#PesticidesFreeWorld | 1,148 children worldwide poisoned by pesticides in past 5 years

PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) today disclosed that about 1,148 children have been poisoned by pesticides in the past five years. Of this number, 42 have died due to the poisoning.

The children are mostly from Asia and are aged up to 17 years old.

PANAP released its findings to mark today’s World Environment Day and to stress how pesticides violate the children’s right to health and a healthy environment.

The data, which cover the period 2013 to 2017, are part of the Protect Our Children (POC) Watch, the latest initiative of PANAP to closely monitor and expose such violations to children’s rights.

Of the total number of victims, 552 children fell ill due to toxic fumes and pesticide drift while 596 were poisoned by consuming food contaminated by pesticides.

In the first five months of 2017 alone, 475 children in India were poisoned by toxic fumes while 9 children have died due to pesticide poisoning in India, US, South Africa and UAE.

Despite supposedly stricter pesticide regulations, children are still being poisoned. Poisoning symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness with severe cases causing death, PANAP noted.

In many developing countries, poverty forces many children to work in farms and plantations where they are often engaged in using pesticides. Many rural children also live near plantations where they are exposed to pesticide spray drifts.

In the Philippines, for instance, plantations that carry out aerial spraying are usually near communities and schools. In Palestine, the Israeli-operated Geshuri Industrial Complex that produces agrochemicals is very close to two universities and seven schools that together serve a total of 11,000 students.

Children are especially vulnerable to pesticides as they breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight than adults. The 1,148 cases reported in the POC Watch also do not account for low-level long-term exposure to pesticides which can lead to learning disorders and cancer.

Agrochemical corporations continue to make profits from pesticides and must be held accountable for poisoning and in several cases even killing children with their toxic commodities, said PANAP.

PANAP reiterated the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Dr Hilal Elver’s call for a buffer-zone around schools and to replace chemicals like pesticides with biology for a better environment for our children’s future.

Every year, 1.7 million children die due to environmental pollution, including pesticides, according to a World Health Organization (WHO) 2017 report. However, estimates on the number children impacted globally by pesticides are largely unknown.

PANAP’s monitoring of pesticide poisoning among children aims to address this gap. For this monitoring work, PANAP culls the data and information from online news and reports from its partners and network.

Information on residues is often hard to get publicly, especially in Asia due to limitations on the right to information. Governments also lack the capacity to test for residues.

Because of this limitation, PANAP does not claim that its monitoring represents the true global extent of pesticide poisoning among children but offers a glimpse of the impacts of pesticides on the lives of children.

PANAP urged government agencies and relevant inter-governmental bodies like the WHO, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to closely and systematically monitor the impacts of pesticides on young children.

TAKE ACTION >> Urge governments to implement a one-kilometer or more pesticide-free buffer zone around schools.

For more information: Deeppa Ravindran, PANAP’s Pesticide Programme Coordinator, deeppa.ravindran@panap.net.

Reference:

1. List of pesticide poisoning cases from 2013 to 2017.

2. Community Pesticide Action Monitoring, Mindanao.

3. Pesticides and Agroecology In The Occupied West Bank.

Reflections on Triple COPs’ gains and losses for civil societies

By: Dr. Meriel Watts

Dr. Meriel Watts, Senior Science Advisor of PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) during one of the plenary sessions in the Triple COPs.

With the Conferences of the Parties to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (Triple COPs) now behind us, it is time to look at the gains and losses we witnessed in Geneva over those two intense weeks.

Gains include concrete measures such as the listing of two pesticides, carbofuran and trichlorfon, under the Rotterdam Convention.  Carbofuran is responsible for a huge number of poisonings and wildlife deaths, so this listing is especially important.

Sarojeni Rengam was presented with a gender hero award for her many years of work at PANAP raising the profile of women as leaders and as a vulnerable group.

Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PANAP delivering her acceptance speech upon receiving the 2017 Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified Award.

Not only tangible, but there have also been many less tangible gains. For example, there has been much greater talk about human rights with regard to chemicals than we have heard in the past. Pakistan took a stance of protector of children. There has been greater focus on gender issues and the need to ensure that women are involved in decision-making as well as all other aspects of chemical management.

