One killed every week for defending right to land in the Philippines

Of the 68 victims of extrajudicial killings during the first year of the Duterte administration, 66 were farmers, farmer-community leaders, and land rights activists. This translates to more than five killed every month or at least one every week in the past year.
Peasant groups in the Philippines are up in arms over the spate of extrajudicial killings in the country (Photo: KMP)

Since it assumed power in July 2016, the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has been earning criticisms from the international community for its blatant disregard for human rights. A particular concern is its bloody war on drugs, which has reportedly killed several thousands already mostly from urban poor communities in the capital.

Equally alarming but unfortunately getting far less attention is the State’s continuing war against the country’s peasantry, the biggest and yet the most neglected and marginalized sector of Philippine society.

Of the 68 victims of extrajudicial killings during the first year of the Duterte administration, 66 were farmers, farmer-community leaders, and land rights activists, according to a report by the national human rights advocacy group Karapatan. This translates to more than five killed every month or at least one every week in the past year.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Global Witness, an international group campaigning against human rights abuses, has declared the Philippines to be among the world’s most dangerous places for land and environmental defenders. In 2016 alone, the group has monitored 28 cases of killings, the third highest figure recorded, next only to Brazil and Colombia.

Most farmer killings occurred in agricultural regions where there are ongoing land disputes between farmers and local landlords or big agro-business and mining companies such as Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Negros, Panay, Caraga, Southern Mindanao, Northern Mindanao, and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Most of the victims were community leaders or members/officers of local peasant and indigenous people’s organizations affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas or Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP), fighting for genuine land reform and resisting the loss of ownership and control over their land and resources.

The first victims of extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration were three farmers belonging to the indigenous group Higaonon from Sumilao, Bukidnon in Mindanao. Raymar Mayantao, Rogen Sindangan, and Cenon Nacaytona were shot dead on July 12, 2016 – just twelve days after the new president assumed office – by 13 security personnel hired to guard a ranch operated by Ramcar Inc. The three, together with others from their tribe, set up camps inside the ranch in an attempt to reclaim the 2,400 hectare-land granted to the company which they claim as part of their ancestral domain.

Similarly, on September 3, farmers Baby Mercado, Violeta Mercado, Eligio Barbado, and Gaudencio Bagalay were killed in Palayan, Nueva Ecija, after members of the AFP opened fired at them and other members of Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid na Nagkakaisa 3100 or Alliance of Farmers United (ALAMANA 3100) participating in the “bungkalan” or collective farming inside the 3,100 hectare-land declared in the 1990s by the government as part of its land reform program to which all the members are beneficiaries. The land, which is part of the Fort Magsaysay military reservation, however, is being eyed as the relocation site for the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the country’s national penitentiary.

Duterte’s “all out war” vs the NPA and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao

Human rights and peasant organizations point to the military, paramilitary groups, and private security of landlords and companies as the alleged perpetrators of the killings. Independent monitoring by Karapatan and its nationwide network attributes more than half of the killings to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducting counter-insurgency operations against the rebel group New People’s Army (NPA).

Karapatan blames the  government’s counter-insurgency program “Oplan Kapayapaan” and its predecessor “Oplan Bayanihan” for the killings of indigenous people and peasants, and the forcible evacuation of communities that the military tag as NPA supporters, as well as the illegal arrests and detention of activists. (“Bayanihan” is the Filipino word for communal unity and cooperation while “Kapayapaan” literally means peace.)

The state-perpetrated killings further escalated after the AFP declared an “all out war” against the NPA on February 2. Since then, 41 farmers – or, in the estimate of peasant group KMP, one farmer every two days – have been killed.

Only a day after the declaration, two indigenous farmers were killed: Matanem Lorendo Pocuan and Renato Anglao, both from Bukidnon province in Mindanao. Pocuan was a respected elder of the indigenous Omayam/Matigsalog tribe greatly opposed to military operations in his community and tagged by the AFP as an NPA supporter. He was shot at close range by a member of the paramilitary group Alamara. Anglao, on the other hand, was a leader of a mass organization of the indigenous Manobo-Pulangion tribe opposed to the entry of agri-business plantations in their ancestral land. He was shot by three unidentified men on board a motorcycle.

Lorendo Borres and Ian Borres, on the other hand, were killed by members of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) themselves, who indiscriminately fired at them and five others while resting after a day of work on their corn field in Maayon, Capiz, on February 24. The said unit claimed them to be members of the NPA, an allegation that their families denied.

The declaration of martial law in Mindanao on May 23 due to the activities of a local armed group in Marawi City claiming connection with the international terrorist group ISIS raised fears among human rights and peasant organizations of greater military harassment, abuses, and violation of the human rights of farmers and indigenous peoples. Mindanao, ironically where President Duterte is originally from, is home not only to resource-rich ancestral land but to peasant and Lumad (indigenous people) struggles against big agri-business and mining operations. More than half of the extrajudicial killings in the past year occurred in Mindanao.

Through “Bungkalan” or collective farming and land occupation, Filipino farmers assert their right to land (Photo: KMP)

Lack of genuine land reform

Filipino farmers have historically been among the most neglected and marginalized in society. The political and socio-economic structure in the Philippines makes farmers, together with the indigenous peoples, the first victims of land-dependent, capital intensive projects undertaken either by local landlords, domestic and foreign companies, or the State.

