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

International Women’s Day: Inspiring stories of women vs. pesticides

Press Release

“Farmers are unable or unwilling to focus on environmental or health issues so long as they are experiencing poverty. They are less willing to experiment, because they are afraid of risking yield,” said woman farmer Khonsawan from Nongno Village in Laos.

But the story of Khonsawan and other women farmers also show that change in behaviour can be inspired even by just one positive experience or example that farmers can witness for themselves.

As techniques and environmental health improve, so does the quality and quantity of their produce. These stories show that the advance of ecological agriculture practices are always accompanied with increase in income, as women begin to enjoy savings from not buying chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Khonsawan’s story and of other women farmers are compiled in the booklet “Stories from the field: Women working towards a non-toxic environment”. This booklet contains a collection of stories of 25 women from five countries who are involved in an inspiring, ongoing campaign to eliminate use of chemical pesticides and promote agroecology in the Mekong Region. It was launched today by the Towards a Non-Toxic Southeast Asia programme as it joins the commemoration of the International Women’s Day.

Towards a Non-Toxic Southeast Asia programme aims to reduce health and environmental risks from chemicals by monitoring, regulating and managing agricultural, industrial and consumer chemicals. It is an initiative of the Swedish Chemicals Agency (KemI), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), and The Field Alliance (TFA).

The impact of the programme and experiences of the partners are captured and summarized in 25 stories contained in the booklet. “The booklet provides positive examples that women and men, communities and organizations across the region can learn from, be inspired by and hopefully develop further” – Jenny Ronngren, Adviser/ Programme manager of International Unit, Swedish Chemicals Agency.

On average, women in Asia represent 40 to 50% of the world’s agricultural labour force. Their role in food production exposes them to pesticides. “Women are exposed as pesticide applicator and in other ways, including while working in the sprayed fields, during cleaning the spray tanks or when laundering clothes used during pesticide application. Unfortunately, women farmers and workers are discriminated and often do not have equal access to resources, education, training or information.” – Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PAN Asia Pacific.

This inequality has created gaps on how women understand the impact of pesticides on their health and their communities’ health as well as on the environment. They are also rarely involved in training and lack information on pesticide risk reduction initiatives or on safer pest management methods that includes ecological agriculture.

Thus, the programme throughout its implementation has introduced various tools and interventions consisting of Farmer Field Schools (FFS) – Integrated Pest Management (IPM)/Pesticide Risk Reduction (PRR) trainings, Community-based Pesticide Action Monitoring (CPAM), Rural Ecology and Agricultural Livelihoods (REAL) programs, policy advocacy, research and outreach, among others to actively address this gender gap.

The equal and meaningful participation of women in all activities conducted by partner organisations was ensured. This is in recognition of women’s marginalisation and double burden, made even more acute by the effects of uncontrolled use of toxic chemicals on their livelihood, health, environment, family and community.

It also fuelled most of their drive to inform other community members, including their husbands, on the harmful effects of pesticides. Significantly, these stories resonate with how pesticides use is most successfully reduced or even eliminated when accompanied with trainings and educational campaigns that introduce ecological agriculture practices, such as Farmer Field Schools-IPM and System of Rice Intensification. – Johannes Ketelaar, Chief Technical Advisor, FAO Regional Pesticide Risk Reduction Programme, FAO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific

Furthermore, organic produce are able to fetch higher prices at the market. In Peak District, Laos, SAEDA (Sustainable Agriculture & Environment Development Association) held trainings that led to the creation of the Organic Farmers Association, which now helps women market their produce. Additionally, the initiative contributed to increased consumer awareness and support for agro-biodiversity.

“Women farmers found most useful trainings that teach them how to make botanical pesticides and natural fertilizers, do composting, crop rotation, red-worm farming, and other techniques that reduce, if not totally rid them of dependence on chemical pesticides and fertilizers. In transitioning from chemical-intensive to IPM or even organic production, farmers in the beginning tended to be discouraged by the results. But as the women practiced and improved upon these techniques, the results only became better and more impressive, attracting the interest of more members of the community” Marut Jatiket, Director of The Field Alliance.

