Carbofuran is a World Health Organisation red-labelled product, meaning it is classified in the most toxic category.
Many of the larger international chemical companies have voluntarily withdrawn products containing carbofuran in response to the environmental damage caused and the threats it poses to human health.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has shown that dietary exposure to carbofuran is unsafe for humans. In August 2006 the Agency published its Interim Re-registration Eligibility Decision and concluded that no uses of carbofuran were eligible for re-registration because of ecological and occupational risks. In 2009 the EPA issued a final rule revoking all domestic and imported food tolerances for carbofuran.
This decision was challenged repeatedly by FMC Corporation, the leading manufacturer of carbofuran, and American agribusiness lobbyists, in federal court. As a result, a federal court allowed some imports containing carbofuran to continue entering the country. FMC then appealed to the Supreme Court to reinstate domestic food tolerances for carbofuran.
Tim Snow, manager of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife conflict mitigation programme, which has been running the only project to reduce wildlife poisoning in South Africa since the early 1990s, says: “We welcome the decision since this chemical has caused much damage to humans, wildlife and domestic animals in Africa on an escalating scale. We would like to see an international ban of this chemical.” He furthermore said that in South Africa carbofuran products such as Curaterr and Nemacurr are decreasingly being used, with a greater sense of environmental responsibility amongst farmers.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Wildlife Conflict Mitigation Programme has been monitoring wildlife poisonings in South Africa since 1994. It has found that carbofuran is implicated in the second most number of wildlife poisonings, after aldicarb. The many hundreds of possible carbofuran victims include leopards, jackals, vultures, raptors, game birds, cranes, waterfowl, honey badgers, sheep, antelope, dogs and cats.
Through its Poisoning Prevention Project the Programme works at the interface between pesticides and wildlife, pesticides and human health, pesticides and urban, rural/agricultural environments. All suspected poisonings reported to the project are investigated with toxicology samples being taken where results are analysed, so that conservation actions can be taken to reduce the incidence of wildlife poisoning.
There is a strong emphasis on collaboration with partners to resolve conflict issues through open discussion to achieve common objectives.
A major component of the project’s work is advocacy and lobbying for pesticide safety and the prevention of environmental contamination. To this end the Programme chairs the Chemical Crime Management Forum, a multilateral NGO/Industry/Government committee, which to date has addressed many thorny issues through informal and formal liaison.
It also chairs the National Conflict Bird Forum, which addresses conflict issues between birds and farmers, predominantly with an objective of poisoning prevention.
Furthermore, the Programme is part of the Multi-stakeholder Committee for Chemical Management, a committee convened by the Department of Environmental Affairs to discuss problematic chemicals and how to manage them. The Programme’s manager is part of the project management unit of the African Stockpiles Programme, an international project for the retrieval of obsolete and unwanted pesticides.