Agricultural Machinery and Safer Application of Chemicals

ESCAP

In line with its mandate of promoting sustainable agricultural mechanization and machinery that is safe, efficient and environmentally friendly, CSAM took on the topic of chemicals’ use in agriculture. Building on last year’s first webtraining on safety testing, an event on “Agricultural Machinery and Safer Application of Chemicals” was held on 17 November. 

As highlighted in her welcoming remarks by Dr Yutong Li, Head of CSAM, safety in agricultural mechanization is a multidimensional pillar related to the protection of the environment, of the agricultural workforce, and to food security. This is particularly clear when looking at the use of chemicals, where an improper management and dispersal of agrochemicals can lead to severe consequences. Agrochemicals not only can affect the health of farmers and machinery operators, but also threaten people residing far away from where they are being used. They can affect food safety through residues of toxic chemicals on produce, contaminate groundwater reserves, and cause imbalance in surrounding ecosystems with significant costs. Given the projected growth of markets for pesticides and fertilizers, coupled with prevailing deficiencies in current management systems, adverse impacts of pesticides and fertilizers will increase unless a fundamental change in the course of action takes place.

For this reason, several countries and authorities are seeking to regulate and reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, even countries with advanced levels of mechanization are struggling to achieve the prescribed safety levels, and less developed countries face a harder task due to lack of awareness, policies, technical capacity, and availability of safer alternatives. To respond to some of these issues, CSAM held the webtraining with the support of its partners, building upon the experience of previous trainings organized within the framework of the Asian and Pacific Network for Testing of Agricultural Machinery (ANTAM), an initiative led by CSAM that aims to harmonize testing standards for agricultural machinery in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Dr Yuan Chen from the UNEP Stockholm Convention Regional Centre at Tsinghua University and Dr Magda Sachana from the Environment Health and Safety Division of OECD presented the main issues deriving from the use of pesticides in agriculture, and what is being done at the policy level to reduce their use, protecting the environment and ensuring safety of food. They were followed by experts and country representatives from ANTAM, who elaborated on safety issues immediately related to agricultural machinery. Dr. Sandro Liberatori from ENAMA, the Italian Agricultural Machinery Institute that also serves as secretariat to ENTAM, the European Network for Testing of Agricultural Machinery, and currently acts as ANTAM Technical Reference Unit, together with Dr. Jean-Paul Douzals from the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE) illustrated how better use of existing equipment as well as the adoption of some technical innovations and proper protective equipment can reduce and mitigate several risks deriving from the use of chemicals.  Subsequently, three speakers presented their national perspectives on the issue: Dr. Arina Mohd Noh, from the Malaysian Agriculture Research and Development Institute (MARDI); Ms. Lingjuan Ma from the China Agricultural Machinery Testing Centre (CAMTC); and Mr. Hirofumi Yamasaki, from the Japan Institute of Agricultural Machinery (IAM)/National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) illustrated their respective countries’ actions for the reduction of use of harmful chemicals in agriculture.

The web training was followed by about 100 registered participants from various countries in the region and beyond. The moderator Mr. Anshuman Varma, Programme Officer and Deputy Head of ESCAP-CSAM, concluded reminding all attendees that the web training would be used for the further development of an e-learning module to be complemented with future trainings on safety and testing of agricultural machinery, following the requests of member States and network participants.


The web training recording is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LNIU0MyPVw