Palestinian children are not spared from the illegal dumping of pesticides

 

Last month a joint APN-PANAP report revealed some gruesome facts of Palestinian children suffering a myriad of health impacts. A young school child has become a victim of blood cancer. Many are asthmatic or have respiratory problems. Generally, these are the common observations among children in towns near the Israeli-operated Geshuri agrochemical manufacturing plant.

Children are especially vulnerable to toxic pesticides because they breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight which leads to greater exposure in a toxin-contaminated environment.

Fatima Al-Zahra’ School’s situation is not different from that of the other schools within 500 metres of the industrial complex. Daily school routines are hindered since the chemical fumes have intensified since February 2016. The noxious gases have made it impossible for the students to carry out physical education classes or morning exercises and oftentimes, students are quarantined during school hours.

The continued operation of the agrochemical plants is in violation of humans’ right to health, safe environment and life. It tramples children’s rights.

Articles 6 and 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child state that “every child has the inherent right to life,” that the survival and development of the child must be ensured to the “maximum extent possible,” and that “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health” must be safeguarded and upheld.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, have stated in their report, “While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions, or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge.

“This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agroindustry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics remain unchallenged.”

The rapporteurs have also called for buffer zones to be put in place to safeguard children from the effects of pesticide exposure while waiting for pesticides to be phased out.

We strongly call for the dismantling the Geshuri pesticide factory, and the other factories in the industrial settlements, under the guidance of a team of international and Palestinian experts, in order to prevent further health and environmental damage, and to remediate the land and return it to Palestinians

#StopPoisoningPalestine #PesticidesFreeWorld

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Day of the Landless: Resistance and people’s rights, best counter vs. land grabs – PANAP

(“The Right to Resist Land Grabs” is a short film that tells the story of land grabbing and repression faced by rural communities, and the people’s resistance. PANAP is launching it today to mark the Day of the Landless.)

 

Press statement

29 March 2017

Reference: Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director, nolandnolife@panap.net

PENANG, Malaysia – Still the most effective way to counter the land grabbers is the collective action of rural communities to resist and to assert the people’s rights to their own land and resources.

PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) stressed this message as it joined various peasant organizations and advocates of the right to land in the region in marking 29 March as the “Day of the Landless”.

Landless peasants across the region are taking bold actions to reclaim the lands that have been taken away from them. In the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao, for instance, farmers and farm workers have occupied portion of a banana plantation. They asserted that 145 hectares of land inside the plantation operated by Lapanday Foods Corporation, one of the country’s largest banana exporters, rightfully belong to them.

PANAP staff join the solidarity mission to support farmers resisting land grabbing at the Lapanday banana plantation in Mindanao, Philippines, 15 December 2016.

But these actions are often countered with violence. Alleged security personnel of the plantation fired upon the farmers in separate shooting incidents that wounded at least 10 people. In a solidarity mission to support the farmers, PANAP also learned that allegedly the plantation aerially sprayed pesticides on them and their children.

Despite the violence and harassments, the farmers and their supporters remained steadfast in their assertion to reclaim their land. Government eventually issued a cease and desist order against the plantation while Congress also probed the case.

29 March has been declared “Day of the Landless” by the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) – and supported by PANAP and other advocates of the people’s right to land – to highlight the struggle for genuine land reform and food sovereignty.

To commemorate the day, PANAP also launched a seven-minute animation “The Right to Resist Land Grabs”. The group said that through the video, it hopes to help popularize the issue of land grabbing and the repression faced by rural communities, and generate broader support.

PANAP pointed out that land grabs in the past decade have already turned over some 30 million hectares of farmlands from small farmers to foreign corporations, citing data from the group GRAIN.

This worsens the chronic poverty in the rural areas where 8 out of 10 of the world’s poorest live, PANAP said. At present, just a quarter of farmlands worldwide are in the hands of small farmers, based on World Bank data.

The Penang-based advocacy group has been a staunch supporter of community-led campaigns in Asia Pacific to expose and stop land and resource grabbing. PANAP and peasant groups from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka, among others initiated the “No Land, No Life!” campaign to highlight the human rights dimension of land grabbing. ###

Growing Our Food Without Polluting Our Pristine Water Source With Farmer Fung

Today is World Water Day, and we are featuring the interview of Famer Fung who believes in the principle of living in harmony with nature and growing our food without polluting our pristine water source.

Below are 7 questions we asked Farmer Fung about living in harmony with nature through organic farming.

