In Solidarity Against DAPL To Protect Water & Children

The opposition to the construction of North Dakota Access Pipeline reflects the similar struggle in our region to protect our rivers and environment from pollutants.

State of rivers in particular has been a major concern given the fact that persistent organic pollutants in the form of pesticides were found in tap water and surface water of rivers in Malaysia.

A 2015 study by UKM on Organochlorine Pesticides Residue Level in Surface Water of Cameron Highlands, Malaysia revealed the staggering finding which was then disseminated in a seminar by PANAP.

These toxic pesticides found do not only contaminate the water sources but put humans in contact at severe health risks, particularly leaving deadly long-lasting impacts on vulnerable young children.

While, it is still not all doom and gloom when it comes to environmental advocacies, the struggle continues.

In Cameron Highlands, schools are also dangerously close to farms that have records of highly hazardous pesticide use. All the schools below are in Cameron highlands and are within 2km reach of farms.

SJK Ladang SG Palas is surrounded by farms
SJK Ladang SG Palas is surrounded by farms
SMK Ringlet is less than 2 km from farms
SMK Ringlet is less than 2 km from farms
SJK(C) Kea Farms is less than 2km from farms
SJK(C) Kea Farms is less than 2km from farms

There has been sufficient evidence that pinpoints how pesticides drift hundreds of meters from the area of use at health-harming concentrations for days and even weeks after application.

Natural Resources and Environment (NRE) Minister Malaysia earlier this year said, “Expanding the river reserves from the minimum 10m to 20m would shield rivers from pollution due to human activities. This would also serve as a filter for mud, soil and solids washed down from hills, development and construction sites and agricultural land.”

Hence, the call for the reserve or buffer zone expansion comes as a significant milestone for environmental activism as well as for rural and tribal communities on the front line of struggle for the preservation of water resources. It shouldn’t stop here.

Earlier, Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh in the Malaysian Dewan Rakyat session argued that a research by experts from the year 2011 to 2013 “indicated that some of the pollutants found in the river were due to new usage”.Despite being banned some of the pesticides are still being widely used. The experts from the Center for Water Research & Analysis of UKM conducted another research to ascertain the level of pollutant concentration in the water supply, she added.

“A second project was initiated, which included a monitoring program beginning August 2014, samples were taken from 7 stations including one from a tap in Brinchang,” she said while reaffirming that the results also confirmed that pollutants were found in drinking tap water.

Hence, the buffer zones are required not only in the vicinity of rivers but their reach should be extended to other areas occupied by people as well. Homes, public spaces and schools especially with young children should have buffer zones too.

For an issue of such pressing nature, the responses from the other party lacked urgency. That in a way shed the light on how much of political will there is for a safer environment.

While the government is taking efforts to promote non-chemical alternatives such as the Malaysian Organic Certification Scheme or myOrganic, more support is needed. Support from both the public and other government agencies would further promote efforts to preserve water and provide safer zones for our children who are most prone to the toxic pesticide implications.

We stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in protecting the sanctity of our water which is important not only as our fundamental human need but to ensure our very existence, for future generations could be spared from jeopardy.

PANAP and its partners are also demanding state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones to protect children in the rural and agricultural area from the harmful effects of pesticide exposures.

Help to create awareness on pesticide-free buffer zones and realize that it can have the power to protect our future generations from the impacts of toxic pesticides.

Read more and sign the petition here.

Urge the state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones around schools

Dear Friends,

Can we still do more to protect children from toxic pesticides?

Yes we can! And you can definitely help by signing the petition and supporting our call for pesticide-free buffer zones around schools.

Schools are meant to be safe sanctuaries for children to learn and grow but terrifyingly children in Asia are consistently being poisoned in these supposedly safe learning environments. Children in schools are being exposed to pesticides via reckless aerial spraying and spray drifts that target their young developing bodies.

The world will celebrate International Children’s Day on November 20. Our partners across Asia and the Pacific are gearing up towards demanding local authorities to set up a 1 km or more buffer zones around their schools. You help bring about change by supporting them too!

Children must be protected from pesticide drifts. We do not want a repeat of the incidents in Mendocino and Ventura Counties (California, USA), Davao del Norte (Philippines), Nuwara Eliya District (Sri Lanka), and most recently in Po Ampil Primary School in Cambodia, where more than 30 children were poisoned by pesticides during schooling hours alone.

It is evident through numerous studies that pesticides negatively impact the life, health and intelligence of children and thus violate the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. CRC 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”.

Available information show that pesticides drift hundreds of meters from the area of use at health-harming concentrations for days and even weeks after application, especially in rural areas in India, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Philippines, Sri Lanka and many other countries in Asia. 1.5 billion children in Asia are estimated to live in rural areas.

Children’s right to a healthy life should always be of utmost importance over any growing corporate interest. It is unacceptable that countries in Asia continue to be the toxic dump site of pesticides mainly peddled by developed countries. Inadequate laws and regulations in this region should be overhauled specifically for the best interest of our children.

Pesticides users and farms using pesticides in the vicinity of schools should be supported to move towards non-chemical alternatives and agroecology.

We, the PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and its partners, together with the global community, thus ask the governments to declare pesticide-free buffer zones around schools that would protect children from harmful exposure to pesticides. As an initial risk reduction measure, the buffer zone must have at least a 1km radius.

Making this landmark declaration on the occasion of the International Children’s Day would be a meaningful gift to humanity.

Help us create awareness on pesticide-free buffer zones and realize that it can have the power to protect our future generations from toxic pesticides.

Please sign the petition at: https://www.change.org/p/urge-the-state-governments-to-institute-pesticide-free-buffer-zones-around-schools

 

Hoping for your full support in this fight to protect our children,

Saro, Deeppa, Mila, Sathesh, and the PANAP family

 

Sources:

Abdullah M. P., Abdul Aziz Y. F., Othman M. R., Wan MohdKhalik W. M. A. 2015. Organochlorine pesticides residue level in surface water of Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Iranica Journal of Energy and Environment 6 (2): 141-146. http://www.idosi.org/ijee/6%282%2915/10.pdf

Convention on the Rights of the Child. http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/crc.pdf

FAO Corporate Document Repository. 2005. Proceedings of the Asia regional workshop on the implementation, monitoring and observance of the international code of conduct on the distribution and use of pesticides. http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/af340e/af340e04.htm#TopOfPage

FAO and ILO. 2015. Protect children from pesticides. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i3527e.pdf

National Toxics Network, Inc. 2009. The threat of pesticide spray drift. http://www.ntn.org.au/wp/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/NTN-SPRAYDRIFT-A5-Lo-res.pdf

Inquirer (Philippines). 79 downed by chemical fumes from Davao del Norte plantation: Pesticide Mocap produced by Bayer CropScience. November 30, 2006. http://www.cbgnetwork.org/1728.html

Interface Development Interventions, Inc. 2011. Liabilities of companies and public officers of the government for the non-observance and non-enforcement of buffer zones in specific banana plantation and its remedies. http://idisphil.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Legal-Research-on-the-Liability-of-Companies-and-Government-Officers-for-the-Non-Compliance-and-Non-enforcement-of-Buffer-Zones-in-Banana-Plantations.pdf

Kegley S., Katten A. and Moses M. 2003. Secondhand pesticides: Airborne pesticide drift in California. PANNA. http://www.pesticideresearch.com/site/docs/SecondhandPcides.pdf

KEMI 2015. Regional programme: Towards a non-toxic environment in South-East Asia phase II progress report. https://www.kemi.se/files/96b822bbbfe745deb349438afa289238/progress-report-2015.pdf

Lopez, A. (nd). Change.org petition: Institute a 1 mile buffer zone between schools and spraying pesticides and at least a week’s notice to schools before spraying begins. https://www.change.org/p/institute-a-1-mile-buffer-zone-between-schools-and-spraying-pesicides-and-at-least-a-week-s-notice-to-schools-before-spraying-begins

NTFAAS (nd). Rain of death: A briefer on the ban aerial spraying campaign. http://idisphil.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/rain-of-death.pdf

