Prior Informed Consent

John Unsworth
7th April 2010

The dramatic growth in chemical production and trade during the past three decades has raised concerns about the potential risks posed by hazardous chemicals and pesticides. Countries lacking adequate infrastructure to monitor the import and use of these chemicals are particularly vulnerable.

In response to these concerns, UNEP and FAO started developing and promoting voluntary information exchange programmes in the mid-1980s. FAO launched its International Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides in 1985 and UNEP established the London Guidelines for the Exchange of Information on Chemicals in International Trade in 1987. In 1989, the two organisations jointly introduced the voluntary Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure into these two instruments.
Together, these instruments helped to ensure that governments had the necessary information to enable them to assess the risks of hazardous chemicals and to take informed decisions on their future import.

Seeing the need for mandatory controls, officials attending the 1992 Rio Earth Summit adopted Chapter 19 of Agenda 21, which called for a legally binding instrument on the PIC procedure by the year 2000. Consequently, the FAO Council (in 1994) and the UNEP Governing Council (in 1995) mandated their Executive Heads to launch negotiations. Talks started in March 1996 and concluded in March 1998 with the finalisation of the text of the Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals in International Trade.

The Rotterdam Convention was adopted at the Diplomatic Conference held in Rotterdam on 10 September 1998 and entered into force on 24 February 2004 when it became binding for its Parties

Between the adoption of the Convention and its entry into force, it has been operated on a voluntary basis as the interim Prior Informed Consent (PIC) procedure whose purpose was to continue the original PIC procedure and to prepare for effective operation of the Convention upon its entry into force. During the interim period, over 170 countries have designated some 265 national authorities (DNAs) to act on their behalf in the performance of the administrative functions required by the Convention.


The Rotterdam Convention is a multilateral environmental agreement designed to promote shared responsibility and co-operative efforts among Parties in the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals. Its aim is to protect human health and the environment from potential harm and to contribute to environmentally sound use of hazardous chemicals by facilitating information exchange about their characteristics, providing a national decision-making process on their import and export and disseminating these decisions to Parties.

In other words, the Convention enables the world to monitor and control the trade in certain hazardous chemicals.

It is not a recommendation to ban the global trade or use of specific chemicals it is rather an instrument to provide importing Parties with the power to make informed decisions on which of these chemicals they want to receive and to exclude those they cannot manage safely.

If trade takes place requirements for labelling and provision of information on potential health and environmental effects will promote the safe use of these chemicals.

The PIC procedure applies to: (a) Banned or severely restricted chemicals; and (b) Severely hazardous pesticide formulations. Article 2 of the Convention has given the following definitions:


(a) "Chemical" means a substance whether by itself or in a mixture or preparation and whether manufactured or obtained from nature, but does not include any living organism. It consists of the following categories: pesticide (including severely hazardous pesticide formulations) and industrial;

(b) "Banned chemical" means a chemical all uses of which within one or more categories have been prohibited by final regulatory action, in order to protect human health or the environment. It includes a chemical that has been refused approval for first-time use or has been withdrawn by industry either from the domestic market or from further consideration in the domestic approval process and where there is clear evidence that such action has been taken in order to protect human health or the environment;

(c) "Severely restricted chemical" means a chemical virtually all use of which within one or more categories has been prohibited by final regulatory action in order to protect human health or the environment, but for which certain specific uses remain allowed. It includes a chemical that has, for virtually all use, been refused for approval or been withdrawn by industry either from the domestic market or from further consideration in the domestic approval process, and where there is clear evidence that such action has been taken in order to protect human health or the environment;

(d) "Severely hazardous pesticide formulation" means a chemical formulated for pesticidal use that produces severe health or environmental effects observable within a short period of time after single or multiple exposure, under conditions of use.


There are a total of 41 chemicals currently subject to the PIC procedure. Among these chemicals are 24 pesticides, 11 industrial chemicals and 6 severely hazardous pesticide formulations.


The pesticides subject to the PIC procedure are:


2,4,5-T, aldrin, binapacryl, captafol, chlordane, chlordimeform, chlorobenzilate, DDT, dieldrin, DNOC, dinoseb, EDB, ethylene dichloride, ethylene oxide, fluoroacetamide, HCH, heptachlor, hexachlorobenzene, mercury, monocrotphos, parathion, pentachlorophenol and toxaphene.


Plus some formulations of:


Benomyl, carbofuran, thiram, monocrotophos, methamidophos, phosphamidon, methyl parathion and parathion.


Full details of the PIC procedure, the chemicals involved and their Decision Guidance Documents (DGDs) can be found on the PIC web site1,2.




1. The Rotterdam Convention


 2.  Information on Chemicals Subject to the PIC Procedure



Last modified 7th April 2010

Date added: 2010-05-08 00:43:14   
Last Updated 2010-05-10 03:09:40   
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