PAN Philippines seeks explanation from the Philippines’ Designated National Authority on the decision to block the listing of carbosulfan in RC Annex III

The Philippine delegates to BRS COPs, EMB OIC Dir. Jacqueline Caancan (2nd from left) and Chief of EMB Hazardous Waste Management Section Mr Geri-Geronimo Sanez (right most) with Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions (1st from left). Also in the picture are Dr. Carmela Centeno and Ms. Linda Galvan of UNIDO (3rd and 4th from left). (Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/63284352@N08/albums/72157679832024654/with/34281739016/)

 

The news that the Philippines is one of the two countries that blocked the inclusion of carbosulfan in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention (RC) is extremely appalling.

PAN-Philippines is among the stakeholders who supported the UNEP-FAO Chemical Review Committee’s (CRC) decision to include the eight chemicals found hazardous to human health and the environment in the RC’s Annex III during the stakeholders’ meeting called by the DENR EMB for the development of the Philippine’s position on the matter.

During the April 18 meeting, Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, and the Food and Drugs Administration voiced out their firm support on CRC’s recommendation citing references to back-up their positions. The only opposition to the listing of the pesticides carbosulfan, carbofuran, paraquat SHPF and fenthion SHPF came from CropLife Philippines. Thus, Dir. Wilfredo Roldan’s blocking of the listing of carbosulfan came as a surprise.  Dir. Roldan is the Head of the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) and the country’s Designated National Authority (DNA) on pesticides to the tri-COPs.

PAN Phil’s President, Dr. Romeo Quijano exclaimed, “The official Philippine opposition to the listing of carbosulfan is both alarming and suspicious since carbosulfan is not even a registered pesticide in the Philippines. It is common knowledge that the Philippine FPA is highly influenced by the pesticide industry and their non-attendance to the pre-COPs meeting is dubious.”

Even the DENR-EMB officials expressed their concern when not a single FPA representative attended the stakeholders’ meeting.

Dr Quijano continued, “Carbosulfan is banned in 40 countries. It is toxic to humans when inhaled and highly toxic to birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates and bees. Carbofuran, its major metabolite, is more toxic. Although banned in 49 countries, it is still in use in Mindanao plantations. Both pesticides present unacceptable risks to workers carrying out certain tasks such as mixing, loading, application and post-application.”

Carbofuran, trichlorfon, tributyltin compounds and short-chain chlorinated paraffins were approved for listing in the Annex III. Due to dissenting votes, carbosulfan, paraquat SHPF, fenthion SHPF and chryostile asbestos were not included.

Pesticide/Chemical Countries that opposed listing
Carbosulfan Indonesia, Philippines
Paraquat SHPF Guatemala, India, Chile, Indonesia
Fenthion SHPF Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia
Chryostile asbestos Russia, India, Zimbabwe, Kyrgyzstan, Kazachstan

PANAP Executive Director Sarojeni Rengam was aghast. “The registration of carbosulfan-based pesticides in CILSS countries was stopped in 2006 due to the disappearance of beneficial organisms and the lack of protective equipment by users.  EU stopped giving authorizations for carbosulfan-containing plant protection products in 16 June 2007, and banned it entirely in December 2008. The CILSS Coordinating Minister (Minister of Agriculture and Environment) banned it in April 2015 due to unacceptable risk to human health.

“I do not understand why Philippines and Indonesia, both with climate that makes the use of personal protective equipment impractical, blocked the listing of carbosulfan. Inclusion in the Annex III should have been welcomed by the country DNAs since this would help State Governments monitor the entry of hazardous pesticides and chemicals and hold accountable corporations that trade and utilize these,” she said.

A 2017 Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified awardee, Ms Rengam is specially saddened by the nonlisting of the three pesticides on account of the intensified risk on women. “Carbosulfan, paraquat and fenthion are considered by PAN as highly hazardous pesticides. Women are most vulnerable to HHP’s harmful effects. They lack medical support and are rarely taken seriously,” she lamented.

Paraquat, banned in 38 countries, is still registered for use in the Philippines until June 2017.

A DENR-EMB representative informed PAN-Phil that they do not have a copy of the Philippine position and that Dir. Roldan, who could not be reached for comment as of this writing, is the only person who can clarify the issue.