Owens, K and Feldman, J. 2004. Getting the drift on chemical trespass: Pesticide drift hits homes, schools and other sensitive sites throughout the communities. http://www.beyondpesticides.org/assets/media/documents/infoservices/pesticidesandyou/Summer 04/Getting the Drift on Chemical Trespass.pdf

PANAP. 2016. A pesticide free buffer zone needed in Po Ampil Primary School, Takeo Province, Cambodia. http://panap.net/childrenandpesticide/?p=1552

Po Ampil Primary School, Cambodia (p.69 of the KEMI Report 2015) https://www.kemi.se/files/96b822bbbfe745deb349438afa289238/progress-report-2015.pdf

Poisoned Schoolchildren in Sri Lanka https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/23908082/poisoning-our-future-children-and-pesticides/30

US EPA 735-F-07-003. Pesticides and their impact on children: Key facts and talking points. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-12/documents/pest-impact-hsstaff.pdf

US EPA. 2015. Literature review on neurodevelopmental effects and FQPA safety factor determination for the organophosphate pesticides. http://src.bna.com/d4L

Watts, M. 2013. Poisoning our future: Children and pesticides. PANAP. http://www.panap.net/sites/default/files/Poisoning-Our-Future-Children-and-Pesticides.pdf

A Pesticide Free Buffer Zone Needed in Po Ampil Primary School, Takeo Province, Cambodia

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Po Ampil School, in Takeo Province. Photo by Maran Perianen

“We smelled something bad and ran out of classes. Some of us had headaches, felt like vomiting and felt dizzy” said students of Po Ampil School, Takeo Province, Cambodia. They experienced these symptoms after the field near by their classrooms were sprayed by pesticides. Almost 30 students reported these symptoms. Over the years, school children have been poisoned by pesticides. In 2014, teachers from Po Ampil School approached Keam Makarady of CEDAC to conduct awareness workshops for children, and teachers. Teachers were concerned about dangers of pesticides after attending the No Pesticide Use Week event organized by CEDAC.

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School is surrounded by farms. Photo by Maran Perianen
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Google map of Po Ampil Primary School. CEDAC monitored the pesticides used in various villages in Sambour commune. Pesticides found include chlorpyrifos, glyphosate, lamda-cyhalothrin and cypermethrin, which have been linked to harmful effects on growing children. Children have been reported to be poisoned by pesticides during schooling hours in Po Ampil Primary School which is surrounded by farms. Annex 1 has a full list of pesticides found.

The past two years, No Pesticide Use Week Campaign has been aimed to protect our children from toxic pesticides (POC). Workshops on POC were held at Po Ampil primary school, Takeo province to highlight the impacts of pesticides that were found in the school during the campaign. There were 69 people (30 women) who participated in this event including farmers, students, teacher and local authorities.

Children are more vulnerable to pesticides, as per unit body weight they breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water. Long term impacts of pesticide exposure are linked to childhood cancer, autism, lowering of I.Q and other learning disorders among children.

Children in rural areas are often more vulnerable to the exposure to pesticides as they walk barefoot and are more exposed to pesticides than urban children.

Pesticide poisonings have been a growing concern in Cambodia, where more than 400 children were poisoned by pesticides last year due to contaminated sandwiches.

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Photo: Maran Perianen

“Our school located in Po village, Sambour commune, Traing district, Takeo province. The school is surrounded by paddy fields and rice is harvested three times a year. There are a lot of pest attacks during the cultivation of rice and many types of pesticides are being sprayed to control pest. The use of pesticides has affected the environment, the people and my students as well. My students have reported feeling dizzy, nauseated and some were not well. After the incident, I shared my concerns with the local authorities and the surrounding farmers. As a result, they only spray on Sunday to protect the children during schooling hours.” – Teacher of Po Ampil School. Video Link https://www.facebook.com/pesticidesincambodia/videos?ref=page_internal

Discussion are underway for pesticide free buffer zones in this school among CEDAC and the teachers.

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School children of Po Ampil expressed their concerns about the harmful effects of pesticides during the POC workshop in 2015. Photo by CEDAC.

When local farmers were interviewed by CEDAC and PANAP many of them expressed that they were not aware of other alternatives. One farmers said “We sell our rice Vietnamese wholesalers as they are near to the borders.” High yielding rice varieties grown by the farmers require more chemical fertilizer and pesticides use as they are more prone to pest attacks as compared to local varieties said Keam Makarday.

Many of the famers interviewed said they were also poisoned in various degrees. One farmer had to go all the way to Vietnam to seek medical treatment. New plans are on the way to engage the community in Takeo on agroecology practices to protect the children and environment against pesticides.

Annex 1: List of pesticides sold and used in Takeo
Annex 1: List of pesticides sold and used in Takeo

Table Legends

WHO class 1a : Extremely Hazardous
WHO class 1b : Highly Hazardous
EU R26: very toxic by inhalation (R26) according to EU Directive 67/548 5
Muta (EU 1,2): substances known to be mutagenic to man (category 1) / substances which should be regarded as if they are mutagenic to man (category 2), according to EU Directive 67/548
Repro (EU 1,2): substances known to impair fertility in humans (Category 1) / substances which should be regarded as if they impair fertility in humans and/or substances which should be regarded as if they cause developmental toxicity to humans (category 2), according to EU Directive 67/548
EU EDC= endocrine disruptor
ChE Inh= cholesterase inhibitor

vB: very bio accumulative, according to REACh criteria as listed by FOOTPRINT (BCF>5000)
vP: very persistent, according to REACh criteria as listed by FOOTPRINT (half-life > 60 d in marine – or freshwater of half-life >180 d in marine or freshwater sediment

HHP = listed on highly hazardous pesticide list
T20 = listed on 20 terrible pesticides that are toxic to children

Kadrinche*: Turning Bhutanese

Blog by Danica Castillo

Bhutan is a small country with a total of 47,000 sq km land area and a total population 700,000 people relying mainly on agriculture and forestry as a means of livelihood. Apart from the lush greeneries and colourful temples, Bhutan takes pride of its well-preserved culture, tradition and the principle of “Gross National Happiness” (GNH).

I went to Bhutan as a participant to the Chula University Right Livelihood Summer School (CURLS). It is a study-cultural exchange to learn more about food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture in the context of the Bhutanese culture. I was excited to be in the trip because I have learned beforehand that Bhutan is a carbon-negative country with a self-sustaining agricultural system – something most countries should emulate nowadays.

The writer on far-right together together with some of her fellow group-mates wearing Kira at the College of Natural Resouces.
The writer on far-right together together with some of her fellow group-mates wearing Kira at the College of Natural Resouces.

The trip started off in the Royal University of Bhutan where my fellow participants and I were given an overview of the country. This is where we have learned that the Bhutanese constitution ensures protection of the forestry and that it has remained independent versus the WTO, IMF and the World Bank.

There were 25 participants in the CURLS coming from different countries around the world. It is safe to say that the village trip is the most memorable part of our trip to Bhutan. We lived in three separate villages for three (3) nights and three (3) days. We were accommodated by our hosts wherein we lived with, shared their food as well as their stories.

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The writer with some of her fellow group-mates watching a villager make an organic, homemade butter straight from her own livestock.

We entered the village wearing traditional costumes for women called Kira. Kira is a three-piece clothing with ankle-length skirt, an inner long sleeve blouse and an outer long sleeve blouse clasped together by a Kira belt and fancy brooches. The fabric is usually made from warm, hand-woven cotton – perfect for the chilly weather.

We stayed with the family of Amm Khandu in Jazhika village, Shengana, Punakkha Valley. She is a 43 year old woman and is the head of her household. Her livestock is a constant source of fresh milk, butter, cheese and eggs every day for the whole village.  She, her family and other neighbours work together in the farm.

Amm Khandu serving traditional Bhutanese snack as she welcome the writer and her group mates in her house.
Amm Khandu serving traditional Bhutanese snack as she welcome the writer and her group mates in her house.