1. There are a lot of benefits in being an organic farmer, but could you relate some of the wisdom that people tend to overlook in being an organic farmer?
In organic farming one of the great bonuses you get is very soon you will realise that it is not you the farmer that is cultivating the land, but it is the land that is cultivating you. The land – the great provider, great teacher, if you pay attention, you tend to learn a lot from the land and from farms. That tends to make you a more peaceful, relaxed and healthier person.

2. Why many farmers tend to use pesticides instead of using organic means to farming?
Farmers, we are trained today to plan, focus, and to improve on things for better efficiency. So, I must learn to specialize, improve on efficiency, cut down on labour and cost. If I were to use compost, it is going to take 30 days, but if I use those powerful chemical fertilizers, I can cut down by a week. Maybe, for that reason people opt for the chemicals.

3. Do they realize the harm that they are exposing the consumers to?
Not just the consumers, but farmers also lose in terms of their health when exposed to all these chemicals every day. The farm workers are the first to be affected, our soil will be polluted, our water source will be polluted, even the air and (eventually) consumers will be polluted.

4. Nature brings a balance to human life as opposed to chemicals, do you agree?
The chemical that is used here, we can see the effect many, many years down the road, or even many miles down the road. The damage is far and wide. You get a lot of return when you are able to practice this – living in harmony. Nature will provide you with tonnes if you don’t interfere or cause too much damage. It is the good part of organic farming.

5. Why farmers are so hell bent in destroying pests? Is there any other way to approach this issue?
The so-called “pests” are also good neighbours in the sense that they understand what we need – these are not pests. We should not use all the harmful chemicals to kill them. It just does not make sense. But as for weeds, they rob your plants of nutrients, what people don’t understand is that – as there are two sides to a coin – they offer good habitat for other insects and to control other unfriendly insects. So they are helping us.

6. Does that apply to the habitat as well?
During raining season, these weeds help to hold the soil to prevent soil erosion so we should be grateful, whereas during drought, they (weed) provide shade, also to the soil. The microbes in the soil are then happy – it’s nice and cool. If it is too dry, they can’t survive. When microbes are unhappy in the soil, you won’t be a happy farmer as the microbes are unable to help. So the so-called “weed”, it is not necessary to kill. You just need to change your vision on it. You must learn to respect nature and try to learn the good way to live in harmony with nature with other friends: birds, insects etc. So we learn to live with them in harmony. So if there’s harmony, when the yin & yang is balanced, the good and the bad is balanced, then you are a happy farmer. You of course will win some and lose some. There will still be insects that come but not in large numbers, which we understand “they have some and we have some”.

7. Is there a way of planting a single crop and surviving the pest?
Another reason for growing a large number of crops is we crop-rotate. What happens if it is the same crop day in and day out, then a particular kind of nutrient in the soil will be depleted. Soil-bound disease will strike. So what do you do when soil-bound disease is here? You spray with chemical to kill them – again it is the cost and pollution to worry. But our crops here we crop-rotate. Today we plant lettuce, tomorrow it will be legumes, beans, and after that it is celery. Later on, we put compost again. We take care of the soil and don’t force-feed the plants. If you force-feed them with all those powerful chemical fertilizers, they grow fast but the soil tends to be acidic. Then you have to deal with another problem. Our plants here take their own time to grow – naturally – there is a reason for the big guy to create things like that, so before we know it let us not be too arrogant, you know, to decide what should live and what should not live. We should learn and that can be a very happy experience, a great life to learn and to share, to appreciate each other, live in harmony. It is good for everybody.

According to UN Water, “Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.”

We hope the wisdom shared by Farmer Fung, help in raising awareness towards preserving the limited safe water supply that we have. To ensure a safe water supply, we also need to protect our land and air. Only then we can achieve a balance in nature.
###

Replacing chemicals with agroecology increases Cambodian farmers’ income by four-folds

Despite the bans, restrictions and withdrawals of highly hazardous pesticides over the past few decades in Asia, many workers are still continuously being exposed to highly hazardous pesticides. A recent report has highlighted the sad plight of Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand. Working in farms that extensively use chemical pesticides, they are not given health-screening guidelines, or language training to understand the Thai warnings on pesticide containers. Most (80%) of them do not wear proper protective clothing.

Backpack sprayers are doubly at risk since they get in contact with the easily absorbed fine vapors. A high 75% of the workers have abnormal blood cholinesterase levels. Indicative of organophosphate pesticide poisoning, their symptoms include dizziness, headaches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

In recent years, land conversions have further forced farmers to work as laborers and as pesticide sprayers in Cambodia. A 2015 study by the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community shows that at least 200,000 farmers are displaced and dispossessed due to massive conversions and deforestation brought about by rapid agro-industrial development and mining.

