The global pesticide trade body, the Global Crop Protection Federation (GCPF) has admitted that almost 3,000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides are spread around some 950 sites in Ethiopia. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that the pesticides have contaminated soil and precious water supplies. According to the FAO, the problem is due to bad management of pesticide deliveries by the government and donors, and industry players selling too many pesticides unnecessarily and that obsolete supplies have been around for up to 30 years.

The federal government has appealed for help with the problem, with the media reporting that toxic waste was found leaking from overturned drums in the capital Addis Ababa, near to a grain silo. The FAO has visited abandoned pesticide stores in the village of Arjo in the west and found 5.5 tonnes of pesticides, among them DDT, in leaking drums and bags next to dwellings and land where animals were grazing. There the villagers complained of headaches, nausea and coughing which they believed were linked to the pesticides.

The GCPF said that its members, which include Aventis CropScience, BASF, Bayer, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont, Monsanto, Sumitomo and Syngenta, many of whom have supplied pesticides to Ethiopia, but until now have not offered to help in any cleanup, would remove the chemicals on a voluntary basis. The GCPF, the FAO and Finnish hazardous waste treatment company, Ekokem, which has already started the clean-up are to coordinate a joint operation. Until now, Ekokem, has received some $4.5 million to remove about half the pesticides, provided by the US, Dutch and Swedish governments. The waste is to be shipped to Finland for incineration.

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