Government or institutional support is seen as crucial by women farmers, especially in the areas of access to water supply and market access for organic produce. Many women have also recognised that in order for alternative pest management to be successful and viable, it has to be applied in large-scale.

As Nguyet from the Hai Phu Commune in Vietnam said, “If I do not apply pesticides for my field while all other neighbours’ fields are sprayed with pesticides, there is no use at all.”

Still, even with the lack of strong government or institutional support, women who have been trained are determined to spread the knowledge and sustain initiatives through community organisations.

“It is very important to become a practitioner yourself, because authority and the power to persuade can only come from actually doing what one preaches,” said Tran Thi Len from the Hai Son Commune in Vietnam.

They gain empowerment not just among their community but also inside their homes. Not a few women told of how their husbands were initially obstructive of their newfound leadership roles, but eventually became highly supportive, especially when their health improved and their family income increased.

On the whole, these stories reflect the happier, healthier, and more enriching lives women lead once unshackled from dependence on pesticides and empowered with knowledge, experience and options with regards to managing their lands and livelihoods. They show the great ability of women in mobilising their families and communities towards a toxic-free environment. ###

Stories from the Field can be downloaded here: http://panap.net/2016/10/stories-field-women-working-towards-non-toxic-environment/

 

For more information please contact:-

Jenny Ronngren (KemI) – Jenny.Ronngren@kemi.se

Johannes Ketelaar (FAO Asia Pacific) – Johannes.Ketelaar@fao.org

Deeppa Ravindran (PANAP) – deeppa.ravindran@panap.net

Marut Jatiket (TFA) – thaied.found@gmail.com

PAN Vietnam Welcomes the Ban of Paraquat and 2,4-D

Updated 16.March.2017

Two weeks ago, the Vietnamese government officially announced an immediate ban on Syngenta’s paraquat, a highly hazardous pesticide (HHP) and Dow Chemicals’  2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), an organic compound found in Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

PAN Vietnam welcomes the Plant Protection Department under Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture’s decision to impose the ban upon having weighed in on the different scientific evidences that showed clear harms of the pesticides both on humans and environment.

“We are pleased by the move of the government of Vietnam that has prioritized the health of the Vietnamese people, and we encourage and look forward to more bans of highly hazardous pesticides in Vietnam,” said Nguyen Thi Hoa, Deputy Director of Centre for Sustainable Rural Development, one of the NGOs that forms the coalition of PAN Vietnam.

Nguyen Thi Hoa also added, “This is particularly a significant victory as many rural farmers, women and children are poisoned by herbicides like paraquat and 2,4-D in Vietnam.”

The prohibition on the use of paraquat and 2,4-D herbicides would most certainly safeguard many Vietnamese farmers, women, children and consumers from the detrimental effects of these two HHPs.

However, the ministry would still allow the trade and use of the products for two years under the phase-out period upon imposing the ban.

“We made the transition time two years so that enterprises can gradually eliminate these products,” Hoàng Trung, head of the Plant Protection Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said as quoted in Viet Nam News.

Sarojeni Rengam the Executive Director of PANAP said, “ The announcement of the ban is great, but it should happen immediately without the two-year transition period.”

She added, “It should have happened sooner with paraquat as it is known that three teaspoons of it is sufficient to kill a person but we’re extremely happy nonetheless. It is a tremendous step forward and we hope the government would adopt non-chemical alternatives such as agroecology agricultural practices.”

PARAQUAT & 2,4-D – INFO

Paraquat also known as Gramoxone as its trade name, has been implicated in the death of about 1,000 people every year in Vietnam.

In the long run, even if one survives paraquat poisoning, the person could still suffer from kidney failure, heart failure, and esophageal strictures (scarring of the swallowing tube that makes it hard for a person to swallow).*1

This HHP which is lethal and can cause acute health implications on a person is also highly toxic particularly to children. Upon exposure, paraquat could adversely affect the proper brain development of a child.

Meanwhile, 2,4-D was one of the two different herbicides  in Agent Orange used extensively by the United States in Vietnam during the war from 1961 to 1971. Although, the 2,4,5-T herbicide and not 2,4-D was identified as the reason for the vast amount of suffering associated with Agent Orange, according to WHO, 2,4-D is a possible carcinogen.