Contact: Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director, PANAP (sarojeni.rengam@panap.net)

 

The gains and losses of the Triple COPs entail more work for civil societies and developing countries

PAN delegates (third from left, Jayakumar, Keith Tyrel, Susan Haffmans, Sarojeni Rengam & seventh from left, Dr.Meriel Watts) seen applauding during the adoption of the 50th chemical listed under the Rotterdam Convention.

PAN welcomes the positive outcomes and discussions during the Triple Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) conventions which took place in Geneva, Switzerland from April 24 to May 5, 2017.

PAN is pleased that two pesticides, carbofuran and trichlorfon, were listed in the Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. The listing comes as a huge step forward in addressing the numerous cases of poisoning of people and wildlife brought about by these pesticides.

Pesticides listed in Annex 3 of the Rotterdam Convention will be subject to a procedure (Prior Informed Consent Procedure) whereby an informed decision of a country would be needed before a country gives consent or not for future importation of the pesticide. Listing does not constitute a ban. It opens avenues for developing countries to build their capacity to evaluate pesticides and adopt agroecological strategies in managing pests.

PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) Executive Director, Sarojeni Rengam also welcomed the serious discussion of gender issues in the Triple COPs.

“As the impact of chemicals on the health of women and children is too often ignored, involving women in decision making and in programmes to reduce highly hazardous pesticides and to replace them with agroecology is essential.

“We need policies to support women’s leadership in all levels and programmes to strengthen their capacity,” said Rengam, who is also a 2017 Gender Pioneers awardee.

Despite the positive outcomes, PANAP Senior Science Advisor Dr. Meriel Watts, is however disappointed that civil society organisations (CSOs) such as PAN, were excluded from important discussions on the effectiveness of the Rotterdam Convention.

“As CSOs, we have much to contribute and we hope that CSOs will be included in future discussions on this issue,” she said.

There was also disappointment when no consensus was reached on the listing of carbosulfan and pesticide formulations paraquat dichloride and fenthion in Annex 3 of Rotterdam Convention even though the Parties agreed they met the criteria for the listing.

“Rotterdam facilitates information sharing and so we urge those countries who blocked the inclusion of carbosulfan, and the two pesticide formulations, paraquat and fenthion, in the list to go to fields and plantations and see the real impact of these chemicals on the health of workers, farmers and their communities and the environment and not just look at its narrow economic benefits,” said Rengam.

PAN further calls upon all Parties to the Conventions to act on the State of Palestine’s request for assistance with the removal of and the monitoring and prevention of illegal traffic of banned pesticides and chemical wastes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank Region.

Dr.Watts reiterated, “A programme for monitoring and clean-up in this region is desperately needed.”

In parting, Dr.Watts said, “We welcome the COPs recognition of the need to link human rights and sound management of chemicals and waste, and thus, we strongly suggest specific discussion on this is included in the next BRS agenda.”
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Contacts:
Sarojeni Rengam – sarojeni.rengam@panap.net
Dr.Meriel Watts – meriel@merielwatts.net

 

Chemical leak in New Delhi strengthens the need for pesticide-free buffer zones

School girls being treated at a New Delhi hospital after exposure to CCMP. (Source: PTI photo)

The New Delhi chemical leak that largely affected students in two different schools and residents in southeast Delhi’s Tughlakabad area is another horrifying reminder for an urgent and immediate establishment of buffer zones around schools to protect the most vulnerable populace – children.

“The 6th of May CCMP  (2-Chloro-5-chloromethyl-pyridine) leak in New Delhi has  affected 475 school girls, and at least 37 teachers and residents in the Tughlakabad area. This makes our call for the establishment of at least 2 km pesticide-free buffer zones around schools extremely urgent.

“This could have been prevented if some preemptive measures were taken earlier given that the schools (Jhansi School and Government Girls Senior Secondary School) are just about 100 m away from the Tughlakabad depot, where the container truck that leaked toxic fumes was parked,” says PANAP Executive Director, Sarojeni Rengam.