The young help feed the chickens and cows from kitchen scraps and pick edible mushrooms from the forest. The older people keeps traditional seeds and farming methods. Her neighbor’s elder keeps a heirloom of traditional seeds consisting of beans, cucumber and different variety of chilies.

She practices organic farming and enjoys bountiful harvests from her rice and buckwheat farm of three (3) hectares. True to their natural and organic lifestyle, Bhutanese farmers usually use the combination of ashes (from burnt wood and leaves) and neem oil as pesticides.

I have also learned that their government gives them a lot of support such as free water supply, farming inputs and sometimes even livestock. Farmers are also encouraged to join the community forest group as their contribution to conserve and protect their country’s natural resources.

Amm Khandu watches over her son (on the left) and her nephew (on the right) as they draw a map of their village
Amm Khandu watches over her son (on the left) and her nephew (on the right) as they draw a map of their village

Children enjoy free education and medication. I saw them roaming freely and happily around farms, hiking within the hills, playing in the river and sometimes even in the forest when accompanied by a guardian. Indeed, a bright and pesticides-free future awaits them.

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*Kadrinche means “thank you” in Dzongkha, Bhutan’s national language

PANAP submission to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, July 2016

 

Introduction

Pesticides negatively impact the health and intelligence of children and thus violates the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health guaranteed in Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Children are more vulnerable to pesticides. Children breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight which leads to greater exposure in a pesticide-contaminated environment. Early-life exposure can damage their developing brain and body systems, disrupting mental and physiological growth that lead to a range of diseases and disorders. Pesticides are now considered a “silent pandemic” by public health experts.

This submission puts to fore the urgent need to protect children from toxic pesticides so that they can live healthy lives to their full physical, mental, intellectual and social potential. The pesticide regulatory policies, standards and practices around the world should reflect this crucial need.

To contextualize the pesticide issue, this submission will start with a short historical background that highlights cases that put into ones’ consciousness the detrimental impacts of pesticides to children. It will then discuss the specific effects of pesticides to health of children as shown by the voluminous research studies. Recommendations for corporations and states will be given in the end sections.

Failed Regulations

The international chemicals conventions, national pesticide regulatory processes, and government policies are all failing to protect children from the harmful effects of pesticides. New research is revealing that innocuous exposures to low levels of pesticides, such as are commonly found as residues in food or drift on the wind, are undermining the health and well-being of our children, and leaving them with a lifetime legacy of damage and failed potential.

International chemicals conventions are based on consensus and weakened by vested interests – for example, India blocking the listing of endosulfan under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants as India was the main manufacturer of endosulfan, even though that country has seen the worst of the effects of endosulfan. But international conventions and national regulations are inter-linked—the former can facilitate change at the national level, and strong national policies can promote strong leadership in international conventions to make them truly effective in protecting children.

There are three main ways in which national regulatory processes and government policies are failing to protect children from pesticides: 1. Pesticide registration processes fail to assess the real effects of pesticides on children. 2. Pesticide registration processes and government policies and practices fail to provide protection to children from the pesticides that they have registered, let alone those that are used illegally. 3. Governments fail to question the received ‘wisdom’ that pesticides are necessary and to look beyond them at highly sustainable methods of managing pests, weeds, and diseases. All of these areas of failures stem from a primary failure to apply the precautionary principle, despite its widespread inclusion, in some form or other, in a number of international conventions and treaties, such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Failure of States to Protect Children and Communities from Harm Caused by Pesticide Exposure

The Bhopal Tragedy: massive effects on children

About 45 tons of methyl-isocyanate gas (MIC) leaked from Union Carbide Corporation’s chemical plant in Bhopal in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India at around 1:00 AM of December 3, 1984 immediately killing about 3,800 people mostly in the slum colony adjacent to the plant. Estimated deaths run as high as 10,000, with close to 20,000 premature deaths occurring in the subsequent two decades (Sharma, 2005). Epidemiological studies conducted soon after the accident showed significant increases in the incidence of pregnancy loss, infant mortality, decreased foetal weight, chromosomal abnormalities, and impaired associate learning/motor speed/precision, ocular and respiratory illnesses. Many of the exposed population gave birth to physically and mentally disabled children (Dhara & Dhara, 2002).

Kasargod Endosulfan Disaster: impacts on children last a life time

In 1977-78, the state-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala (PCK) carried out trials on aerial spraying of endosulfan over its cashew plantations, which extended for 45,000 hectares in Kasargod District in Kerala. Regular aerial spraying 2 to 3 times per year commenced in 1981. That same year, various disabilities among domestic animals and people were observed in Padre village in Enmakaje panchayat of the district. Subsequently, the Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad (1994) reported that the disability rate among the people was 73% higher than the overall disability rates for the entire state. The locomotor disability and mental retardation, was 107% higher (Quijano, 2002). A total of 197 cases from 123 households, were documented to have cancer, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, epilepsy, congenital anomalies and psychiatric disorders. The cancers include abdominal, uterine, liver and neuroblastoma. A community survey estimated 9,500 victims in the district (Irshad & Joseph, 2015). Among the victims are Shruti, now 22, born with a twisted leg and only four fingers in each hand, with those on her right hand malformed; and Vishnu Batt, 32, who is developmentally delayed, stunted in growth and with deformed legs (Sundaram, 2015).

Kamukhaan – A Poisoned Village

Kamukhaan is a community of 700 individuals in Digos, Davao del Sur (Mindanao, Philippines). It was a village with rich natural resources until the entry of Lapanday Agricultural Development Corporation (LADECO) banana plantation in 1981. Large doses of pesticides are sprayed aerially 2-3 times a month sweeping through the entire plantation and the village. During spraying, the strong and odorous fumes blanket the community. Fumes sting the villagers’ eyes, make their skin itch, suffocate and make them weak and nauseous. The plantation also ground-sprays their banana crops with Furadan and Nemacur, both of which have been labelled as “extremely hazardous”. When rains wash over the plantation, the pesticide-riddled water flows into the village where it rises up to as high as waist level. Villagers who unavoidably wade in and the children who play in it get ill. It contaminates the river and the sea resulting to fish kills, and poisons the land that the coconut trees stopped bearing fruit and ranged animals die. Infants are born with a range of abnormalities, from cleft palate to badly disfigured bodies, and with impaired mental and physical development, and some die at birth or shortly after (Quijano, 1999).

The Poisoning and Murder of Silvino Talavera of Paraguay

On January 2, 2003, Silvino (11-year old boy) cycled to the stalls by the nearest main road to buy some meat and rice. On his way back home, passing along the community road that runs through the soy fields, he got sprayed by Hermann Schlender with pesticides used for soy monoculture. He was so drenched that he had to immediately wash himself in the river. Later that day, Silvino’s family fell ill after eating the food Silvino bought. They had to be hospitalised. On January 6, Silvino returned from the hospital but on the same day, another soy producer Alfredo Laustenlager sprayed at 15 meters from their house. Three brothers and 20 more villagers was hospitalised with Silvino, who had lost consciousness. On January 7, Silvino was pronounced dead. Silvino’s family suffers many health problems as a result of the continuous exposure to the pesticides. They have had lung, stomach problems, allergies, headaches and bone aches, and they need medical treatment they cannot afford (Radio Mundo Real, 2010).

Exposure and Health Impacts of Pesticides to Children

The above cases give a preview of the pesticides’ acute and chronic effects. Research done after these events (Watts, 2013) give sufficient evidence to indict low level exposures to pesticides as a serious threat to health and well-being of children, and the subsequent generations. Many pesticides can be readily transferred from the mother across the placenta to the developing foetus during pregnancy (Daston et al. 2004), and so children are born already carrying a significant load of pesticides. In a New York study of newborn infants, seven pesticides and pesticide metabolites were detected in the umbilical cord blood of up to 83% of the children (Whyatt et al. 2003). The presence of pesticide residues in the first faeces of newborns is added evidence that the foetus has been exposed in utero to pesticides (Ostrea et al. 2006).