PARAQUAT & 2,4-D – WOMEN & PESTICIDE EXPOSURE

“A 2015 report  by PAN Vietnam  has revealed that farmers in Vietnam are not aware of the long term impacts of paraquat on health and environment. Pesticides sprayers especially are further impacted due to poverty (pesticides – dependent livelihoods) that exposes them to the many dangers of pesticides,” said Dr. Nguyen Van Kien, Director of the Research Center for Rural Development, An Giang University (RCRD).

Another report by the Women’s Pioneer Group  revealed that in the north of Vietnam, there are more women involved in agricultural work who are using pesticides in the fields compared to the South of Vietnam. Women are especially further impacted due to low literacy rates that exposes them to the many dangers of pesticides.

“More women are involved in agriculture in Hai Hau as men have left to the capital for work.  This is a concern because women are also highly susceptible to the effects of pesticides. Physically, they have higher absorption through skin and more body fat, and are further affected through reproductive impacts.

“Additionally, poverty and malnutrition intensify the effects of pesticides,” said Nguyen Kim Thuy, Executive Director of Research Centre for Gender, Family and Environment in Development (CGFED).

Paraquat sprayed in fields in Vietnam

Due to the severity of the paraquat poisonings, the issue has been brought to a Permanent People’s Tribunal Session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations. This session was organised by PAN International in India in 2011 and the proceedings were published here.

During the proceedings, a Malaysian pesticide sprayer, Nagama Raman affected by paraquat exposure provided her testimonial.

She highlighted her ongoing health problems due to the pesticide exposure and the many harassments and intimidations she had to deal with because of the complaints she raised due to the use of the pesticide.

As for now paraquat is banned in over 38 countries due to its severe impacts on human health. This latest ban comes after many years of hard work of organizations like Research Center for Rural Development, CGFED and SRD, collectively making PAN Vietnam.

In 2013, PAN Vietnam highlighted the impacts of paraquat in a national seminar and on national television . Pham Kim Ngoc, consultant from CGFED as seen on the national Vietnamese Television.

Children are exposed to herbicides in Vietnam

 

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

REFERENCE

  1. Facts about paraquat

Israel’s Toxic Pesticides Poison Palestine, Reports Find

Press Release

Israel’s Illegal Production, Trade and Dumping of Toxic Pesticides Violate Human Rights, Threaten Food Sovereignty in Occupied West Bank

Confiscated banned pesticides illegally traded into Occupied Palestinian Territories from Israel. Dukatalon (paraquat and diquat) from Syngenta (L) and Israeli-manufactured endosulfan Thionex (R). Photo credit: Tanya Lee

February 20 (Amman, Jordan) ¬– The illegal trade and the manufacture and use of toxic pesticides in Israeli illegal settlements, result in serious human rights violations and contribute to the food insecurity in the Occupied West Bank. This was the conclusion of a joint fact-finding mission led by the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) and the PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP).

The investigation reveals the presence of highly hazardous pesticides banned by the Palestinian Authority (PA), such as endosulfan and Dukatalon (paraquat), but illegally traded into the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The reports found that 50% of pesticides in Palestine are illegal, and that five tonnes of banned pesticides have been confiscated since 1995.
Palestine is in no position to dispose of these safely, and Israel refuses to take them back. “It is unacceptable that the PA, with one of the tightest pesticide registration and compliance systems, including not allowing pesticides that are banned in their country of origin, is thwarted at every turn by the Israeli authorities who knowingly facilitate the entry of banned highly hazardous pesticides into the Occupied West Bank,” says Dr. Meriel Watts of PANAP, who participated in the mission.