Thanks to the PANAP/APN report on pesticides and agroecology in Palestine, that was available at the PAN information booth, the issue of Israel’s facilitation of banned pesticides entering Palestine has been aired, and a solution to the stockpiles of confiscated pesticides might be found.

But the losses are quite serious. For example, there has been a loss of democracy with regard to the Rotterdam Convention. Civil society organisations (CSOs) were shut out of discussions on evaluating effectiveness of the Convention, including discussions on the proposal by a number of African countries to amend the Convention to allow voting for the listing of chemicals.

In the past, and again at this Triple COPs, a small number of countries have blocked the listing of paraquat, chrysotile asbestos and a formulation of the insecticide fenthion. Unfortunately the number of countries blocking each increased, even though all parties agreed that the chemicals met the requirements of the Convention.

Blocking is purely to protect trade interest, and this is undermining the integrity of the convention. Two Asian countries, Philippines and Indonesia blocked the listing of a newly proposed carbosulfan, even though, again, they agreed the insecticide met the criteria of the Convention. Discussion of the proposed amendment will continue in an intersessional process, but, again, CSOs are shut out of this discussion.

Quite shocking developments also occurred with the Stockholm Convention. Brominated flame retardant decaBDE was listed, but with exemptions for most known uses, and in some cases for nearly 20 years in a manner that will allow use in aircraft until 2100, even though Boeing clearly stated that the exemption is not needed, and even though the Convention explicitly limits exemptions to 5 years.

In conclusion, although we have had some wins with the listing of carbofuran and trichlorfon, efforts must continue to curb the use of paraquat. In the absence of a listing, those efforts must now turn to national bans for paraquat.

 

 

Acceptance speech: PANAP Executive Director acknowledges millions of rural women

I would like to thank KEMI for nominating me and the members of the selection committee. As a woman, a feminist, and an advocate of agroecology and for the elimination of pesticides, it is an honour to be one of the recipients of the “Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified” award.

Let me acknowledge the millions of rural women on the ground who are in the frontlines of the struggle against highly hazardous pesticides in their daily lives as farmers, workers, and consumers. This recognition I dedicate to and share with them.

They have inspired me with their commitment to protect their children, their families, and their communities from hazardous pesticides and to work for non-chemical alternatives. The reality of pesticide use in the farms and plantations is horrendous and women as sprayers often do not have the information about what they are spraying and what the impacts are. When they are poisoned, there is no medical support. Their health issue, like issues of women in general, are rarely taken seriously. This is because as women, they are still in position of subordination in their homes and communities, and at the national level.

It has been my privilege to contribute in the struggle of women through our work at PANAP. In our little way, we help build the capacity of women to monitor the impact of pesticides on health and the environment through what we call community pesticide action monitoring or CPAM. This process helps women become more organised to take action against harmful pesticides in their communities and at the national level. We take the results of these community monitoring initiatives to the global level such as here in the BRS and other platforms. By doing so, we hope to highlight the reality faced by many communities that are exposed to highly hazardous pesticides and lobby for policy reforms.

Aside from pesticide monitoring, we also provide support to women and other rural sectors for capacity building in agroecology. All these efforts are meant to ensure that women and children and the communities are no longer poisoned and silenced; and that they have sustainable livelihoods, healthy and safe environment, and production systems that are just.

This recognition will serve as an inspiration for me to continue in my advocacy for women and the environment, for agroecology and food sovereignty, and for social justice.

Thank you.

 

 

PANAP backs listing of 5 pesticides in Annex III of Rotterdam Convention

 

The two-week long Triple Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions has convened in Geneva, Switzerland, on April 24 and will continue until May 5, 2017.

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC) for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (in short, Rotterdam Convention) during Triple COPs will consider five pesticides for listing in Annex III of this convention.

The Convention is a global treaty that provides an early warning to countries on a broad range of hazardous pesticides and industrial chemicals that have been banned or severely restricted for health and/or environmental reasons in other countries to protect human health or the environment.

PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) fully supports the listing of the pesticides and the severely hazardous pesticide formulations (SHPFs) in Annex III out of concerns over human and environmental damages the pesticides have caused.