The container was brought to India from China by road, and was in the depot for three days awaiting Custom’s clearance.  Bound for a factory in Sonipat, Haryana the truck contained 80 drums of liquid CCMP used in pesticides. Leaks from 3-4 drums vaporised upon contact with the air and drifted to the schools and residences.

CCMP is considered a hazardous substance by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and thus, the fact that the truck driver was not able to associate his dizziness to the chemical would only indicate his lack of training and knowledge on the dangers of CCMP.

“What is more worrying is that the driver informed the authorities only after four hours of having noticed the leak!” Rengam who is also the 2017 Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified awardee added.

Victims reported breathing difficulty, severe burning sensation in the eyes and on the skin, headache, nausea and vomiting. Some even became unconscious.

Times of India reported, “Personnel from the National Disaster Response Force cordoned off the area and took measures to neutralise the effect of the leak. Later, a team from NDRF’s nuclear, biological and chemical disposal unit reached the scene and covered the liquid with salt to cut off the fumes.”

PANAP’s Pesticide Programme Coordinator Deeppa Ravindran said, “Exposure to CCMP can result in various health complications.”

She shared that based on the findings of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) on test animals, CCMP is rapidly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and via the skin and could affect the spleen, liver, lungs, and forestomach.

PANAP and its partners have been urging state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones especially around schools precisely because of this type of unwanted incidents that harm the children.

Ravindran added, “Incident after incident such as this chemical leak keeps on showing that schools especially in Asia that are meant to be safe sanctuaries for children to learn and grow are consistently becoming dangerous. It is important that the survival and development of the child be ensured to the maximum extent possible.”

Accordingly, ECHA reports that “Doses of 250 mg/kg and above in males, and the dose of 500 mg/kg bw in females, produced clinical signs and mortalities in both sexes. Necropsy findings of animals which died included darkened livers, pale spleen, reddened forestomach with ulcer-like lesions, enlarged stomachs filled with mixture of feed and water, and expanded lungs.”

CCMP is used in the production of the agro-insecticide imidacloroprid, which has been found to be extremely toxic to non-target insects like bees, and recently has led to resistance in the Colorado potato beetle.

Dr. Meriel Watts, author of Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing out highly hazardous pesticides with agroecology reiterated the need to veer away from the use of hazardous pesticides.  She echoed Rengam and Ravindran’s appeal saying “State Governments must come up with policies towards the establishment of pesticide-free buffer zones at least around schools while transitioning to human and environment-friendly agriculture.”

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TAKE ACTION >> Protect our children by signing this petition here.

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

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’s Sarojeni Rengam clinches award for championing women’s struggle against toxic pesticides

For her efforts in championing women’s issues in various campaigns against toxic pesticides in the past 25 years, Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of Malaysia-based PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), was recognized in the Conferences of the Parties (COPs) to the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions on May 3, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Rengam was among the recipients of the ‘Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified’ award given by the BRS Conventions for distinguished advocates of advancing gender equality and mainstreaming gender issues in the area of chemicals and wastes.

In her speech accepting the award, Rengam acknowledged the millions of rural women on the ground that 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. This 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,” Rengam said.

Ule Johanson, senior advisor for Development Cooperation, International Unit of Swedish Chemicals Agency (KEMI) who nominated Rengam for the award said, “We are very happy to hear that Ms. Rengam has received this award. Her long and persistent fight for human rights at all levels and in particular for rural women is noteworthy and makes her a perfect choice.”

Dr. Burnad Fathima Natesan of the Asian Rural Women’s Coalition (ARWC) said this is a proud moment for many rural women whose rights and interests Rengam has steadfastly fought for in PANAP’s campaigns, including on harmful pesticides and right to land and resources.

“The impact and awareness she has created in helping rural women understand the hazards of pesticide application in their fields and the impacts on one’s health, especially on women’s reproductive health, makes her the right person for this award,” Burnad said.

Burnad pointed out that Rengam has initiated a special program called Women and Agriculture in PANAP to study and look into the aspect of women’s land rights and to expose the role of corporations in promoting highly hazardous pesticides. “The rural women from India and from women’s movements in the region rejoice over this special moment,” said Burnad.

The PANAP official is known for her strong position on issues of women, farmers, farm workers, indigenous people and other marginalised rural sectors.