Pesticide run-off from agricultural operations and hazardous wastes from the manufacture of agrochemicals inside the illegal settlements poison Palestinian farms, livestock, and water sources. Dumping hazardous wastes in Palestinian territory has been documented, including in areas with a high concentration of schools. Communities near Israel’s industrial settlements in the West Bank have reported contamination of their soil and drinking water, proliferation of disease-carrying mosquitoes, and increased incidence of respiratory and eye diseases, including among children. “Some of these agrochemical companies have been shut down inside the Green Line for violations of environmental and health regulations, but operate with impunity inside illegal settlements at the expense of the health, livelihood and environment of Palestinians,” said Razan Zuayter, founder and Board Member of APN. Moreover, the PA does not have access to information on the chemicals manufactured and used inside the illegal settlements.

These activities have been found to violate Palestinians’ rights to information, self-determination, water, highest attainable standard of health and healthy environment, and livelihood. The Israeli State and agrochemical corporations have been identified as accountable for their failure to prevent the illegal trade, and for not providing access to just and fair redress and effective remedy, the reports argue. Razan adds, “these human rights violations are perpetrated in the context of the Israeli occupation and expansion of the illegal settlements”. She cites Israeli control prevents PA from fully enforcing policies to restrict the trade, manufacture and use of around 200 registered active ingredients in Occupied West Bank, as well as to respond to the crisis.

The two reports will be launched along with an international online petition outlining recommendations for the international community. “What more perfect timing to launch the reports but on World Social Justice Day, with the urgent need to bridge the accountability gap and hold the Israeli State and agrochemical companies legally liable for their injustice to the Palestinian people,” concludes Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PANAP.

#StopPoisoningPalestine #WorldSocialJusticeDay #PesticidesFreeWorld

To download the reports: Pesticides and Agroecology in the Occupied West Bank
Human Rights and Toxic Chemicals in the Occupied West Bank (Palestine)
To access the online petition: Stop Poisoning Palestine

###

For more information, please contact:

Ms Razan Zuayter, Board Member, Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN), Amman, Jordan
Tel: +962 (6) 567 3331; info@apnature.org, cc mariamjaajaa@gmail.com, advocacy@apnature.org

Ms Sarojeni V. Rengam, Executive Director, PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP), Penang Malaysia. Tel: +604 657 0271/ +604 656 0381; sarojeni.rengam@panap.net, cc ava.danlog@panap.net

Dr Meriel Watts, PAN Asia Pacific, merielwatts@xtra.co.nz, + 61-21-1807830

#NoLandNoLife | An appeal to stop killing farmers, Lumad fighting land grabs, and pursue peace to address land issue as cause of conflict in the Philippines

As working closely with farmers and farmworkers’ groups and human rights advocates in the Philippines, we are alarmed by what appears to be an escalation of the attacks against leaders of rural communities fighting for their land and rights.

Since the start of the year, unknown assailants have killed five people already for reasons that could be related to their role in opposing land grabbers in their communities. This translates to one killing per week.

Among those killed are Lumad leaders Venie Diamante (killed on 5 January), Veronico Delamente (20 January), and Renato Anglao (3 February). Lumad pertains to the indigenous people in Mindanao, the country’s southernmost island. Accounts say that the victims are involved in resisting the encroachment on their ancestral lands by a palm oil plantation, a mining firm, and a pineapple plantation.

The two other victims are farmer-leaders Alexander Ceballos (20 January) and Wencislao Pacquiao (25 January). They are both active in opposing schemes by local politicians to seize lands from the farmers, based on reports. Ceballos’s assailants also hit his four-year old niece.

Photo by UMA

Such assaults have been going on for a long time now. Filipino activists and human rights groups pin the blame on the military’s counterinsurgency campaigns for these extrajudicial killings as well as other human rights violations.

Based on our monitoring, from January 2015 up to the present alone, at least 46 Filipino farmers, indigenous people and activists engaged in land struggles and conflicts have been killed already. (See Land & Rights Watch – http://panap.net/2017/01/land-and-rights-watch-20170131-2)

Compounding this is the reported termination recently by the Philippine President, Mr. Rodrigo Duterte, of the peace talks with revolutionary groups represented by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). Mr. Duterte’s decision came at a time when the peace panels are already negotiating key social and economic reforms that aim to address the roots of armed conflict in the country – chief of which is landlessness and poverty in the rural areas.

We share the anxiety of our Filipino friends and fellow advocates of the people’s right to land and resources that this unfortunate development could lead to more atrocities against rural communities, especially those that are resisting land grabbing.