The five pesticides that will be brought up for the listing are:

  1. Carbofuran
  2. Carbosulfan
  3. Fenthion formulation
  4. Paraquat dichloride formulation
  5. Trichlorfon

The pesticides mentioned above have been found to either affect human health and/or the environment in serious ways. PANAP’s community-based pesticide action monitoring (CPAM) in the Philippines, India, Indonesia and Malaysia revealed the acute and chronic effects of paraquat on agricultural and oil palm plantation workers. The lack of proper washing facilities and personal protective equipment have resulted in the workers’ inhalation of pesticide vapours, and the pesticides’ penetrating their skin, including genitals, leading to dermal, respiratory, circulatory and neurological illnesses.

Paraquat exposure of workers has cost them not only their health, but also their livelihoods and for some, their lives. Paraquat sold under the trade name Gramoxone, has been implicated in the death of about 1,000 people every year in Vietnam. In the long run, even if one survives paraquat poisoning, he or she would still be doomed to life-long suffering due to Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, heart failure, or esophageal strictures.

Information from countries in Europe, North America and Africa shows the adverse impacts of carbofuran and carbosulfan use on both human health and the environment.

Carbofuran is very toxic to humans and has caused a large number of poisonings. In 2011, 408 cases were reported to the Columbia National System for Public Health Surveillance; while in Thailand, there were 2342 cases of poisoning among farmers in 2003.

Reckless use of carbofuran endangers biodiversity. It has caused a large scale poisoning of birds and small animals, is highly toxic to bees, and poses risks to earthworms and aquatic organisms.

Meanwhile, carbosulfan has potentially genotoxic metabolites and cancer-causing impurities (e.g. N-nitrosodibutylamine). Its major break-down product is carbofuran.

These pesticides, especially carbofuran and carbosulfan, could contaminate the groundwater.  With their residues in water and food crops, there is possible exceedance of the Acceptable Daily Intake by consumers. This poses an acute risk to children and adults from consumption of a number of crops.

Fenthion, trichlorfon and paraquat among others are considered by PAN as highly hazardous.

FAO has estimated that 200,000 people die every year as a result of hazardous pesticides and out of this number, 99 percent of the deaths take place in developing countries where health, safety and environmental regulations are generally weaker.

These pesticides should never be used without full protective equipment, however they are impractical to be used in the hot and humid climate of most Asian countries. Existing mechanisms in these countries even fail to safeguard the rights of workers and vulnerable communities, especially children, from the impact of pesticides.

With these circumstances, PANAP fully recommends the listing of the five highly hazardous pesticides in Annex III of the Convention. All five will then be subject to a procedure whereby an informed decision of a country would be needed before consenting or not to future importation of the pesticide. It will also open avenues for developing countries to build their capacity to evaluate these pesticides and adopt agroecological strategies in managing pests.

 

 

Community Monitoring Shows Pattern of Labour Violations in Southeast Asia Plantations


PENANG, MALAYSIA APRIL 28, 2017 – On World Day for Safety and Health at Work, PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and partners disclosed patterns of poor working conditions for labourers in plantations in Southeast Asia. From exposure to toxic agrochemicals to meager wages, the group said that the conditions of plantation workers violate human rights and several international labor standards and regulations.

PANAP and its partners carried out community monitoring in Mindanao, Philippines  and an initial investigation in North Sumatra, Indonesia . The findings reveal that the expansion of banana and oil palm industries comes at a very steep price – abandonment of occupational safety and continued exploitation of vulnerable workers.

Health concerns over hazardous pesticides

Workers being exposed to highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) like Syngenta’s paraquat  and Monsanto’s glyphosate  were raised in the reports.

In one of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified plantations in North Sumatra, of the 15 women who participated in the investigation, 13 reported to have suffered symptoms linked to HHP exposure. Puspita (not real name) recalled dizziness, headache, blurred vision, excessive sweating, hand tremors, nausea, skin rashes and diarrhoea, among others with her exposure to pesticides.

Similarly, in the Philippines, workers experienced dizziness and headaches immediately after spraying, and believed that excessive sweating and blurred vision were side effects of pesticides exposure. There were 11 recorded cases of pesticide poisoning and several health symptoms.

Adriana (also not real name) has breast cysts and myoma and finds it difficult to urinate, while experiencing itchiness around her vaginal area. She attributed her symptoms to pesticides since she used to urinate on newly sprayed grounds in her oil palm plantation.

