Reflections on Triple COPs’ gains and losses for civil societies

By: Dr. Meriel Watts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Community Monitoring Shows Pattern of Labour Violations in Southeast Asia Plantations


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

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

Health concerns over hazardous pesticides

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

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

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

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

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

Inadequate training and protective equipment

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

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

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

Casual, underpaid and overworked women

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

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

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

Impact on children

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

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

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

Addressing the violations

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

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

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

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

Take Action >> Protect Children in rural communities against pesticides

Reference:

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

Report Links:

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

#PesticidesFreeWorld #CorporateAccountability #ProtectOurChildrenFromPesticides #ProtectChildrenNotProfits

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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


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

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

 

Palestinian children are not spared from the illegal dumping of pesticides

 

Last month a joint APN-PANAP report revealed some gruesome facts of Palestinian children suffering a myriad of health impacts. A young school child has become a victim of blood cancer. Many are asthmatic or have respiratory problems. Generally, these are the common observations among children in towns near the Israeli-operated Geshuri agrochemical manufacturing plant.

Children are especially vulnerable to toxic pesticides because they breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight which leads to greater exposure in a toxin-contaminated environment.

Fatima Al-Zahra’ School’s situation is not different from that of the other schools within 500 metres of the industrial complex. Daily school routines are hindered since the chemical fumes have intensified since February 2016. The noxious gases have made it impossible for the students to carry out physical education classes or morning exercises and oftentimes, students are quarantined during school hours.

The continued operation of the agrochemical plants is in violation of humans’ right to health, safe environment and life. It tramples children’s rights.

Articles 6 and 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child state that “every child has the inherent right to life,” that the survival and development of the child must be ensured to the “maximum extent possible,” and that “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health” must be safeguarded and upheld.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, and the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, have stated in their report, “While scientific research confirms the adverse effects of pesticides, proving a definitive link between exposure and human diseases or conditions, or harm to the ecosystem presents a considerable challenge.

“This challenge has been exacerbated by a systematic denial, fuelled by the pesticide and agroindustry, of the magnitude of the damage inflicted by these chemicals, and aggressive, unethical marketing tactics remain unchallenged.”

The rapporteurs have also called for buffer zones to be put in place to safeguard children from the effects of pesticide exposure while waiting for pesticides to be phased out.

We strongly call for the dismantling the Geshuri pesticide factory, and the other factories in the industrial settlements, under the guidance of a team of international and Palestinian experts, in order to prevent further health and environmental damage, and to remediate the land and return it to Palestinians

#StopPoisoningPalestine #PesticidesFreeWorld

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