We urge the Duterte administration to seriously look not just into the recent spate of killings of Lumad and farmers but past similar killings as well, immediately make those responsible to account for their crimes, and help end the reign of impunity that has long been gripping the Philippine countryside.

We also join the peace advocates in the Philippines in their appeal to both the Duterte administration and the NDFP not to totally abandon the ongoing peace negotiations. We believe that it provides a useful venue to institute the needed policy reforms that will help address the land issue which fuels rural unrest and the armed conflict. ###

PANAP calls for global governance of hazardous pesticides to protect children beyond 2020

Tomorrow is world cancer day, globally children are exposed to pesticides in their everyday lives. Pesticides have been linked to long-term health impacts including cancer, leukemia and learning disorders.

Now more than ever stricter global mechanisms are needed to regulate pesticides globally. PAN Asia Pacific calls upon SAICM in its intercessional process taking place on the 7th to 9th February, 2017 in Brazil to develop a mechanism for global governance of pesticides and phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides, with special attention to the rights and needs of children.

Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP’s Executive Director said that “Regulatory processes and policies fail to protect children from pesticides due to the lack of political will to question norms and apply the precautionary principle.”

PANAP’s submission to SAICM outlines PAN Asia Pacific’s concern about the impact of hazardous pesticides on children, and the need for greatly improved global governance of pesticides post 2020, to protect the rights of children and to meet the Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030.

Children in Asia are particularly more vulnerable as their developing bodies are exposed to pesticides near schools, through their diet and their environments.  In many rural areas in Asia, poverty forces children work on farms and plantations. In some cases, children are exposed to pesticide spray drifts from farms and also sprayed on aerially e.g. Philippines.

“Children’s continuous exposure to pesticides is undeniable and unacceptable,” Rengam continues. She noted that numerous cases of child poisoning occur throughout the world but are particularly high in Asia.  She particularly mentioned the events in Cambodia where insecticide-tainted cucumbers caused the mass poisoning of villagers 440 of whom are children as recently as 2015, and at least 27 children in India aged 4 to 12 were fatally poisoned by monocrotophos in 2013.  Monocrotophos, a highly hazardous pesticide is still being sold in India despite WHO warnings to ban the pesticide.

Despite stricter regulations, pesticide residues have been found in food and water in food samples in Asia Pacific.  The insecticides cypermethrin, chlorpyrifos, and diazinon are among those detected in fruits and vegetables from Southeast Asia. These three belong to the list of Terrible Twenty pesticides highly hazardous to children as they cause cancer, endocrine disruption, and neurological disorders among others.

According to Dr Meriel Watts, author of Poisoning our future: Children and Pesticides, “There is still very little understanding of the extent of acute poisoning by pesticides and its chronic impacts on health and the environment.” She added that “The Bhopal, Kasargod and Kamukhaan tragedies have led to the suffering and death of countless men, women and children, and yet, we have not taken extreme measures to prevent its recurrence.” These tragedies are recounted in the PANAP submission.

PANAP brings to fore the existence of double standards in the international trade of pesticides from developed to developing countries. Numerous highly hazardous pesticides, such as paraquat, are produced in and exported from countries that do not allow their use.

This situation is intensified by 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 to the continued impact of pesticides on children’s health and well-being.

Deeppa Ravindran, Pesticide Programme Coordinator of PANAP calls on the SAICM participants to “uphold the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. We at PAN Asia Pacific calls upon SAICM in its intercessional process to develop a mechanism to be adopted by ICCM5 for global governance of pesticides and phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides, with special attention to the rights and needs of children.”

Take Action >>  Join us in taking a stand for children’s health

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

#NoLandNoLife | PANAP joins solidarity mission vs. land grabbing, repression of farmers in Philippine banana plantation

Press Statement

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Regional advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) joined a solidarity and fact finding mission for farmers and farm workers engaged in a land dispute against Lapanday Foods Corp., one of the Philippines’ largest banana plantation operators in Madaum village, Tagum City in Mindanao on 15 December.

