The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has published guidelines for evaluating alternatives to highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs). The guidelines identify the roles different stakeholders play in the process of replacing HHPs, and suggest how they can support each another to maintain agricultural productivity while protecting human health and the environment.

The Guidelines on Alternatives to Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs) explains that HHPs pose an acute or chronic hazard to health and/or the environment according to: internationally accepted classification systems, such as the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS); or their listing in relevant binding international agreements or conventions. Pesticides that cause severe or irreversible harm to health or the environment may be treated as highly hazardous.
Around 80% of existing pesticides are used by farmers in crop production. An estimated 13% are used in industry and by government authorities, while the rest are used in domestic environments. However, only a small proportion of pesticides are HHPs, with a survey of pesticide registers in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries determining that between 6-10% of registered pesticides were HHPs. The report indicates that efforts to ban the use of a small number of pesticides could remove some of the most severe health and environmental hazards. National pesticide regulators can decide whether an HHP should be banned in their country, and pesticide producers or traders may also decide to withdraw a product, when health and safety considerations, environmental concerns, and trade requirements determine their continued use would pose too great a risk.

The guidelines list eight criteria that define whether a pesticide is an HHP. The criteria were developed by the Joint Meeting on Pesticides Management, an international expert group that advises the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

When HHPs are no longer in use, pests and diseases must still be controlled. Users expect that alternatives to HHPs are equally effective, similarly priced, and easy to buy and use. However, it is not always possible to meet these expectations. For example, replacing an HHP with a biocontrol agent may necessitate the training of users, while replacing it with a chemical pesticide may lead to other undesirable risks.
The guidelines emphasize the need to consider the following issues when evaluating alternatives to HHPs: efficacy in controlling the target pest; availability and means of application; hazardousness and toxicity for the environment and human health; durability and response to resistance; technical feasibility; cost-effectiveness; legislation and registration; trade risks; and incentives and disincentives.

The report includes case studies from Bangladesh, China, Denmark, the Middle East, Mozambique, Sri Lanka, and West Africa, and on Cotton in an annex. [Publication Landing Page] [UNEP’s Webpage on HHPs]