Glorene Amala, Executive Director of Tenaganita, a Malaysia-based advocacy group working with migrants, refugees and women, described Rengam as an “embodiment of women empowerment”. She continues to inspire women through her leadership by building women’s resistance against pesticides and chemicals through many programs and activities nationally, regionally and at the global level,” Amala said.

Situations change when people are informed and empowered.

“To make things change you have to educate and empower people. To improve farming conditions and reduce the negative impact of pesticide use you have to collect evidence of malpractice and cases of people getting hurt. Rengam has done all of this, and year by year conditions start to improve,” said KEMI’s Ule.

Amala added, “Her (Rengam’s) work has brought about tremendous changes in the lives of those who have been affected with pesticides and chemicals as she led many of them in global actions and movement on environment issues, food security and sovereignty, and women’s rights over land and productive resources.”

Based in Switzerland, the BRS Conventions are multilateral environmental agreements that aim to protect human health and the environment from hazardous chemicals and wastes. The “Gender Pioneers for a Future Detoxified” award is part of its activities on gender equality.

Click here to read Sarojeni Rengam’s acceptance speech

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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

 

 

PAN International statement on amendments to the Rotterdam Convention

On behalf of PAN International, Sarojeni Rengam from PAN Asia Pacific delivered the intervention on amendments to the Rotterdam Convention

Thank you Mr President.  PAN would like to thank the Rotterdam Convention secretariat and the Governments of Australia and Lativa for supporting the intercessional process and we appreciated the opportunity to participate in it and contribute positively.

PAN International a network of 600 organisations in over 60 countries is concerned about the situation in recent years, where a small number of Parties have been able to block the listing of certain pesticides and chemicals even though they meet the Convention’s scientific criteria and where a majority of parties have supported their listing. The treaty promotes information sharing for listed chemicals, and in blocking their listing, developing countries are denied the information and technical support to deal with them to protect the health of their people and the environment.

PAN supports amending the convention to allow listing by voting if a small number of countries continue to undermine the integrity of the Convention by using spurious reasons not consistent with the treaty to prevent other countries having access to information on the risks posed by certain pesticides and other chemicals.

Over the last 4 COPs we have urged parties to honour the intent of the Convention and agree listing in a spirit of consensus, but increasingly we see the majority of countries denied their rights, and the rights of the men women and children in their countries, by a very few. That is not the spirit of consensus. Consensus requires all parties to take responsibility for their decision – it does not mean holding the majority to ransom, it means stepping aside even if you don’t agree, especially if your reason is inconsistent with the treaty.

In the absence of a will by all to exercise responsible consensus, we would see an amendment to allow voting as necessary.

At the Stockholm Convention: PAN International statement on DDT

On behalf of PAN International, Maimouna from PAN Africa gives intervention on DDT at the Stockholm COP

Thank you Mr President

I am from PAN Africa, speaking on behalf of PAN International.

PAN notes with concern the illegal use of DDT in agriculture and in the fight against diseases other than malaria, uses that are not listed as acceptable under the Convention.

PAN also notes that, in the long term, DDT is ineffective in the fight against malaria, as resistance is rapidly spreading across Africa. Ultimately, this fight can only be sustainably won by deploying ecological methods of control.

Global funding for malaria control has increased from US $ 960 million in 2005 to US $ 2.5 billion in 2014. But the search for alternatives to chemically-intensive malaria control has not been a priority and little funding has been directed to it.

There are highly effective approaches to integrated vector management not dependent on the use of DDT, that have proven successful for malaria control in the African, Latin American and Asian contexts. Methods include biological controls, environmental management, physical traps and natural plant-based insecticides.

PAN has been successfully engaged in the fight against malaria using ecological means for some years in communities in Africa.
PAN strongly rejects the use of DDT and urges all Parties to the Stockholm Convention to encourage alternatives to DDT and actively support ecological methods of fighting malaria.

PAN also calls on funders to urgently direct greater resources to the development of sustainable ecological approaches to the management of malaria, leishmaniasis and other vector-borne diseases.

Thank you Mr President

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

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

 

Press statement

29 March 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the recommendations of the report;

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

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

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

(c) Promote agroecology;

(d) Place strict liability on pesticide producers.

  1. States should:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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