Agroecology-based agriculture which is free from pesticides has been documented to offer better option for labor, rural farming communities, and the consumers. Although laborious and may take time, conversion to chemical-free farming must be initiated for it brings about tremendous benefits.

Agroecology frees us from the many consequences of pesticide use such as cancer, endocrine disruption, mental retardation, and organ failures among others. It frees households from the burden of having illnesses that drain not only finances but also emotions as one is left to bear the suffering of having to endure watching loved ones slowly deteriorate. On a larger scale, it frees governments from the “cost of inaction” that may reach billions of dollars.

A recent study by  Scholz  (2016) on the impact of Centre d’Etude et de Développement Agricole Cambodgien’s (CEDAC) interventions found that organic farmers that are part of its network have on average 4.8 times more income compared to non-CEDAC farmers. CEDAC’s organic farming bundle primarily aimed to address rural poverty, includes awareness building on the hazards of pesticides; hands-on training on organic farming and Participatory Guarantee System; and linkage-building with local and international markets.

CEDAC is one of the Pesticide Action Network in the Asia-Pacific’s (PANAP) partner organizations. It’s innovative approach started with the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in 1999, which facilitated farmer trainings on organic and good agricultural practices and helped build farmer knowledge. With its success, the SRI was mainstreamed in the Cambodian government’s strategic development plans. CEDAC’s target group consists of subsistence growers who are able to produce a minimum surplus of 500 kg jasmine rice per producer group. As of now, CEDAC is in 22 out of the 25 Cambodian provinces.

One of the farmers who benefited from CEDAC’s and PANAP’s activities is 38-year old Nhem Sovanry who has 1.5 hectares of rice fields and 800 square meters of home garden. Sovanry is very happy to see farmers practice what they have learned, and see how it contributes to their own livelihoods.

“If farmers in Cambodia practice organic farming, families will be self-sufficient just like us. Farmers should understand the basic principles of farming: one has to have a pond (or water source), paddy field, home garden, and animals such as chickens or cows. With these four elements, including hard work, one can be a successful and self-sufficient farmer,” she said.

CEDAC has made organic farming economical by using group certification. Group certification is where farmer groups implement an internal control system and are certified collectively by a third-party certification body. Certified organic rice fetches a premium price and is thus, more profitable to farmers.

“At first, it was difficult to take care of the crops and collect the fertilizers. But the value of the vegetables has grown and the selling price has increased,” said Sovanry happily.

Sovanry and other farmers are part of the independent national farmers’ association network known as the Farmer and Nature Net. This network is comprised of 1,249 village-based farmer associations across 12 provinces in Cambodia that supply products to local farmers’ markets. Stories of Sovanry and 25 women who are taking the lead in agroecology are featured in Stories from the Field.

CEDAC also organized the women vegetable farmers of Kampong Speu province. Through sustainable organic farming, members of the Women Organic Vegetable Producer Group now enjoy better living standards.

(Watch the video of Sovanry and other famers here.)

Ten CEDAC shops have been formed in Phnom Penh as a result of pioneering efforts to link small food producers to the wider market. These shops aim to ensure that safe food is supplied to Cambodian consumers and to improve locally produced food.

Overall, the Cambodian experience shows that organic farming must be coupled with interventions similar to what CEDAC has adopted.  Through the CEDAC approach of replacing chemicals with agroecology and contract farming, we may finally achieve a pesticide-free world.

 

References

Kijewki L. 2017. Pesticides pose risk to workers, research finds. http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/pesticides-pose-risk-workers-research-finds

Scholz B. 2016. The economics of organic farming: A comparative analysis in Takeo, Cambodia. A Master’s Thesis submitted to Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany.  85pp

PANAP. 2017. Stories from the Field. Penang, Malaysia. http://library.ipamglobal.org/jspui/bitstream/ipamlibrary/871/1/Stories-from-the-field.pdf

PANAP 2017. Women Organic Vegetable Producer Group. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6eQtd3ve10

 

 

UN Special Rapporteur agrees with PANAP’s “Replace Chemicals with Biology” in a legally binding global convention

The report of Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food which was presented during the 34th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) incorporated the findings of PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP).

Elver’s report jointly written together with Baskut Tuncak, the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes cited PANAP’s research and extensive studies on the detrimental impacts of pesticide use in the context of human rights violations of pregnant women, communities living near agricultural land and particularly, transgressions against children.