Infants are further exposed to pesticides through their mothers’ milk. A survey of infants in Bhopal, India, revealed that they were consuming through breast milk, 8.6 times more endosulfan than the tolerable daily intake levels recommended by WHO, as well as chlorpyrifos, HCH, malathion, and methyl parathion (Sanghi et al. 2003). In Assam, India (Mishra & Sharma, 2011), breast milk was found to contain high levels of DDT and DDE, and high levels of HCH with 100% of samples exceeding the WHO guideline. There is also evidence that these residues are accumulating in children (Verner et al. 2010).

Metabolites of organophosphates (OPs) have been found in the urine of 99% of urban pre-school children in Seattle, USA. The metabolites were present even in those whose parents did not use pesticides indicating that at least some of them came from diet (Lu et al. 2001). Exposure to pesticides can come through various means like the application of shampoo containing permethrin to treat head lice or through vector control in schools or at home.

Acute Effects

Symptoms of acute poisoning in children vary with the type of pesticide, but for the commonly used OPs and carbamates, they include fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, dry throat and difficulty breathing, stinging eyes, itchy skin, and a burning nose; and muscular symptoms like stiffness and weakness. Death can occur rapidly, or over the course of a few weeks (Goldman, 2004). In the case of Silvino, death came within 24 hours due to massive exposure. Other symptoms that may occur are seizures, paralysis, coma, depression, inarticulate speech, memory loss, rapid pulse, anxiety, involuntary twitching, sweating, difficulty in walking, and uncontrolled urination (Watts, 2013; Rengam et al. 2007).

Chronic Effects

There are pesticides that are teratogenic. Among these are the OP insecticides like dimethoate; carbamate insecticides like carbaryl; fungicides like benomyl, captan, maneb, mancozeb, propiconazole; and herbicides such as paraquat and 2,4-D (Garry et al. 1996; Garcia, 2003). Parental exposure has been associated with congenital abnormalities (Magoon, 2006; de Siqueira et al. 2010) including abnormally placed urinary opening on penis, absence of one or both testes (Kristensen et al 1997; Carbone et al 2006; Rocheleau et al 2009) and micropenis (Gaspari et al 2011a); missing or reduced limbs (Schwartz et al 1986; Schwartz & LoGerfo 1988); anencephaly (Lacasana et al 2006); spina bifida (Brender et al. 2010); and congenital heart disease (Yu et al. 2008). The critical period of maternal exposure to pesticides is from the month before conception and the first trimester (Nurminen et al, 1995; Garcia et al. 1998). The critical period for paternal exposure is during the three months prior to conception (Brouwers et al. 2007; Pierik et al. 2004). Parental exposure has also been linked to stillbirths (Goulet & Theriault, 1991; Rupa et al., 1991; Taha & Gray, 1993; Nurminem et al. 1995; Pastore et al., 1997; Medina-Carrilo et al. 2002). One study found that agricultural workers exposed to OPs had significantly increased sperm chromosome nullisomy involving the sex chromosomes, increasing the risk of genetic syndromes such as Turner syndrome (Garry, 2004).

The most striking evidence that pesticides cause birth defects comes from the village of Kasargod, Kerala where in addition to the above defects, congenital defects include deformities of hands and feet and other skeletal abnormalities; congenital heart disease; congenital mental retardation and cerebral palsy; and congenital eye problems such as cataracts and retinopathy. The congenital problems were more prevalent in girls (NIOH, 2002; Quijano, 2002).  Watts (2013) did a comprehensive review of studies linking parental pesticide exposure to low birth weight and decreased head circumference of children. Among these pesticides are DDT, DDE, metolachlor, lindane and other isomers of HCH.

Neurotoxic OPs may be a key factor in ADHD. Animal studies have shown OPs cause cognitive deficits and hyperactivity (Bouchard et al., 2010; Marks et al, 2010). Pesticides are now regarded as one of the culprits in autism, with both OPs and OCs listed in the top ten causes (Landrigan et al. 2012). It was also proposed that OPs are responsible for a significant lowering of IQ across the whole US population (Bellinger, 2012). Rowe et al. (2016) found that residential proximity to OP and carbamate pesticide use during pregnancy is associated with poorer cognitive functioning in children at 10 years of age.

Newborn infants in New York, exposed in utero to chlorpyrifos from household use, were found to have delayed cognitive and psychomotor development. Those most exposed had significantly more attention problems, ADHD and pervasive developmental disorder at three years of age (Rauh et al. 2006; Gulson, 2008). It was found that these effects were independent of socio-economic factors (Lovasi et al. 2011). It was further found that prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos alter children’s brain structure (Rauh et al. 2012).

There is an increasing amount of epidemiological evidence (Watts, 2013) that both direct childhood exposures and parental exposures to pesticides are associated with childhood cancer such as leukaemia, brain cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, neuroblastoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, and Wilm’s tumour.  Others include soft-tissue sarcoma, colorectal cancer, germ cell cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, eye cancer, renal and liver tumours, thyroid cancer, and melanoma.

Recent Cases of Pesticides Poisoning

Poisoning of children by pesticides happens in countries around the world, whether through food, or through exposure to pesticides drifting from agricultural fields or though pesticide contaminated soil and water or other means.

In 2013, 23 children in India aged 4 to 12, were killed after eating their mid-day meal (Hindu,2013). Forensic examination showed the presence of high toxic levels of monocrotophos, a highly hazardous pesticide. The manufacturers of monocrotophos such as Dow Chemicals must be held to account. It is important to note that WHO had urged India to ban monocrotophos earlier in 2009. If only the producers of monocrotophos and the Indian authorities had heeded the call to prohibit the use of such deadly chemicals, 23 innocents would have continued enjoying their childhood with their parents today.

In 2014, 39 preschool children in China were poisoned, of whom two died, after consuming food that was contaminated by a rodenticide known as TETS (Liberty Voice, 2014). Although banned in the early 1990s, this pesticide is widely used due to availability and profitability.  In 2013, 49 children in Cambodia fell ill after consuming food that was contaminated with pesticides. Another 440 children were poisoned in 2015. From initial fact finding missions by PANAP and CEDAC, children in rural Cambodia are often exposed to brain harming pesticides like chlorpyrifos and the potential cancer causing herbicide glyphosate during school hours.

In August 10, 2014, a three-year old Filipina died after inhaling toxic gas from banned aluminium phosphide which leaked through the AC duct of their Dubai apartment. The incident took place in Al Qusais on the second day of Eid Al Fitr when the tenant of an apartment sprayed the banned aluminium phosphide (rodenticide) and left for his home country. She was one of two Filipinos who died of pesticide poisoning that injured four others, including the girl’s father and mother. The hospital report established the presence of phosphine gas in the victim’s body. (Emirates 24/7 News,2014)

In 2015, 11 children in Bangladesh aged 2 and 6 years started having symptoms of pesticides poisoning including fever, convulsions and unconsciousness after eating fruits laced with pesticides (The Daily Star,2015) They died shortly after. This was not an isolated incident, 14 children also shared the same fate in 2012. (The Daily Star,2012) Children living in rural areas are more exposed to pesticides. In 2015, a study in Malaysia found that children aged 10 to 11 years exposed to organophosphates and carbamates near rice paddy fields had poor motor skills, poor hand/eye coordination, attention speed and perceptual motor speed. Children also had lower cholinesterase levels, a clear indicator of OP poisoning. (Hashim & Baguma,2015)

In 2014-15 PAN-UK undertook small scale surveys of family farms in six Former Soviet Union countries, supported by the EC and in collaboration with the Rotterdam Convention and the UN FAO. The surveys in Kyrgyzstan and Moldova included 121 and 31 children respectively, 15 and 17% of whom reported that they handled pesticides directly in addition to undertaking other risky tasks around the farm (Willis, 2015)

Tragedies like Bhopal, Kasargod, Kamukhaan and Silvino Talavera, as well as the tragedies of everyday exposure that fly under the radar, will continue unless serious actions are taken to prevent children’s exposure to highly hazardous pesticides.

