The World Bank, concerned about burgeoning use of pesticides in developing countries, yesterday announced new guidelines designed to minimize chemical use in projects to which it contributes financially.
In a joint news conference with the Agency for International Development (AID), which also has adopted the guidelines, the bank said its action is based on en- vironmental and public health concerns and on evidence that increasing numbers of insects are becoming resistant to agricultural chemicals.
"It is becoming increasingly clear . . . that indiscriminate use of these chemicals does not necessarily lead to profitable agricultural prod- uction," the bank said in a statement.
According to AID officials, the number of pesticide-resistant insects has nearly doubled in recent years, forcing farmers to use ever more powerful and often more expensive chemicals.
According to vice president S. Shahid Husain, the bank will emphasize minimal use of all chemicals, encouraging developing countries to rely instead on insect-resistant crop varieties and natural pest controls such as crop rotation and use of insects that prey on pests.
The bank's action comes less than four months after a poison-gas leak at a pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, drew new attention to problems of hazardous chemicals in developing countries.
Although the guidelines do not address pesticide manufacture, they urge warning systems and evacuation procedures wherever substantial quantities of toxic materials are stored.
The guidelines also call for added safety measures in handling, storing and applying chemicals and recommend selection of materials with the least possible toxicity.
Husain and AID Assistant Administrator Nyle C. Brady acknowledged that enforcing the new guidelines will not be easy.
The guidelines, for example, urge destruction of all empty pesticide containers but note that "it would be unrealistic to expect adherence to this rule in countries where empty containers suitable for storing liquids are in short supply."
Similarly, the guidelines call for protective clothing for persons applying pesticides, even though such clothing would be dangerous to wear in the heat of some tropical countries.
In that case, Brady said, farmers might be restricted to materials of low toxicity. "It may not be as effective, but safety is the first consideration," he said.