PAN Phillippines’ Dr. Romeo Quijano said, “These findings further substantiate our claims that the use of pesticides in these communities has been causing severe health impacts on the people. Things are made even worse by the lack of access to trained medical professionals who can properly recognize the health symptoms of pesticides poisoning and give the appropriate treatment.”

Inadequate training and protective equipment

Key findings of the report further show that workers received either inadequate training for pesticide handling or none. Personal protective equipments (PPEs) were provided once to the workers but they were expected to purchase on their own once the PPEs have become worn out or degraded. The workers also have limited or no knowledge of pesticides and their hazards.

Without replacement PPEs from plantation operators, some Filipino workers resort to the use of bra cups as masks or “respirators” while Indonesian women workers wrap scarves around their faces to cover and protect them from the strong odour of pesticides.

“This is beyond appalling. How could the management be doing this to their workers? Ensuring the safety of their workers should be the primary responsibility of the management. They cannot expect the workers who are already receiving little wages to spend half of their income on protective gears,” said Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP Executive Director.

Casual, underpaid and overworked women

Workers in the plantations investigated by PANAP and its partners were casual or seasonal and underpaid, and in some instances, overworked.

In Indonesia, for instance, the findings show that all women from the report were casual workers, working less than 21 days in a month – a strategy employed by the plantations to avoid promoting the women maintenance workers into permanent or regular status. There were no work contracts or written agreements provided to the women workers as well.

Sprayers were paid an average of USD 4.5 to USD 6 per day, where they work 6 days per week, from 7 am till 2 or 3 pm. Though they were paid a very low wages compared to the workload they endure daily in humid and hot weather under the burning sun, they continued to stay and work in the plantation. They were forced to stay because almost all were uneducated and unable to look for other better jobs elsewhere. Apart from that working in a plantation give the workers a secure home for their family , provided by the plantations.

Impact on children

Another crucial concern from the findings was how the use of HHPs in the plantations have been affecting the people living nearby it especially the children. There was a case of a healthy three-year old child who has become mentally ill upon being exposed to the pesticide drift as a result of the aerial spraying in a banana plantation in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, three cases of acute poisoning were found in one of the oil palm plantations in the Indonesian province.

Deeppa Ravindran, the Pesticides Programme Coordinator of PANAP said, “The major concern is really the people especially children for they are the most vulnerable. Many living inside and within the 10-meter radius of the banana and oil palm plantations have been exposed to aerial spraying of pesticides while doing their laundry in the rivers and some even while eating.”

Addressing the violations

Key findings in the reports reveal multiple violations of national and international regulations on occupational safety and health (OSH), of Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework for Business and Human Rights, International Labour Standards and provisions mentioned in the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.

ILO’s Chemicals Convention (c.170), for instance, states that workers have the right to be informed about the chemicals they are using in the workplace and of their hazards, and that employers have the obligation to provide workers with such information and precautionary measures.

Given the failure of the plantation owners or employers to protect the safety and health of their workers and the pattern of labour rights violations in plantations, PANAP called for further “protection of labour rights and promotion of safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment” as stated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

PANAP added that concerned governments, plantations, corporations, institutions and agencies should not only monitor compliance on health and environmental impacts of pesticides but also ban and phase out HHPs, while ensuring that the sales and trade of these pesticides come to an end.

Take Action >> Protect Children in rural communities against pesticides

Reference:

  1. Center for International Environmental Law. (2015). Human rights impact of hazardous pesticides. Retrieved from http://www.ciel.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/HR_Pesticides.pdf

Report Links:

  1. Community Monitoring in Mindanao, Philippines >> http://panap.net/2017/01/01/community-pesticide-action-monitoring-mindanao-philippines/
  1. Price of Indonesia’s Palm Oil >> http://panap.net/2017/04/28/price-indonesias-palm-oil-vulnerable-exploited-women-workers/

#PesticidesFreeWorld #CorporateAccountability #ProtectOurChildrenFromPesticides #ProtectChildrenNotProfits

For more information Deeppa Ravindran, Program Coordinator, deeppa.ravindran@panap.net

 

 

EU Commission’s approval of Dow-DuPont merger will not hinder move towards agroecology

dow chemical memes
The Dow-Dupont merger. (Source: https://memesuper.com/download/dc980cb4e0d719cf725227459e2985c9bfea2e1f.html)

