farmers, fishers and foresters have also demonstrated their ability to work together, share knowledge and expertise in finding innovative approaches to developing more efficient and resilient production systems. Robust governance structures, strong institutions, ministerial collaboration and international cooperation enable countries to benefit more fully from global instruments such as the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

The way forward is clear. We must take concerted global action on hazardous chemicals and wastes. We have made good progress in putting together mechanisms, frameworks and instruments at national regional and global levels. What is needed is greater political will to take advantage of these mechanisms. We must work together to protect the planet for our children and our children’s children.

Thank you