During the campaign period, Duterte, who is the country’s first President from Mindanao, sought the support of farmers with his promise to fast track the distribution of agricultural lands under the 30-year-old Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Immediately after winning the elections, he appointed as head of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) a prominent national peasant leader with a proven track record in promoting and defending the rights of poor farmers. This move earned the praise not only of those from the peasant sector, but also of those advocating for the farmers and land rights in the government, non-government organizations, and the academe.

It’s been one year since Duterte came to power, but for groups like KMP, no real change has occurred. Indeed, instead of securing their ownership, control, and access to land, more farmers and indigenous peoples are experiencing different forms of human rights violations. Haciendas and other large landholdings remain intact while huge tracts of productive land continue to be converted for non-agriculture use.

These disputed lands serve as battlegrounds for the Filipino farmers’ struggles – a conflict that has already claimed many among their ranks. But it is also a conflict that will persist and the farmers will have to face as long as landlessness and injustice remain. ###

#NoLandNoLife Features discuss recent developments, events, and trends on land and resource grabbing and related human rights issues in the region as well as the factors and forces that drive it. Send us your feedback at nolandnolife@panap.net.

3 Reasons Why Children Are the Most Vulnerable to Pesticides

Countless number of childhood poisoning cases have occurred throughout the world and unfortunately, they still continue to occur. These cases are particularly high in the Global South.

On World Environment Day, PANAP 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 on World Environment Day 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 around the world. Poisoning symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and dizziness with severe cases causing death, PANAP has noted.

Here are three factors that show why children are the most vulnerable to pesticides.

1. Use of 20 Terrible Pesticides (T20) that are toxic to children

The pervasiveness of the 20 terrible pesticides (T20) such as brain harming organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos and methamidiphos are still available in Asian countries. They affect children’s learning and development. While most of the T20 are largely restricted or banned in the EU, they are still being widely used in Asian countries.

2. Natural physiology

Given the physiology of children’s, they face a far greater risk of exposure to pesticides when compared to adults. The National Academy of Sciences reported that and estimated that 50% of lifetime pesticide exposure occurs during the first five years of life. They breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight and thus have greater exposure in a pesticide-contaminated environment. Children’s young minds and small bodies are still developing; in addition, they are more vulnerable as they are less equipped to protect themselves.

3. Multiple routes of exposure

From the womb through infancy to adolescence, children are exposed to pesticides in many way – foetal exposure in womb and in infancy and childhood, exposure to contaminated air, food, water and general environment in homes, schools, play areas and work places.

a) Drifts from the area of application

In rural and urban areas, children are exposed to pesticides via spray drifts. Pesticides that travel through the air find their way to classrooms, toys, school books and the playground. A study from the U.S. found that pesticide formulations could volatilize and travel greater distances quickly through the rain and wind. Semi-volatile pesticides such as chlorpyrifos have a long persistence on rugs, furniture, soft toys, pillows and other absorbent surfaces, closed apartments (Landrigan et al 1999). In certain rural areas, young children and mothers are continuously being sprayed aerially as they live near banana plantations. Children are likely to be exposed to short-range drift and ambient levels of residues in the air. 

b) Contaminated food and water

Their drinking water may contain greater levels of residues than those to which urban children are exposed, especially if using well-water (GAO 2000). They may also have eaten food directly from fields that have recently been sprayed.

 

Regional organizations take action to protect children

Given the circumstances and the risks to children, PANAP and partners have called governments to declare pesticide-free buffer zones around schools that would protect children from harmful exposure to pesticides.

This is also to uphold the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which recognizes the child’s “inherent right to life” and that the survival and development of the child should be ensured to the “maximum extent possible”.

CHINA

In China, Pesticide Eco-Alternatives Center (PEAC) organized activities to protect the natural wetland of Xi Hu village.

In order to further educate parents, project team set up the consultancy desk outside the school and distributed publicity materials to parents who came to school for picking up the children.

The protection of water in Xi Hu Lake is significant to the protection of Er Hai Lake as well as important for the sustainable livelihood of the people along the Mekong River. According to a previous baseline study, it was found that the water quality has gone down in recent years with the heavy use of pesticides and fertilizers.

Therefore, the importance of protecting the lake from harmful human activities especially from the use of pesticides have been underscored through the various outreach programmes carried out by PEAC in six small different villages in the vicinity of the wetland.

Pesticide package recycling bin provided by PEAC.

The efforts have gained acknowledgment by the Ministry of Agriculture who then distributed the information and reports to the officials of Ministry of Environment Protection in China.

LAO

Meanwhile in Lao, PANAP’s partner SAEDA (Sustainable Agriculture and Environment Association) has mobilized more than 300 people, especially from the academia in raising awareness about the detriments of pesticides while also emphasizing the historical significance of the World Environment Day celebrations.

Display of traditional local organic food prepared by students.

SAEDA’s partnership with Lao’s local education institution National University of Laos has been successful both in terms of raising awareness on this issue and advocacy works.

VIETNAM

For the first time, members from the Hai Chinh commune participate in CGFED’s outreach activity on agricultural model.

The Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED) and Hai Hau Women’s Union in Vietnam organized a meeting to share the benefits of a closed loop agricultural model through red worm raising for a sustainable environment and economic development for the households in Hai Chinh commune. CGFED also launched the “Pesticides free buffer zone around schools” campaign and collected 130 signatures from the Hai Hau farmers in support of this campaign.

 

#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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