In the past week, 10 people have been reportedly wounded in three separate shooting incidents as Lapanday security personnel tried to take down the camp out of farmers and farm workers asserting their rightful claim to 145 hectares of land grabbed by the company.

“We are deeply alarmed that these cases of violence seem to be committed by the alleged security people of Lapanday boldy and without fear of being held liable. We went here to let the farmers know that many groups, including those outside Mindanao and the Philippines, are supporting them. We join in the call for justice and accountability. We join in the call that the rightful claim of the farmers to their land be respected,” said Deeppa Ravindran, a program coordinator for PANAP, during the solidarity mission in Madaum.

PANAP also found out that aside from bullets, Lapanday also allegedly used toxic agrochemicals to drive away the protesting farmers. On the morning of 12 December, a Lapanday plane sprayed pesticide twice in the direction of farmers and their children who were having breakfast then. The aerial spraying “hurt their eyes and nose”, said one farmer.

“Pesticides, of course, have other long-term health impacts, including cancer and learning disorder, with children the most vulnerable. This is outrageous and enraging. Is Lapanday also using poisonous pesticides against the farmers and their innocent children? Someone should be made accountable here and we call on the authorities for a prompt and impartial probe,” Ravindran emphasized.

According to PANAP partners Peasant Movement of the Philippines (KMP) and the Union of Agricultural Workers (UMA), the plantation’s workers had been picketing in front of the Lapanday gate for the past seven months and decided to reclaim the 145-hectare land with support from other farmers’ groups last 9 December. The said land has already been awarded by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to 159 Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs).

Based on initial accounts, seven of those wounded were from the shooting incident on 14 December while three were hurt on a separate incident on 12 December. The first shooting incident happened on 9 December, the first day of the camp out, but no one was reported injured.

In a statement on International Human Rights Day (10 December), PANAP revealed that almost 16 farmers, indigenous people, and advocates of the people’s right to land were being killed every month this year – or three times the average in 2015 – in Asia Pacific and other regions. The data cover incidents that occurred in the Philippines. ###

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

Killings of defenders of people’s right to land, three times worse in 2016 – PANAP

PENANG, Malaysia – Advocacy group PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) today said that the attacks against defenders of the people’s right to land and resources continued to intensify and worsened to even more alarming levels in 2016.

An average of almost 16 farmers, indigenous people, and advocates of the people’s right to land were being killed every month this year – or three times the average in 2015 – in Asia Pacific and other regions, the group claimed.

PANAP made the statement as the world marks the International Human Rights Day on 10 December.

“The sharp rise in the number of killings and the overall increase in human rights atrocities against poor rural communities embroiled in land conflicts is alarming, to say the least. It underscores the impunity with which these political killings and brutalities are being committed,” said Ms. Sarojeni Rengam, PANAP executive director.

In 2015, PANAP monitored 61 victims of killings that ballooned to 171 from January to November 2016. There were also 32 victims of frustrated killings, adding up to the 54 victims last year. Meanwhile, the victims of arbitrary detention from January to November this year numbered 118 and trumped up charges, 14; in 2015, the figures were 127 and 82 victims, respectively.

The trend in worsening killings noted by PANAP is consistent with the data compiled by UK-based campaign group Global Witness, which has been tracking the killings of environmental and land activists since 2002. Global Witness reported that in the past 13 years there have been 1,209 killings of land and environmental activists worldwide. The trend has worsened with the average killings per year more than doubling from 55 annually in 2002 to 2009 to 128 in 2010 to 2015. Last year was the worst year, said Global Witness, with killings recorded at 185.

“These human rights violations represent double repression. The people’s collective rights to own or control their land and resources for livelihood and cultural needs are wantonly being violated by corporations and governments. When these people rightfully resist and defend their rights, they are harassed and in many cases, killed,” Rengam said.

PANAP’s data are based on its Land & Rights (L&R) Watch initiative, which monitors various cases of human rights violations against farmers, indigenous people, and advocates of the right to land and resources. L&R Watch started compiling data based on online reports and reports from PANAP partners in the region in January 2015 and is an ongoing effort. The latest data are as of end-November 2016.