EU Commission’s (EUC) recent approval of the $130 billion Dow-DuPont merger is a blatant blow to the people’s fight against mergers between the big six agrochemical companies. The approval, hinged on the divestiture of major parts of DuPont’s global pesticide business and does not take into account the sociopolitical dimension of the merger, is simply unacceptable. Both headquartered at the USA, Dow and DuPont have a strong portfolio of herbicides and insecticides, and have intellectual property rights on genetically engineered (GE) seeds and traits.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager’s words succinctly reflect the EUC’s position:

“The livelihood of farmers depends on access to seeds and crop protection at competitive prices. We need to make sure that the proposed merger does not lead to higher prices or less innovation for these products.”

 

The approval is deplorable as it could expedite other pending mergers and thus, put 59% of global commercial seed and 64% of pesticide supply into the hands of just three companies: Bayer-Monsanto, ChemChina-Syngenta and Dow-Dupont. Wielding greater political power, these giants could shape policies that are disadvantageous to consumers and farmers.  As Plumer (2016) puts it:

“A handful of powerful and politically connected corporations are determining what is grown, how it is to be grown, what needs to be done to grow it, who grows it and what ends up on the plate.”

 

Mergers could aggravate market domination that would further expand agrochemical use and the GE crop-pesticide (e.g. Roundup-Ready crops and glyphosate) bundle. The pressure on State Governments to adopt policies that entrench chemical-intensive farming and undermine sustainable agriculture may continue. This is far from what PANAP and UN envision the global agriculture to be in the near future.

While Com. Vestager considers that “Pesticides are products that matter – to farmers, consumers and the environment…” the UNSRs on the right to food, and on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, Hilal Elver and  Baskut Tuncak respectively, think otherwise. Taking on PANAP’s perspective, the UNSRs’ report to the UN Human Rights Council’s 34th session states that:

“Pesticides, which have been aggressively promoted, are a global human rights concern, and their use can have very detrimental consequences on the enjoyment of the right to food.

 

“Without or with minimal use of toxic chemicals, it is possible to produce healthier, nutrient-rich food, with higher yields in the longer term, without polluting and exhausting environmental resources.

 

“The solution requires a holistic approach to the right to adequate food that includes phasing out dangerous pesticides and enforcing an effective regulatory framework grounded on a human rights approach, coupled with a transition towards sustainable agricultural practices that take into account the challenges of resource scarcity and climate change.”

 

The 2017 report gives a yearly estimate of 200,000 acute poisoning deaths due to pesticides, 99% of which occur in developing countries. It also details how the excessive use and misuse of pesticides contaminate ecosystems, resulting to the loss of biodiversity, death of beneficial insects, and reduction of the nutritional value of food.

UNSRs Elver and Tuncak’s report redirects the global farming strategy towards agroecology.  It also strengthens the move to make corporations accountable and pay for the damages their products have wrought on people and the environment. The recommendations to have a (i) legally binding global treaty that regulates hazardous pesticides throughout their life cycle, taking into account human rights principles; and to (ii) place strict liability on pesticide producers, are uplifting.

Dow for one still has to address the case of the Bhopal tragedy victims 16 years after it acquired Union Carbide. It is high time that these agrochemical giants face the consequences of their inaction on the people’s call for justice. Now is payback time.1,2,3,4


Abandoned to poor health care and paltry pay-outs, survivors have fought for three decades for the corporations behind the disaster to be brought to justice in one of the longest people’s struggles in India. (Source: http://www.ndtv.com/photos/news/bhopal-gas-tragedy-then-and-now-18913#photo-243292) Watch the Bhopal tragedy here.

With the raised awareness of the consumers, the support of the UN, and the continuing groundwork for safe food and healthy environment, such mergers will only fuel the clamor to stop pesticide use in agriculture and will further boost the adoption of safe, environment and people-friendly farming.

 

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

TAKE ACTION >> Join us in taking a stand for children’s health

SHOW YOUR SOLIDARITY >> Stop Poisoning Palestine

DOWNLOAD & READ >> Human Rights and Toxic Chemicals in the Occupied West Bank (Palestine)

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.
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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