PANAP Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam said, “Multiple accounts of pesticide poisonings among children have taken place and continue to persist, largely due to many corporations that are conducting businesses as usual for profits.”

The report acknowledged many untoward incidents among children, from the deaths of 23 children in India in 2013 after consuming monocrotophos (an acutely toxic insecticide) contaminated meals, and the poisoning of 39 preschool children in China in 2014 due to the consumption of food containing rodenticide tetramethylenedisulfotetramine (TETS) residues, to the deaths of 11 children in Bangladesh in 2015 after eating fruits laced with pesticides.

Rengam added, “The price of the corporations’ abhorrent negligence had to be steeply paid by the many lives of young innocent children. These are gross violations of their rights.”

The poisoning cases give a preview of the pesticides’ acute and chronic effects. Research done before and after these events provides sufficient evidence to indict low level exposures to pesticides as a serious threat to health and well-being of children, and the subsequent generations.

“Early-life exposure can damage children’s developing brains and body systems, disrupting mental and physiological growth that can lead to a wide range of diseases and disorders. Pesticides are already considered as ‘silent pandemic’ by public health experts,” cautioned Dr. Meriel Watts, PANAP Senior Science Advisor and author of Poisoning Our Future.

PAN has estimated that the number of people affected annually by short- and long-term pesticide exposure ranged between 1 million and 41 million. However, there is no dependable global statistics from governments or industries on the number of people who suffer from pesticide exposures.

This then raises the question, again, on whether or not pesticide corporations are exerting undue influence on policy makers to downplay the serious threats posed by the products they manufacture and sell. Pesticide manufacturers have the acquired responsibility to protect users and others throughout the pesticide life cycle including through the retail chain, but the report highlights the manufacturers’ failure to meet this responsibility.

As pointed out in the report, in 2014, in Punjab, India, the companies failed to adequately inform farmers about the dangers of their pesticides or the necessary safety measures. This is neither an isolated case nor a one-off incident.

“This report substantiates our claim on the need to move away from industrial agriculture and adopt agroecology for a better future especially for our children,” said Deeppa Ravindran, PANAP’s Protect Our Children campaign coordinator. “We agree with the special rapporteur’s statement: ‘The assertion promoted by the agrochemical industry that pesticides are necessary to achieve food security is not only inaccurate, but dangerously misleading’”. Successful cases of agroecological farming in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and USA, presented in PAN’s book Replacing Chemicals with Biology.

 Given all these severe problems due to the continued use of pesticides, Elver has recommended that, “The international community must work on a comprehensive, binding treaty to regulate hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles.”

Among the special rapporteur’s recommendations to further prevent many of the violations of the vulnerable groups similarly reflect PANAP’s approaches to addressing the issue of industrial farming.

Some of the recommendations of the report;

  1. The international community must work on a comprehensive, binding treaty to regulate hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles. Such an instrument should:

(a) Aim to remove existing double standards among countries that are particularly detrimental to countries with weaker regulatory systems;

(b) Generate policies to reduce pesticide use worldwide and develop a framework for the banning and phasing-out of highly hazardous pesticides;

(c) Promote agroecology;

(d) Place strict liability on pesticide producers.

  1. States should:

(a) Develop comprehensive national action plans that include incentives to support alternatives to hazardous pesticides, as well as initiate binding and measurable reduction targets with time limits;

(c) Establish impartial and independent risk-assessment and registration processes for pesticides, with full disclosure requirements from the producer. Such processes must be based on the precautionary principle, taking into account the hazardous effects of pesticide products on human health and the environment;

(d) Consider non-chemical alternatives first, and only allow chemicals to be registered where need can be demonstrated;

(e) Enact safety measures to ensure adequate protections for pregnant women, children and other groups who are particularly susceptible to pesticide exposure;

(i) Create buffer zones around plantations and farms until pesticides are phased out, to reduce pesticide exposure risk;

(l) Regulate corporations to respect human rights and avoid environmental damage during the entire life cycle of pesticides;

This is indeed a very important milestone in our efforts to address the assaults especially on vulnerable groups arising from the reckless use of pesticides. Many findings from PANAP’s work, including the report we submitted on behalf of PAN International during the UN Child Rights Conventions for the Day of General Discussion on Children’s Rights, were highlighted in the report.

Contact: Deeppa Ravindran, Pesticides Programme Coordinator, deeppa.ravindran@panap.net