Thirty-three years ago today, the horrendous Bhopal gas tragedy at the Union Carbide pesticide plant in India immediately killed 3,000 people and 15,000 more subsequently. Survivors, exposed to the deadly gas and their children, continue to suffer from the world’s worst industrial disaster. Thousands of tons of hazardous wastes remain buried underground and the area remains contaminated. Meanwhile, Union Carbide, which became a subsidiary of Dow-Chemical Co. in 2001, has yet to fully account for the tragedy.
The infamous Bhopal tragedy serves as a harsh reminder of agrochemical corporations’ transgressions of human rights and environmental integrity. They continue to poison our people and environment with impunity. Our food, health and environment are threatened now more than ever as these corporate giants continue to amass huge profits and expand their monopolies. Dow recently completed its US$130-billion merger with DuPont to form the world’s largest chemical company. As the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food pointed out, these global corporations wield extraordinary power over regulator agencies and policy makers, obstructing reforms and paralyzing global pesticide restrictions.
Worrying new studies show certain pesticides are implicated in chronic effects including hormonal disruption, immune system dysfunction, cancers, and adverse effects on the growing fetus and children. Pesticides have been poisoning agricultural workers and farmers for over 60 years and yet there are still no accurate estimates of pesticide poisoning. In the 1990’s, a report in a World Health Organizations (WHO) journal estimated 25 million workers suffered at least one incident of poisoning every year. Recent estimates indicate that pesticides were responsible for an estimated 200,000 acute poisoning deaths each year . The overwhelming number of fatalities, some 99%, occurred in developing countries where health, safety and environmental regulations were weaker.
PANAP and its partners have documented that Syngenta, Bayer, Dupont and Monsanto and their local counterparts dominate the agro-chem industry in the South Asia and South East Asian region.
In South and South East Asia, highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) produced by Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont and Monsanto such as atrazine, paraquat fipronil, carbofuran, chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin, glyphosate, lambda-cyhalothrin, imidacloprid, malathion and monocrotophos – all known for poisoning people and/or the environment – are still used widely in farming. They are used on farms, cotton fields, rice paddies, mango and oil palm plantations and in floriculture, violating the rights of plantation workers, farmers, rural women and indigenous peoples to a safe and healthy working environment and the rights of communities to a healthy environment. Rights to information on the pesticides they use or to which they are exposed are constantly violated. Specific cases of violations of women and children’s rights, labor rights and right to civil liberties have been documented.
In the meantime, because of the lack of corporate accountability for gross human rights violations and responding to the pressure from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the Human Rights Council has established an Open Ended Intergovernmental Working Group (OEIGWG) for the development of a legally binding treaty on transnational corporations (TNCs) and other business enterprises, with respect to human rights. We applaud the efforts OEIGWG and hope that the final document of the Treaty will achieve the goal of ensuring that companies are fully accountable for their human rights violations and environmental crimes.
Dependence on pesticide use must be a drastically reduced. Agroecology provides the best solution. It is economically, environmentally and culturally sustainable. Agroecology is being practiced by thousands of farmers worldwide to ensure food security, safety and sovereignty, as well as environmental sustainability and farmer and community health and well-being.
Therefore, we the undersigned organizations and individuals demand:
That the Agrochemical TNCs, plantations, agribusinesses and complicit companies
- Be held accountable for poisoning the people and the planet
- Heed the public’s assertion of their rights to a safe and healthy food and environment
- Are prevented from dominating regulatory agencies and global conventions and agreements that attempt to restrict the worst pesticide problems
- Indemnify affected sectors of society such as farmers, children and their families
- Clean up the environmental impacts including ensuring safe water and food
That the national and local governments
- Ban the trade, distribution and use of highly hazardous pesticides
- Support the call for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out of highly hazardous pesticides.
- Closely monitor and ensure compliance of companies with labour and environmental laws and policies on hazardous pesticides
- Develop a medical and economic rehabilitation programme for farmers and others impacted by highly hazardous pesticides, with funds drawn from punitive actions and CSR.
- Implement at least 1 kilometer pesticides-free buffer zones around schools as a measure to protect children
- Provide a supportive policy environment for agroecology, including supporting farmers to change from pesticides to agroecology
- Fully support the OEIGWG process and the Binding Treaty to help ensure that companies are responsible and accountable for their actions.
That national and local agro-chemical companies and plantations
- Adhere to environmental laws that respond to precautionary and polluter pays principles.
- Fulfill worker’ rights in accordance with national laws and regulations and international conventions, including the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management
- Fulfill workers’ and farmer’s rights to live decently and with dignity while and indigenous peoples’ culture, tradition and knowledge are respected
- Do not allow the sale or use of pesticides that require the use of PPE, because it is unsuitable for hot humid conditions, not readily available and /or too expensive for farmers and workers, as is required by the Code
- Provide adequate training to their workers
- Discontinue the sale and use of all highly hazardous pesticides
Finally, we urge our fellow civil society organizations, social movements and people’s organizations to join our calls
End Corporate Impunity, Accountability Now! Oppose the Corporate Control Of Agriculture!
Support the global legally binding treaty for the life-cycle management of pesticides!
Promote Agroecology and Food Sovereignty! Fight For A Just And Pesticides Free Future!
Please sign-on by sending an e-mail to Danica Castillo, email@example.com
 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. Human Rights Council, Thirty-fourth session, 27 February-24 March 2017. >https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G17/017/85/PDF/G1701785.pdf?OpenElement