Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene
PROPOSED AMENDMENTS TO
THE PESTICIDES ORDINANCE (CHAPTER 133)
This paper seeks advice from Members on our proposal to enhance the control of pesticides.
2. Pesticides are used extensively in agricultural production to improve yield and quality. They are also commonly applied in domestic premises as well as in public areas and public transport to control disease vectors. If used improperly, they may cause serious harm to humans, animals or the environment.
3. At present, all pesticides are regulated under the Pesticides Ordinance, Cap. 133 (the Ordinance). The Ordinance empowers Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation (DAFC) to register pesticides and to regulate their manufacture, import, supply and sale through licensing control.
4. In administering the system, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) currently adopts an approach based on active ingredients rather than pesticide products. Only active ingredients of pesticides are registered and are classified either in Part I (i.e. in a ready-to-use form for domestic applications) or in Part II (i.e. in a concentrate form for commercial and horticultural applications). The two-part registration system allows pesticide traders to put on the market any pesticides so long as the active ingredients are already registered. According to a survey conducted in June 2000, there were 539 pesticide products containing Part I active ingredients and 267 pesticide products containing Part II active ingredients available in the market.
PROBLEMS WITH THE PRESENT SYSTEM
5. The problems with the present pesticide control system are as follows: -
- There is no control over the nature and the amount of other non-active chemicals in the pesticide products, either as inert ingredients or impurities, even though these substances may be potentially hazardous;
- The advent of many new pesticide products formulated for different purposes has rendered the current two-part registration system inadequate. For example, safe pesticides that are sold in a concentrate form may still be suitable for general household use after dilution; and pesticide concentrates for the control of disease vectors differ markedly from those used in agriculture in terms of application methods and potential hazards but are classified in the same category;
- There is no control over product names of pesticide products. Pesticide products containing the same active ingredient may have different product names. Conversely, pesticide products with similar product names may contain different active ingredients. This confuses consumers as well as health professionals in the event of medical emergencies; and
- The existing Ordinance does not regulate the use of pesticides. In particular, it does not restrict the access to and the use of the more hazardous registered pesticides. Any person may provide pest control services, and acquire and use toxic pesticides that are only meant for trained personnel. In the hands of untrained novices, these pesticides may injure the users as well as members of the public and damage the environment.
6. In view of public concern over the safety of pesticides, we have reviewed the existing control and now propose an improved system. In the process, we have made reference to related regulations in many overseas countries (summarized in the Annex) as well as relevant international standards of Food and Agricultural Organization and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
7. We propose to amend the Ordinance and its subsidiary regulation to improve control on pesticides. Detailed proposals are outlined in the following paragraphs.
(a) Improve registration
8. We propose to replace the "active ingredient" approach with a "product" approach. The new registration system will cover active and inert ingredients, concentration, formulation, and the intended usage of each individual pesticide product. The existing Pesticide Register will be re-structured into four categories to reflect better differences in toxicity, persistence, use pattern, and environmental and health hazards of pesticide products, as follows: -
9. The proposed registration system will allow us to assess the safety of products and the accuracy of their labels before they are placed on the market. We also plan to require suppliers to avoid using similar product names for different pesticide products and, where necessary, to prevent individual manufacturers from supplying the same product under different product names.
- Category A - General
- domestic ready-to-use pesticide products.
(e.g. mothballs, aerosol sprays, bait stations, mosquito coils.)
- Category B - General
- pesticide products in a concentrate form for general use.
(e.g. biopesticides, botanical extracts, low risk pesticides for home gardens.)
- Category C - Restricted
- plant protection in agricultural and horticultural use.
(e.g. concentrates for crop production, sports turf, landscaping.)
- Category D - Restricted
- pesticides for control of disease vectors and higher risk non-agricultural pesticides
(e.g. concentrates and special formulations for public health pests and termite control, and antifouling agents.)
(b) Restrict access to toxic pesticides
10. We propose that the more hazardous pesticide products should only be available for use by qualified and trained users. While Categories A and B pesticide products will be made available to the general public with little restriction, Categories C and D pesticide products which are classified as restricted pesticides will only be made available to licensed pest control service providers and authorized farmers. This change will result in an increase in costs to the service providers as they will need to equip themselves properly in order to get licensed and have access to restricted pesticides. But the benefits of the new control in terms of improved public safety and better protection of their workers will outweigh the increase in costs. The impact on the farmers is expected to be minimal.
(c) License pest control service providers
11. We propose to regulate pest control service providers (mainly companies) to ensure public safety and introduce licensing arrangements similar to existing ones for pesticide manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers. Any pest control service provider who applies registered pesticides in public places or in private places in exchange for compensation will need a licence to operate and to have access to restricted pesticides. We will evaluate an applicant's capabilities in operational management in respect of the safe handling of pesticides and, if satisfied, will issue an operator licence with appropriate conditions. In addition, we will require pest control service providers and applicators to follow user instructions as a licence/registration condition.
(d) Register pesticide applicators
12. To ensure the safe application of pesticides, we also propose to require pest control service providers to employ only trained pesticide applicators registered with us. Any person who has satisfactorily completed an approved training course provided by training institutes (vocational training colleges or equivalent) may seek registration. Alternatively, a candidate may sit our assessment to gain registration. The registration may be renewed every five years based on the track records of the applicators. We may revoke the registration if an applicator is convicted of any breach of the Ordinance. Training courses are available at a fee of about $2,000 for each participant.
(e) Require farmers to undertake training
13. Under the proposal, farmers would have to complete our training course before being authorized to possess and use Category C pesticides. The training will focus on the safe use of pesticides in relation to the plant pests involved, protection of the environment and public health. Authorized farmers may purchase and use Category C pesticides for the purpose of producing agricultural crops on properties owned, leased or rented by them or their employers. Similarly, the authorization may be revoked if a farmer is convicted of an offence under the Ordinance. AFCD will offer the training to farmers free of charge as an extension to existing farmer training programmes in pesticide applications.
(f) Increase law enforcement power and adjust penalties
14. The existing provisions of the Ordinance only allow our inspectors to enter premises and seize articles under a warrant issued by a magistrate. We propose to empower them to enter and search any place, and seize and detain chemicals and documents when they have reason to suspect that an offence has been committed with a view to facilitating the enforcement of the Ordinance. We will also take the opportunity to bring the levels of fines under the Ordinance in line with inflation since 1991. The maximum revised fine will be $100,000 (i.e. Level 6 penalty). Existing provisions for imprisonment of offenders will be retained.
(g) Fees and charges
15. At present, we issue a licence to each pesticide dealer covering all pesticide-related activities including manufacturing, import/supply and retail. The level of licence fee is the same regardless of the fact that some dealers are engaged in one activity only, such as retail, but not in the other activities. We now plan to charge separately for the specific activities the dealers undertake. We also plan to license individual retail outlets or stores. For companies with multiple branches or outlets, we will inspect and license each of the branch stores or operations. These companies mainly involve multi-store chains at the retail level, e.g. supermarkets, and pharmacy and convenience stores.
(h) Transitional arrangement
16. We propose to provide a transitional period of two years to register pesticide products under the new registration system, to license pest control service providers, to register pesticide applicators, and to train and authorize farmers before the new control system comes into effect.
17. We are conducting a public consultation exercise on the proposals. So far, we have consulted some 3,000 parties concerned including farmers' associations, pesticide and pest control trade associations, existing pesticide licensees, green groups, public utilities, etc., and organized a number of public forums for open discussion.
18. Members are invited to comment on the proposals set out in paragraphs 8 to 16 above.
Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department