Pesticide Use Transgress Children’s Rights

The developing foetus and small child are especially vulnerable to the effects of pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Children may also be exposed to pesticides when they are in their mother’ womb when their mothers consume pesticide residues in food and water or when they exposed through their work and at home.  These pesticides could be linked to cancer, endocrine disruption and other adverse impacts and the pesticide impacts are not adequately understood in terms of how they will affect the child later in life. Worldwide, children are involved in pesticide application, but the exact number is unknown due to the absence of comprehensive monitoring by the State. Article 3(d) of the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor specifies such labor as “work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children”.

The use of pesticides and exposure to these chemicals are aggravated due to poverty. This is made worse with racial and ethnic discrimination and even casteism that are interlinked with increased inequality and ensures that these communities are kept disempowered and poor. This discrimination makes them unable to be heard and to address the problems if they arise. Poverty intensifies the exposure to the worst pesticides particularly malnutrition can worsen the effects of pesticides and children are the most affected.  In addition, poor communities have less ability to address the health impacts of pesticides and lack resources to change their farming to organic or agroecology. As workers they have less control on the types of pesticides they are using or even to stop applying these pesticides.  The lack of protective equipment, ill-adapted to local weather conditions are rarely used and contribute to pesticide poisoning.

The trade in pesticides

The existence of double standards in the international trade of pesticides from developed countries to developing countries is still prevalent and involves both the exports of hazardous pesticides and the transfer of production facilities.  This situation is intensified with the lack of resources for prevention and control of pesticides in developing countries and lack of legislation and inspection by governments.  Overall, this factor further contributes the continued impact of pesticides on children’s health and well-being.

With the foregoing accounts which are over and above the UNEP Report on childhood pesticide poisoning (2004), it is clear that the continuous and indiscriminate use of pesticides is a transgression of children’s rights. To wit, Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes, “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health […] taking into consideration the dangers and risks of environmental pollution”. Article 10 of the CESCR also calls for “special measures of protection and assistance to be taken on behalf of all children and young persons without any discrimination”. Article 6 of the CRC recognizes that, “every child has the inherent right to life” and that the survival and development of the child is ensured to the “maximum extent possible”.  Pesticides are a silent pandemic that have the potential to cause irreversible health impacts even in small and minute amounts that may physically, mentally, psychological, social and emotionally stunt children’s development and prevent their full enjoyment of health and to reach their full potential.

Children’s Engagement in UNCRC Process

Children must be made aware of their rights to a safe and healthy environment through intensified information, education and communications campaign. Student/Children’s organizations must be tapped for the IEC on the harmful effects of pesticides and how they can better protect themselves. They may serve as monitors of pesticide use in their communities and must have a direct line with the State or the NGO Group for reportage and redress. It is best that representatives from their ranks be given a seat in the UN CRC.

Corporations’ Role in Preventing another Pesticide Tragedy

Agrochemical corporations profit from the production and sale of pesticides that are inherently poisonous while the world’s rural populations and children face the daily hazard of pesticide poisoning. Corporations have used their political, economic and other influences to promote and protect their vested interests. These corporations have the obligation to ensure that chemicals are used in such a manner that they are not a threat to human health and the environment. Moreover, the realisation of the right to health requires proactive action to eliminate risks to health (and health risks from their presence in the environment) posed by chemicals and pesticides in their production, use, release, and incorporation into products. This realisation requires the elimination of pesticides that are known to cause cancer and other chronic, irreversible effects and the distribution of information about these to the general public. This is further emphasised in the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management which states that corporations have the responsibility to ensure pesticides are handled safely during their life cycle and disposed of in such a way that they do not constitute a threat to human health or communities living in their proximity.

The right to life, to health, and to a healthy environment must take precedence over corporate and proprietary rights. The right to engage in a profit-making venture (selling a chemical) is a derogable, conditional right, while the right to health is a non-derogable, fundamental human right. States must protect children’s rights within their territory and jurisdiction, including protection from abuse by business enterprises that produce, import, trade/sell and use pesticides. Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, this requires taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication. States should set out clearly the expectation that all business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or jurisdiction respect human rights throughout their operations.  To this end, businesses must have policies in place to conduct human rights due diligence and address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved (Ban Toxics et al. 2015).

Corporations should respect and uphold human rights, the welfare of the populations and the protection of biodiversity and ecosystems and thus must:

  1. continually monitor the impacts of their product and to retrieve and get it off the market when there are indications of its toxic and chronic effects;
  2. properly label their products and use language that the users can understand and ensure that their products are used properly by giving comprehensive training to the users;
  3. stop maligning/harassing individuals who alert the State and the Public of the harmful effects of their products; instead provide funding to third party organizations to enable them to investigate/research further on the products’ impacts and metabolic properties;
  4. indemnify victims whenever their products prove to have caused an irreversible harm; clean-up their wastes and restore/rehabilitate areas laid barren and polluted because of their products;
  5. discontinue the production and sale of highly hazardous pesticides and
  6. begin implementing a real process of transition from pesticide manufacture to development of ecologically sustainable pest management technologies.

The States’ Obligations to Prevent the Silent Pandemic

The States have an obligation to prevent exposure by children to toxics including pesticides and safeguard the child’s right to a health and safe environment.  State Parties should adopt the precautionary principle and the principle of minimum harm. Registration processes must move from an industry supportive model of risk assessment to a more public health supportive model of hazard assessment, with cut-off criteria that prevent the registration of pesticides that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, developmental neurotoxins, immunotoxins and endocrine disruptors. Registration must include alternatives assessment and opt for the least harmful method of managing pests, weeds and diseases. Where effective non-chemical methods or less toxic chemicals exist, a toxic pesticide should not be registered or used. If there are none, then the next step is to determine whether the pesticide meets the cut-off criteria for hazardous properties.  (Watts & Williamson 2015).

This is an improved version of the substitution principle which first came into operation in Swedish pesticide policy in 1985. “According to the Swedish Act on Chemical properties (SFS 1985, p 426) section 5 ‘anyone handling or importing a chemical product must take such steps and otherwise observe such precautions as are needed to prevent or minimize harm to human beings or to the environment. This includes avoiding chemical products for which less hazardous substitutes are available.” | Bergkvist et al 1996.  Sweden’s National Board of Agriculture did recognise the need to assess nonchemical methods: “If equally effective, non-chemical methods are available for a certain control a pesticide will be banned for that control.”  Liden 1989

Robust policy and practice options to enable a global transformation towards ecosystem-based farming – best exemplified by agroecology – exist (Watts & Williamson 2015).   However, powerful commercial interests, weak or captured public sector actors and lack of political will continue to hamper the establishment and meaningful implementation of these progressive options. Highly targeted and strategic interventions are needed that tackle the core of the problem and thereby rebalance power in the agricultural food system.

The problems we have today with children’s lives being blighted by pesticides are because of an institutional failure to acknowledge that pesticides are not necessary. Most governments and many scientists assume, without any evidence, that pesticides are necessary. But good science and a wealth of observational data have shown repeatedly that farmers can make more money, and improve their food security and the health of their families and the environment by not using pesticides and practicing instead agroecology based principles. (Watts &Williamson 2015)

In 2010, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter reported to the UN Human Rights Council that, in order to combat hunger and malnutrition,

“States should implement public policies supporting the adoption of agroecological practices.” His report found that agroecology raises productivity at the field level, reduces rural poverty, contributes to improving nutrition, and contributes to adapting to climate change, concluding that “States can and must achieve a reorientation of their agricultural systems towards modes of production that are highly productive, highly sustainable and that contribute to the progressive realization of the human right to adequate food.” (De Schutter 2011)

Modern agroecological approaches to food production, together with many of the ecological practices that have evolved with farmers working alongside nature through hundreds of years, are proving to be sustainable, economically advantageous and good for food security. Successful cases of agroecological farming in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and USA, presented in the book “Replacing Chemicals with Biology, Phasing out highly hazardous pesticides with agroecology” (Watts & Williamson 2015) substantiating the long-standing claim that ecological principles applied to agriculture are effective tools in the management of pests, including weeds, and provide sustainable livelihoods to farmers and rural communities. There is a wealth of scientific and evidential data showing that crops can be grown perfectly well without using pesticides. The case studies show that agroecological farming can improve food security and strengthen food sovereignty, while providing better adaptation to climate change and reducing harmful environmental impacts.

