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Farms, organizations join battle to save ozone

Farms, organizations join UN agency in battle to save earth's ozone layer

More than 5,000 farms and organizations today joined forces with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a partnership that aims to phase out the use of Methyl Bromide, an agricultural pesticide that damages the Earth's protective shield – the ozone layer.

Methyl Bromide has been used by farmers to kill pests in the soil before planting crops like tomatoes, strawberries, melons and flowers, but in 1992 it was officially controlled as an ozone-depleting substance and is scheduled to be retired under the Montreal Protocol, the international treaty set up to protect the ozone layer.

The new International Partnership for Phasing-out Methyl Bromide brings together many farms and companies that have led the way in protecting the ozone layer, and aims to speed up the world-wide switch from the pesticide to ozone-friendly alternatives, UNEP said in a news release.

“The battle to restore the ozone layer, which protects all life on Earth from harmful solar ultra-violet radiation, has been one of the great environmental success stories with a wide range of chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) already largely phased out under the Montreal Protocol,” said Shafqat Kakakhel, UNEP's Deputy Executive Director.

“However, Methyl Bromide, one of the last on the list, is proving harder to remove with some farmers convinced that the alternatives are ineffective or too costly. By demonstrating the fact that thousands of farms and companies can grow, source and sell products without using this chemical, the Partnership sends a clear signal that a Methyl Bromide-free world is possible sooner rather than later.”

A survey carried out for the Partnership has so far identified more than 5,000 commercial farms, in more than 30 countries worldwide, that produce tomatoes, peppers, melons, strawberries and flowers without using Methyl Bromide.

UNEP said that the Partnership plans to establish a business-to-business net-based service, linking grocery stores seeking goods produced without Methyl Bromide with farmers and suppliers who do not use the pesticide.

Farms and companies that join the Partnership have already stopped using Methyl Bromide or will pledge to halt its use by September 2007, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol.

Supermarkets involved in the Partnership include Marks & Spencer and Co-op, while apart from UNEP, other organizations include the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

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