Land grabs to intensify

PANAP expressed concern that the atrocities will not just continue but will even further intensify as recent global and regional trends and developments are fanning social conflicts in the countryside between rural communities and governments and profit-seeking corporations and local elites. The onslaught to monopolize land and resources for private profits – and massively displace peasant and indigenous communities, in the process – has intensified more than ever.

“One particular trend that should be closely watched in relation to our campaign against land grabbing in the region is the steady rise of China as an economic giant and the consequent surge in its appetite for more land and resources to feed its economy,” said Rengam.

PANAP noted that China has been leading the efforts to push for more trade and investment liberalization through its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), especially with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) expected to slow down under a Trump administration in the US.

China is also aggressively funding infrastructure development projects that stir land conflicts such as its ambitious trillion-dollar modern “Silk Road” covering about 60 countries. Public-private partnership (PPP) to build infrastructure that lead to massive displacement of rural folks will get a boost as well with the recently established China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), along with the usual PPP funders like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In a recent meeting with peasant and indigenous leaders and campaigners from Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, PANAP learned of the increasing Chinese presence or involvement in various development projects such as in economic zones, plantations, eco-tourism, and others that displaced or are feared to displace numerous rural communities.

Greater vigilance, resistance and support

“Now more than ever, we need greater vigilance and resistance to protect and advance the people’s collective right to land and resources. We must generate broader support for the peasant and indigenous communities that are fighting back as those who want to take away their farm and ancestral lands for profit become more and bigger,” Rengam emphasized.

The PANAP official pointed out that while China is emerging as a new formidable foe, the usual powerful forces and players remain such as the local elite and corrupt politicians, and the corporations and financial institutions from the West.

“It’s good that the theme for this year (of the International Human Rights Day) is to stand up for someone’s rights. It’s a call for everyone who believe in what is just and democratic to stand up for the landless and join the movement to defend the people’s rights,” said Rengam. ###

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

Free detained land activists and all political prisoners in the Philippines

PENANG, Malaysia – Consistent with our advocacy to defend and promote human rights – including the people’s right to land – we support our friends and allies in the Philippines as they call on their national government to immediately release all political prisoners.

amnestynowph-manilaAs noted by one of our partners, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), majority of these political detainees “are farmers and land reform advocates who were arrested, charged with fabricated cases and jailed because of their struggle for land and democratic rights”.

We believe that the appeal for their release through a general amnesty is a fair and legitimate demand. Their prolonged detention is a form of continuing repression, aggravated by the fact that their imprisonment was caused by merely asserting their rightful claim to land and rights, and standing up for what is just.

We also note the urgency of the call as bitterly demonstrated by the recent death of peasant political prisoner Bernabe Ocasla due to cardiac arrest and lack of proper medical attention because of his continued detention. Twelve other political prisoners have already died under similar circumstances since 2010.

amnestynowph-penangThe criminalization of the struggle for land of peasants and indigenous people is a scheme that is prevalent not only in the Philippines but also in the region. Along with other forms of human rights violations, the filing of trumped up charges and detention of land rights activists and members of local communities are happening as well in other countries.

But Filipino activists, including those who are involved in land struggles, are among who suffer most from the filing of fabricated cases. Based on our monitoring, 19 Filipino farmers, indigenous people, and land activists have been filed with trumped up charges in the last two years alone. That’s almost 20% of the total number of victims of trumped charges related to land struggles and conflicts that we have monitored in Asia Pacific and other regions during the said period.

We respectfully urge the Philippine government under President Rodrigo Duterte to heed the people’s appeal for the release of all political prisoners. We hope that like the theme of this year’s International Human Rights Day on 10 December, Mr. Duterte will stand up for the rights of Filipino political prisoners who did not commit any crime but merely served and fought for the poor and landless. ###

Reference: Sarojeni Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific, Executive Director, nolandnolife@panap.net

#NoLandNoLife #AmnestyNowPH

Support and sign the online petition by Pilgrims for Peace, Release Political Prisoners in the Philippines: Support the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks! You may access the petition through: https://www.change.org/p/release-political-prisoners-in-the-philippines-support-the-grp-ndfp-peace-talks.