In summary, in order to protect children from the developmental effects of hazardous pesticides, government policies and practices including pesticide registration processes, need to change dramatically—to adopt the precautionary principle and the principle of minimum harm; and implement alternatives assessment and substitution while exploring other forms of agroecological practices.

Pesticide Action Network provides the following recommendations to address the problems of children’s exposure to highly hazardous pesticides:

Governments and relevant others should:

  1. Change agricultural policy and practice to remove the assumption that pesticides are necessary; and encourage farmers to change to agroecology, biodiversity-based ecological agriculture, or organic agriculture; and ensure that pest, weeds, and diseases are managed by the methods that cause the least harm to humans and the environment (Principles of Precautionary and Minimum Harm);
  2. In pesticide registration, replace risk assessment with alternatives assessment and hazard assessment, using the precautionary principle as the framework, such that pesticides are only registered if there is no effective less harmful alternative, including non-chemical methods of management; in pesticide registration, institute cut-off criteria such that pesticides that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, developmental neurotoxins or immunotoxins, or endocrine disruptors are not registered or used; ensure the registration process is based on studies from independent scientists not industry science, but require industry to reveal all it knows about the toxic effects;
  3. require buffer zones for plantations or farms that use pesticides, and to regularly monitor these; ban aerial spraying of pesticides; ban the use of genetically modified crops that require massive use of pesticides/herbicides.
  4. ensure that pregnant women and children are not exposed to highly hazardous pesticides, or pesticides that have the potential for developmental toxicity or endocrine disruption, including through residues in food and
  5. build individual and community awareness of the pathways of exposure for children, and the potential effects on their health.

We end this submission with a prayer that States and the UN will promulgate towards the adoption of our recommendations for the sake of the present children and the future generations. For our own survival, the time to act is now.

Prepared by PAN Asia Pacific with PAN UK. For more information: Deeppa Ravindran, (deeppa.ravindran@panap.net), PAN Asia Pacific.

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11 Questions we asked Dr. Meriel Watts

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Agrochemicals like pesticides have contributed in the massive destruction of the environment including acute and chronic impacts on livestock, soil fertility, and pollinators like bees and other beneficial insects necessary for a stable, healthy and productive ecosystem.

Aside from environmental destruction, there is no question as well on the harmful impact of pesticides on human health and that the people of poor countries are worst affected. It is also in these countries that two of the most vulnerable groups — women and children — are most exposed.

Research shows there’s a link between the indiscriminate use of highly hazardous pesticides and infertility, birth defects and miscarriages. Endocrine disruptors from pesticides can mutate genes, even causing epigenetic (or heritable changes in gene expression) effects – potentially putting future generations at risk.The good news is there are alternatives to chemical-intensive agriculture. One is agroecology.

The Pesticide Action Network (PAN) has long promoted agroecology, which has shown to increase farm productivity and food security. Innovative, environmentally-friendly and communal, agroecology improves rural livelihoods and is adaptive to threats such as climate change.

In this exclusive interview, coordinator of PAN Aotearoa New Zealand, a steering council member of PAN AP, renowned activist and pesticide specialist Dr. Meriel Watts expands on agroecology, shares her experiences in practicing it, and details its many benefits. Her recent talk on agroecology is available here and her latest book, co- written with Stephanie Williamson, titled Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology is available here.

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1.How long have you been farming?

For thirteen years on our own farm, Tidal Organics but off and on throughout my life working on other people’s farms.

2. What kind of education or career did you pursue before farming?

Although I was city-raised, I always wanted to be a farmer, since my earliest memories. I would spend school holidays on my uncle’s dairy farm.

I worked on farms in New Zealand as soon as I left school, then completed a Bachelor of Agricultural Science. After that I worked for a while in plant disease research for the Government. I moved to the United Kingdom and worked on farms there, and eventually joined a medical laboratory. When I came back to New Zealand, after a little more farm work my life became urban for a while and I began growing my own vegetables (this was about 40 years ago!)

Then I trained in natural medicine including herbal medicine, homeopathy and nutrition, and established a practice treating people (and farm animals), as well as teaching young mums how to treat their sick children. When I began treating people with pesticide poisoning, I realised that something need to be done to stop people getting poisoned in the first place. So at that stage, about 25 years ago, I began my life’s work as a pesticide activist and advocate for organic farming, both streams of work continuing to this day.

During this time I completed a PhD in pesticide risk assessment and policy, sat on numerous Government committees on pesticides, worked for Greenpeace, the Soil & Health Association and Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP). At the same time I took a leading role in the organics sector in New Zealand. So my working life has been, and always will be, a happy blend of human health issues and agricultural issues – both the negative impacts and the positive pathways – because of course all are totally connected, although today these four areas are still mostly not brought together in policy, training or work areas. The silo approach to life still dominates.

3.Why do you feel that it is important to use agroecological systems in farming?

Well, the first thing is that it challenges the silo approach: it brings people to see their farms, their families, their communities and the environment as an interconnected whole. Once they see that, they understand that using toxic pesticides poisons the environment, endangers their own health, and undermines the sustainability of farm production. Agroecology gives farmers greater control over their production; they do not have to rely on expensive input to produce cash crops that don’t really feed the family. Agroecology enables them to use local resources to provide healthy food and a cash surplus.

4. What does agroecology mean for you?

It means the farmer and family and community working together with the land in a way that best utilises the particular climatic and geographic characteristics of this land to produce healthy food in a way that improves sustainability and biodiversity and the overall functioning of the agroecosystem. It means farmers and their families and communities having greater control over their own lives.

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5. You have documented many cases of successful methods of farming based on agroecology from all over the world in the book Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing Out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology. What is the key lesson you learned writing this book?

The utmost importance of farmer-to-farmer learning and the sharing of knowledge and experiences.

6. What personal characteristics do you have that drew you to (and keeps you motivated on) farming?

Determination; an enquiring mind; joy in solving problems.

7. What is the biggest challenge in farming right now?

The variability and unpredictability of the climate. For example, this year our forecast was for for a very serious prolonged drought; instead it has rained so much that we had problems with fruit rot for the first time ever. Grapes would not ripen and the olive harvest looks to be a disaster. What was normally a ‘Mediterranean’ summer – hot and dry – has become a hot and wet tropical summer. We have no idea what the next season will bring so it is very hard to plan crops.

8. What is the most difficult part in terms of gaining ground against corporate giants that promote pesticides?

The power they have over people’s minds. People want to believe that the food they are eating or the Roundup they spray in their backyards is safe because it is easy, so they believe it. They don’t want to question what they have always assumed to be safe. They don’t want to worry about chemicals, so they close their minds. If only people would open their minds, the corporations would lose their power. We, the people, actually do have greater power than these businesses through our choices as consumers (that includes farmers buying inputs) but we don’t exercise it. If consumers stopped buying chemically-produced and highly processed food, farmers would soon change to agroecology.

9. What does it mean to you to be able to farm?

Everything: producing healthy food for people in our community is central to my being.

10. What has been the biggest reward from agroecological farming?

For me, the biggest reward is the gratitude and smiles when people come to our place to collect their weekly order of fresh healthy fruit, vegetables and herbs. That, and sitting down in the evening to a big plate of organic vegetables straight from the garden. I want food that is healthy, fresh, grown without poisons, nurturing and sustaining; and that everyone has the right to such food.

11. How would you encourage other farmers to adopt agroecological practices?

Constantly observe everything on your farm; observe what other agroecological farmers are doing; ask questions. Make compost. Do not reach for a spray when you see an insect, but learn which ones are your friends and which ones you need to control. Look for smart control options, like traps.

Photo Credit : Jo Davies

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Meriel’s Latest Talk on Phasing Out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology is here !

 

April is autism awareness month

autism

April is Autism Awareness Month, and there is growing evidence between the link of pesticides and autism. Autism affects 1 in 68 children in the United States, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are a set of disorders in the brain functions that leads to by impaired social interaction, restricted communication and repetitive stereotypic behaviours.
It is generally believed that ASD arises from alterations to specific brain structures during critical windows of vulnerability during fetal development. These rates are so alarming that this would be described as a pandemic according to key researchers and public health experts.
Pesticides are now registered as leading causes of autism with both organophosphates (OPs) and organochlorides (OCs) listed in the top ten causes along with other heavy metals (Landrigan et al 2012). Even small amounts of pesticides can lead to a higher risk factor of developing ASD (Eskenazi et al ,2007)
In many parts of Asia children and school staff of child bearing age are exposed to pesticides to pesticides near schools, through their diet and their environments. In rural areas, poverty forces children work on farms and plantations. Children are,then, exposed to pesticide spray drifts from farms and also sprayed on aerially eg. Philippines.

In Various Parts of Asia, the Numbers Are Alarming

Prevalence is hard to establish and estimates have varied widely, although in 2006 they were reported to be around 0.6precent of the population; with one recent UK estimate of 1.1 percent. In 2012, the rate in the US was reported as 11 percent (Landrigan et al 2012). A survey of 7 to 12-year-old children in South Korea, the prevalence of ASD was found to be a surprisingly high 2.64 percent (Kim et al 2011). In Australia rate: 45 cases per 10,000 people; 7th highest in the world. Also, Japan is considered to have the highest autism rate in the world: 181.1 cases per 10,000 people.

The number of children diagnosed with ASD is trending upwards, now at 31 percent of NDIS participants which comprises the largest disability group in the scheme; according to the NDIS Quarterly Report in June 2015. There was considerable variation across age groups, with a marked drop-off after peaking in the 5-9-year-old age group.  Also, Japan is considered to have the highest autism rate in the world: 181.1 cases per 10,000 people. A recent study has pegged the prevalence at 0.16 percent, previously it was reported around 0.04 percent and 0.05 percent.

Number of cases individuals of autism recorded by the Autism Society of America in 2007.

 

 

(Source: The Autism Society of America, 2007)

A growing number of epidemiological studies are the linking exposure to pesticide drifts to chronic conditions in children such as autism spectrum disorders (Roberts et al 2007).

Other studies have found: –

Children are exposed to pesticides via spray drift are at a higher risk of developing ASD. An investigation of the influence of pesticide drift into homes near agricultural fields in the US found a strong association between ASD in children and their mothers residing near fields where endosulfan and/or dicofol were sprayed in the periods just before and during fetal development of the central nervous system (weeks 1-8). The risk of ASD increased with the quantity of pesticide used and proximity of home to the fields being treated. Children, whose mothers were living within 500 metres of these fields, had more than a 60precent increased risk of ASD (Roberts et al 2007).

Children living in rural areas are further exposed to the impacts of pesticides. In 2015, a study in Malaysia found that children aged 10 to 11 years were exposed to pesticides like OPs and carbamates near rice paddy fields had poor motor skills, poor hand/eye coordination, attention speed and perceptual motor speed due to organophosphate and carbamate pesticide exposure. Children also had lower cholinesterase levels which is also indicator of pesticide poisoning.

What can you do to prevent Autism?

In developing Asian countries, such as Vietnam, India, Malaysia; many types of pesticides including brain harming pesticides like chlorpyrifos are readily available and still widely used. Brain harming organophosphate pesticides like chloropyrifos and monocrotophos, on the list of terrible twenty are still manufactured by DOW and is widely used around the world.

In Asia, awareness for ASD is increasing in many countries such as Malaysia, China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, etc. however this is not enough. Communities and concerned parents and teachers need to take concerted action to protect children from toxic pesticides by: –

• Limit and prevent exposure to pesticides by creating buffer zones around schools and consuming pesticides free food as much as possible
• Support agroecological measures, and the farmers that choose to farm without pesticides. This can include biological pest control, crop rotation, etc. This will ensure that no pesticide residue get on to the fruits and vegetables we eat.
• Also, call upon government officials to outright ban and phase out highly-hazardous pesticides usage in agricultural areas. We call upon you to sign this petition.

REFERENCES CITED

CAUSES OF AUTISM. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.autism-help.org/autism-causes-detailed.htm

Dua, N. (2010, February 25). Pesticides pose health risks. Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.irinnews.org/report/88234/asia-pesticides-pose-health-risks

FFTC Publication Database Food and Fertilizer Technology Center. (n.d.). Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.agnet.org/library.php?func=view

Levin ED, Timofeeva OA, Yang L, Petro A, Ryde IT, Wrench N, et al. 2009. Early postnatal parathion exposure in rats causes sex-selective cognitive impairment and neurotransmitter defects which emerge in aging. Behav Brain Res 208(2):319–327.

Moon, J., Chun, B., & Lee, S. (2015, February 23). Variable response of cholinesterase activities following human exposure to different types of organophosphates. Retrieved April 11, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25712411

Pesticides and health hazards Facts and figures [PDF]. (2012). Hamburg, Germany: PAN Germany.

Relate to Autism: Helping parents help children. (n.d.). Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://www.relatetoautism.com/index.php?subform=article

Shelton, J. F., Hertz-Picciotto, I., & Pessah, I. N. (2012, July 1). EHP – Tipping the Balance of Autism Risk: Potential Mechanisms Linking Pesticides and Autism. Retrieved April 12, 2016, from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1104553/#r75

Ting, T. X., Lee, L. W., Low, H. M., Kok, N. H., & Chee, A. K. (2014). Prevalence, diagnosis, treatment and research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in Singapore and Malaysia [PDF]. The International Journal of Special Education.

Watts, M. (2013). Poisining Our Future: Children And Pesticides [PDF]. Penang, Malaysia: Pesticide Action Network Asia & the Pacific.

Won, J. L., & Eun, S. C. (2009). J Rural Med 2009; 4 (2): 53ñ58 ©2009 The Japanese Association of Rural Medicine Review Overview of Pesticide Poisoning in South Korea [Scholarly project]. In The Berne Declaration. Retrieved April 11, 2016, from https://www.ladb.ch/fileadmin/files/documents/Syngenta/Paraquat/Overview_of_Pesticide_Poisoning_in_South_Korea.pdf

Z.A., Z. N., Hashim, Z., & D, B. (2015). Environmental Exposure of Organophosphate Pesticides Mixtures and Neurodevelopment of Primary School Children In Tanjung Karang, Malaysia [PDF]. University Putra Malaysia, Selangor, Malaysia: Asia Pacific Environmental and Occupational Health Journal.

Empowered Farmers Ensure Food Safety

“Farming without pesticides is far more economical and safer for farmers and consumers. This has led me to harvest my first pesticides-free crop of cabbages,” thus said Mr. Vellusamy who had undergone the Farmer Field School (FFS) carried out in Blue Valley, Cameron Highlands in 2015.

The FFS is an initiative by the PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) that aims to develop the capacity of farmers in making informed decisions based on their experience of observing, conducting experiments and monitoring of their farms. It also involves the participation of scientists, extension officers and experts in the field of agriculture to provide input and work with the farmers for viable solutions to the problems they face on the farm.

The focus of this particular FFS in Blue Valley was to incorporate biological control instead of harmful pesticides to deal with the infestation of the Diamond Back Moth among cabbages. According to a published research by entomologist Dr Peter Ooi, the moth causes significant damage to the crop and was discovered as early as 1925 in Cameron Highlands.

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Learn making organic liquid fertiliser.

PANAP started the FFS to help farmers lessen their dependency on chemical inputs such as pesticides and chemical fertilizers manufactured by agribusiness which put our food safety in danger. Farmers also often lose their ability to make sound decisions based on their knowledge of agriculture and instead rely entirely on agriculture extension officers, and sellers as well as distributors of agrochemicals to carry out their agriculture practice. Clearly, it is profitable for agribusinesses but not the farmers who put themselves and consumers at great risk by using these chemical inputs.

The ramification of pesticides usage in Cameron Highlands was revealed in a study conducted by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in Cameron Highlands from 2014 to 2015. The study discovered that the rivers and tap water in Cameron had traces of highly toxic persistent organic pollutants such as endosulfan, which have been banned in Malaysia and globally under the Stockholm Convention.

The FFS in Blue Valley is part of the campaign, ‘Protect Our Children from Toxic Pesticides’ to raise awareness about the harmful impact of pesticides on human health particularly children. “These hazardous pesticides are extremely toxic to children and are linked to birth defects, learning disabilities, lowered I.Q. scores and cancer” said Deeppa Ravindran, Coordinator of the Protect Our Children from Toxic Pesticides Campaign.

“We must not lose sight of how profit-driven, corporate agricultural production dictates the type of food available, most of which have been produced with heavy dosage of pesticides that damage the environment and people’s health, especially children,” said PANAP executive director Sarojeni Rengam.

Recently, PANAP published ‘Replacing Chemicals with Biology:Phasing out highly hazardous pesticides with Agroecology’ which provides a wealth of case studies and data that proves farmers can make more money, ensure food safety and improve their health, and protect the environment by not using pesticides. PANAP along with Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International has also started a global petition urging governments and corporations to take concrete steps towards the phaseout and ban of highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) and to replace these with safe, sustainable and ecological alternative methods of pest control in order to protect children’s health.

Please contact Wong Pei Chin at 017 725 1758 or pei.panap@gmail.com for further details.

PANAP renews call for tighter regulation of agrochemicals and ban of highly hazardous pesticides amid batu gajah poisoning

test-tube

PENANG, Malaysia – PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) today renewed its call for authorities to more tightly regulate agrochemicals and ban the highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) amid reports of pesticide poisoning in Siputeh, Batu Gajah in Ipoh. Thirty seven people, aged two to 71, were rushed to the hospital – with four in critical condition – after eating food apparently contaminated with the pesticides from carbamate group from a local stall last 4 March. Weedicides were also traced near the premises.

“The tragedy illustrates the toxic effects of pesticides that are often acute and irreversible,” PANAP Executive Director, Sarojeni Rengam said. She also noted that the test conducted by the Department of Chemistry did not identify the specific type of pesticide but only looked at the general chemical group called carbamates.

“Therefore, we call for more stringent tests to identify the particular pesticide behind the poisoning for more rigorous regulation and hopefully, even making the manufacturers accountable,” added Rengam.

Pesticides from the carbamate group are generally neurotoxic and have been associated with adverse effects on human development, affecting both babies and children.

“People and children are continuously being poisoned by pesticides, and children are particularly more vulnerable. This must stop and authorities need to make necessary steps to protect and give children a save and healthy environment “ says Deeppa Ravindran, coordinator of the Protect Our Children from Toxic Pesticides Campaign.

Pesticides are widely rampant and sold in Malaysia, in the recent study done by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Cameron Highlands found highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) like Endrin,Aldrin, DDE and Endosulfan has been found in drinking water.

PANAP, together with PAN International, and other groups have launched an appeal to ban HHPs worldwide. More than 430 organizations from over 80 countries in all regions of the world have already signed the appeal. “We urge the public to support our campaign and sign the petition. The incident in Batu Gajah makes even more compelling our collective appeal to the government and agrochemical corporations to phase out the HHPs and protect our people, especially the children,” said Rengam. ###

Petition Link >>  HERE

For more information, please contact Deeppa Ravindran: deeppa.ravindran@panap.net

*Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Gender Heroes of the Asia-Pacific

By Sarojeni V. Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific

Farmer Bu Thi Huong and her pesticide-free vegetables, Hai Han Commune, Vietnam

Rural women are playing a leading role in the campaign against highly hazardous pesticides and in the promotion of ecological agriculture as a viable alternative. The Pesticides Action Network in Asia Pacific (PANAP) has been working closely with rural communities to further strengthen the role that such women can play.

Pesticide production and its use have commonly prioritized profits over the health of communities and the environment. As such, food sources and the environment of many rural communities have been adversely impacted. Farmers and agricultural workers that are heavily exposed to pesticides suffer a range of acute and chronic health effects. But the health impact has been especially harmful for rural women and children, who are at risk of endocrine disruption, among others.

PANAP thus challenges the dependency of small farmers on pesticides and helps empower communities to work towards the reduction and elimination of pesticide use. It focuses on women workers and farmers in Asia since their problems and issues are often not addressed due to marginalisation by cultural and social norms.

Among the approaches that PANAP has been using is participatory action research through Community-based Pesticide Action Monitoring (CPAM).

CPAM helps communities document the adverse impacts of pesticides, raises awareness and motivates them to adopt ecologically sound and sustainable agricultural practices. It also prompts them to influence governments and campaign for better pesticide regulation and implementation of international conventions on pesticides. Importantly, CPAM also provides leadership training for rural women.

In the past 10 years, learning exchanges and capacity-building workshops have been organized and CPAM surveys carried out in countries including Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Mongolia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. The results of these surveys were compiled and discussed at national and international meetings, stressing the need for national and global action.

In 2010, PANAP published the landmark “Asian Regional Report” produced by 12 organizations from 8 Asian countries. It was followed by the publication “Communities in Peril: Global Report on Health Impacts of Pesticide Use in Agriculture”. These publications helped in raising awareness and contributed to the campaign led by the NGO Tenaganita and female workers that stopped the use of paraquat and monocrotophos by a plantation operator in Malaysia and Indonesia.

As an alternative to pesticide use, CPAM encourages farming communities to move towards organic or ecological agriculture. PANAP has worked with Vikalpani (Sri Lankan Women’s Federation) on a series of training workshops on organic farming for its members. Many of them are now practicing organic agriculture in their home gardens and in their rice fields. One participant, Amara, went back to her community Monaragala and initiated awareness campaigns on pesticide impacts on health and the environment. She inspired the women in her community to learn ecological agriculture. Amara is now a well-established community leader and continues to pursue the empowerment of rural women and the promotion of ecological agriculture.

Another CPAM training participant is Huong from Vietnam. She was among those who pioneered training on Integrated Pest Management and Systems of Rice Intensification through farmer field schools. In these field schools, gender and environmental issues are discussed hand-in-hand. As President of the Women’s Union, Huong also organised the “No Pesticides Use Week” in Hai Van, which involved many women. This initiative highlighted the women’s demand for accessible and affordable agricultural inputs and less use of highly toxic pesticides.

In India, the local community in Kasargod, which has been working with PANAP partner Thanal, has successfully stopped the use of endosulfan after more than 10 years of campaigning, first in Kerala, then in other parts of India. The struggle of the community in Kasargod, where women leaders played a key role, as well as the support of many civil society organisations, inspired the inclusion of endosulfan in the list of Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in the Stockholm Convention.

PANAP continues its work to support the struggles of communities against pesticides; for the empowerment of rural women; and for the promotion of food sovereignty and ecological agriculture as alternatives. It has built solid partnerships with peasants, agricultural workers and rural women’s movements in the Asia Pacific region. PANAP now comprises 108 network partners in the region and has links with about 400 other civil society and grassroots organizations, at the national, regional and global levels.

Based on its experience, PANAP’s greatest asset and most powerful resource is its strong and growing network of people’s organizations and marginalized communities. Having such a dynamic network that represents diverse movements and organizations allows PANAP to build on its gains and to replicate its success stories through its various advocacies, including the elimination of hazardous pesticides and the promotion of ecological agriculture through the meaningful participation and leadership of rural women.

Published in Gender Heroes from Grassroots to Global Action:  A Collection of Stories Featuring Gender Perspectives on The Management of Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes.