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

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

 

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REFERENCE

  1. Facts about paraquat

Global Management of Chemicals Beyond 2020

by Meriel Watts, PhD, PAN Asia Pacific

Feb 19th 2017

When nearly 400 delegates met in Brasilia recently to discuss how to manage chemicals beyond 2020, there was a surprising degree of accord that the current multi-stakeholder approach should be preserved in whatever arrangement is arrived at. That means NGOs like PAN would continue to participate in the process as equal partners.

Meriel Watts, PhD, PAN Asia Pacific

Why Beyond 2020? Because the current UN Environment-based Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) expires in 2020. It was supposed to have met its target of sound chemicals management by 2020. Obviously it has not, or pesticide poisoning would not still be occurring.

Despite the accord on the multi-stakeholder approach, there was not a similar accord on whether or not the new approach should be voluntary or legally binding. Considerable interest was shown in a paper recently released by the Nordic Council of Ministers, which discussed amongst other things the idea of an overarching global convention on chemicals management that would scoop together all the existing conventions under one convention. One of its author’s, Sabaa Khan, was at the meeting and such was the interest in the proposal the African Region asked for a special session with her and emerged from it supporting a legally binding convention. NGOs, Africa and others asked the secretariat to prepare a paper on governance options for the next meeting in the series that lead up to the decision in 2020 on what to do next.

Although individual chemical issues where not on the agenda, PAN Asia Pacific did succeed in raising the failure of SAICM to deal with the problem of Highly Hazardous Pesticide (HHPs), especially their impact on children and human rights.

A number of countries echoed our concern, referring to problems they were having with pesticides – no doubt this support was in part because, unusually, officials from health ministries where present to compliment the usual environment ministries – thanks to the World Health Organisation (WHO). CropLife’s comment that there was no need for any extra tools to manage HHPs (although they “didn’t deny the issue is serious”) so incensed the delegate from South Africa that she quotably stated: “HHPs should not even be in the bucket in the first place”. We agree!

PAN and IPEN also drew attention to need to address the special vulnerability of women to chemicals and succeeded, with the support of other delegates, in getting the secretariat to provide a discussion paper on this for the next meeting, in March 2018.

The whole context for chemicals management beyond 2020 will be embedded in the AGENDA 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, many of which strongly reflect the need for work on HHPs and their replacement with agroecology. Sustainable development cannot succeed whilst the current model of chemical intensive farming continues to dominate.

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.”

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

Global Governance of Hazardous Pesticides to Protect Children: Beyond 2020

Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific
January 2017

This paper 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.

Noting that:

  1. ICCM4 recognised highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) as an issue of concern, acknowledging that they “cause adverse human health and environmental effects in many countries, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries”, and supported concerted action to address them, encouraging an emphasis on promoting agroecologically-based alternatives (SAICM/ICCM.4/CRP.16);
  2. At ICCM4, 31 countries and organizations called for a Global Alliance to Phase Out HHPs (SAICM/ICCM.4/CRP.4);
  3. At ICCM3, a proposal to ban HHPs was introduced (SAICM/ICCM.3/CRP.16) and supported by at least 65 countries and organisations;
  4. In 2006, the FAO Council recommended that, in order to implement SAICM, activities to reduce risk could include a progressive ban on highly hazardous pesticides;
  5. he 2006 SAICM high-level Dubai Declaration “recognizes the need to make special efforts to protect those groups in society that are particularly vulnerable to risks from hazardous chemicals or are highly exposed to them” and states that “we are determined to protect children and the unborn child from chemical exposures that impair their future lives,” (clauses 23 and 24);
  6. That children’s exposure to life-impairing highly hazardous pesticides continues unabated;

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.

Rationale

1. National governance of pesticides is inadequate

National regulatory processes and government policies fail to protect children from pesticides due to the (i) inadequacy of pesticide registration processes to assess the real effects of pesticides on children; (ii) weak monitoring systems; and (iii) the assumption by most state governments that hazardous pesticides are essential for crop production. These failures stem from the lack of political will to question norms and apply the precautionary principle, despite the latter’s widespread inclusion in a number of international conventions and treaties, such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

Tragedies like those of Bhopal, Kasargod, Kamukhaan and Silvino Talavera will continue to be repeated until measures are taken to put a stop to the use of highly hazardous pesticides.

Tragedies caused by the failure of states to protect communities from toxic pesticides

Bhopal tragedy (India)

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

Kasargod endosulfan tragedy (India)

The state-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala carried out trials on aerial spraying of endosulfan in 1977-78 in its 45,000-hectare cashew plantation in Kasargod. Regular aerial spraying 2 to 3 times per year commenced in 1981 and caused disabilities in the villagers and domestic animals of Padre, Enmakaje. Kerala Sastra Sahithya Parishad (1994) reported that the disability rate among the people was 73% higher than the overall disability rates for the entire state. Locomotor disability and mental retardation was 107% higher (Quijano 2002).

A total of 197 cases from 123 households, were documented to have cancer, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, epilepsy, congenital anomalies and psychiatric disorders. The cancers include abdominal, uterine, liver and neuroblastoma. A community survey estimated 9,500 victims in the district (Irshad & Joseph 2015). Among the many victims are Shruti, born with a twisted leg and only four fingers in each hand, with those on her right hand malformed; and Vishnu Batt, who is developmentally delayed, stunted in growth and with deformed legs (Sundaram 2015).

Kamukhaan tragedy (Philippines)

A community of 700 individuals in Davao del Sur, Kamukhaan had rich natural resources until the entry of Lapanday Agricultural Development Corporation banana plantation in 1981. Large doses of pesticides are sprayed aerially 2-3 times a month sweeping through the entire plantation and the village. During spraying, the strong and odorous fumes blanket the community. Fumes sting the villagers’ eyes, make their skin itch, suffocate and make them weak and nauseous.

The plantation also ground-sprays the bananas with highly hazardous Furadan (carbofuran) and Nemacur (fenamiphos). Rains bring pesticide-riddled water into the village where it rises up to as high as waist level. It contaminates the river and the sea resulting in fish kills. It poisons the land so that the coconut trees stopped bearing fruit and livestock die. Villagers who unavoidably wade in the water and the children who play in it get ill. Infants are born with a range of abnormalities, from cleft palate to badly disfigured bodies, and with impaired mental and physical development, and some die at birth or shortly after (Quijano 1999).

Silvino Talavera’s death (Paraguay)

On January 2, 2003, 11-year old Silvino cycled to buy some meat and rice. He got sprayed with pesticides used for soy monoculture on his way back. He immediately washed in the river but was hospitalized that day together with his family who fell ill after eating the food Silvino brought home. Silvino returned from the hospital on January 6, but on the same day, another soy producer sprayed 15 meters from their house.

Silvino lost consciousness and was brought to the hospital with three brothers and 20 villagers. Silvino was pronounced dead the following day. His family suffers many health problems (lung, stomach problems, allergies, headaches and bone aches) as a result of the continuous pesticide exposure (Radio Mundo Real 2010).

2. Existing global governance is inadequate

Global governance of pesticides is weak and fragmented. It relies heavily
on the voluntary International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management (FAO & WHO 2014) that, under its former title of the FAO Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, was first agreed in 1985. Despite name changes, revisions, and the development of guidelines, there are widespread violations of this Code by industry and some governments. Additionally, the Code and its guidelines fail to include environment impacts such as pollinator decline and other biodiversity losses.

In addition to the Code, two binding UN Conventions address a limited number of pesticides. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants bans a small number of mostly obsolete pesticides that are deemed to be POPs.1 The Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent in Trade of Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides has the requirement for information on, and agreement to the import of, listed pesticides (33 to date, of which 9 are also listed under the Stockholm Convention).

Additionally, the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions address issues related to children’s occupational exposure to pesticides:

  • Under ILO Convention 138, the minimum legal age for children to be employed in hazardous work, which includes exposure to pesticides, is 18.
  • ILO Convention 182 forbids children being involved in “work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children” (ILO 2011).

Yet nearly 70% of the 215 million child laborers worldwide work in agriculture – around 150 million children. In some countries, children under the age of 10 make up 20% of the rural child labour force (ILO 2006, 2011).

In Mali, as much as 50% of the work force in some cotton areas are children; in Kazakhstan, that figure rises to 60%; and, in Egypt, as many as 1 million children between the ages of 7 and 12 are employed to help with pest management in cotton crops (EJF 2007).

Despite these existing mechanisms, a large number of highly hazardous pesticides remain in use especially in low income countries where unacceptably high levels of exposure and poisoning continue to occur (see below). Many of the working children use or are exposed to HHPs. As workers, they have little if any information about, or control over, the types of pesticides they are using or even to stop applying these pesticides. The lack of protective equipment – ill-adapted to hot tropical weather conditions, not suitable for children, and rarely used – contributes to pesticide poisoning.

One indication of the significant failure of governance at both national and global level is that there is still very little understanding of the extent of even acute poisoning by pesticides, let alone chronic impacts on health, or the environment. The recent paper by the Nordic Council of Ministers (2017) –

Global Governance of Chemicals and Waste – when stating “It is estimated that excessive exposure to and inappropriate use of pesticides contribute to poisoning a minimum of 3 million people per year” used a seemingly up-to-date reference, UNEP 2016.

However, UNEP in turn referenced a paper published in 1990 (Jeyaratnam 1990), which was based on information from a study undertaken in two Asian countries in the 1980s. Despite these severe limitations, the Jeyaratnam paper is still the most authoritative estimate of global acute pesticide poisonings which is a very real indication of the lack of attention to this problem at the global level. Jeyaratnam actually used the figure 3 million as an estimate of hospitalised cases of pesticide poisoning, and estimated that there could be as many as 25 million poisonings in developing countries alone, per year. There is no reason to assume that poisoning levels are any less now:

“In Central America, PAHO has tracked a steady increase in acute pesticide poisoning cases each year for the past two decades, and this trend closely parallels upward trends in pesticide imports …. Acute pesticide poisoning is widespread in Latin America, and PAHO estimates that acute pesticide poisoning cases are underreported by 50-80%” (Laborde et al 2015).

There is no clue as to how many children are affected by pesticides each year, but indications are that the number would be unacceptably high.

International conventions and national regulations are inter-linked and the former can facilitate change at the national level, while strong national policies can promote strong leadership in international conventions.

3. Pesticide use must be addressed to meet Sustainable Development Goals

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (UN General Assembly 2015) without addressing the global problems with pesticides will be impossible, particularly SDG 3

“Ensure healthy lives and promote well -being for all at all ages”, because of the ongoing poisoning of children, workers, families and communities, the contamination of food and drinking water, pollution of all environmental media, loss of biodiversity and destabilisation of ecosystems.

The continued adherence to an industrial system of agriculture based on highly hazardous pesticides that poison and pollute, long after this system has been widely revealed to be not in the best interests of countries, farmers, communities, consumers and the environment2, will also prevent the realisation of the following additional SDGs:

• Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
• Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
• Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
• Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
• Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
• Goal 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
• Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
• Goal 13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
• Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

The high-level concern about industrial agriculture, and information on why the SDGs are more able to be met by agroecological means of production, as recommended by ICCM4, than by industrial production can be found in PAN’s book Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing out Highly Hazardous Pesticides with Agroecology. This is an open-access book produced specifically for the SAICM discussions on HHPs.3

4. Unabated use of hazardous pesticides violate human and especially children’s rights

The Nordic Council of Ministers (2017) rightly points out that the Dubai Declaration makes only one mention of human rights, and fails to mention children’s rights. They conclude that

“a stronger link should be formed between chemicals and waste and socio-economic questions, including human rights and the health of vulnerable populations such as children”. PAN Asia Pacific supports this view.

WHO, in its Constitution declares “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health as one of the fundamental rights of every human being,” and recognises the child’s healthy development as of basic importance. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, reiterates children’s entitlement to special care and assistance “by reason of [their] physical and mental immaturity…before as well as after birth”. Proactive measures must be in place to “diminish infant and child mortality” (UNCRC 1989).

In the same vein, the Stockholm Convention acknowledges that “health concerns … resulting from local exposure to persistent organic pollutants … impacts upon women and, through them, upon future generations.”

The UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED 1992) adopted the concept of inter-generational equity, noting that the effects of certain chemicals are irreversible and have potential to compromise the health and well-being of future generations. It also recognised that life, health and environment are intertwined. The destruction of ecosystems deprives succeeding generations of rich natural resources – it threatens their livelihood, production of safe food and general well-being. The UN Economic and Social Council Report on Human Rights and the Environment (Ksentini 1994) directly linked the right to a safe and healthy environment to the right to life.

The right to life is a “supreme right”, without which no other rights would be meaningful (UDHR Article 3, ICCPR Article 6, UNEP 2016). The Bhopal, Kasargod and Kamukhaan tragedies have led to the suffering and death of countless men, women and children. Silvino Talavera’s death brought to fore children’s greater susceptibility to the hazards of pesticides. Yet, State Parties who should “ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child” and “take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children” (UNCRC 1989 Articles 6&24) have not taken their role to heart.

The unabated use of HHPs is in violation of humans’ right to health, safe environment and life. Children’s rights are especially trampled since they are most vulnerable to toxins.

5. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticides

The developing foetus and small children are extremely vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals as 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. Early-life exposure can damage the developing brain and body systems, disrupting mental and physiological growth that leads to a range of diseases and disorders (Watts 2013).

Exposure to pesticides that are mutagenic and/or teratogenic, and are transmitted either across the placenta to the foetus or though breast milk to infants, pose developmental risks to children:

  • The aerial spraying of endosulfan, a known neurotoxin, endocrine disruptor and mutagen, for 20 years over cashew nut plantations in Kerala resulted in a large number of serious diseases and conditions that particularly affected children in the vicinity of the plantation, including neurological, developmental and reproductive conditions and cancers (NIOH 2002).
  • Nearly 30 years after the Bhopal tragedy, deformities and other development problems are still observed among children (News Asia 2014).
  • The environment and the farmworker community of Lake Apopka in Florida, USA were exposed to POPs pesticides aldrin, dieldrin, chlordane, DDT and toxaphene for over 50 years. Children from the second and third generation of those who were exposed now suffer chronic diseases (Farmworker Association of Florida 2006).

Pesticides are now considered by public health experts to be causing a silent pandemic through their neurodevelopmental impacts and negative effects on the health and intelligence of children (Watts 2013, Lanphear 2015). Such pandemic can be stopped only by protecting children from exposure to toxins.

More information on the impacts of pesticides on children can be found in Annex 1 to this paper and in Watts (2013).

6. Children’s exposure to pesticides is undeniable and unacceptable

Toxins are readily transferred across the placenta from the mother to the developing foetus (Daston et al 2004). Pregnant women’s exposure leads to foetal exposure. Evidence of in utero exposure include the detection of (i) seven pesticides and their metabolites in the umbilical cord blood of up to 83% of the infants (Whyatt et al 2003), and (ii) residues in the first faeces of newborns (Ostrea et al 2006).

Children are exposed through their food. Infants in Bhopal were found to consume through breast milk, 8.6 times more endosulfan than the WHO-recommended daily intake levels, as well as chlorpyrifos, HCH, malathion, and methyl parathion (Sanghi et al 2003). In Assam, India breast milk was found to contain high levels of DDT and DDE, and high levels of HCH with 100% of samples exceeding the WHO guideline (Mishra & Sharma 2011). Breastfeeding should be maintained because, despite the residues, it confers health benefits to both the infant and mother. However, breastmilk should not contain pesticides so any pesticides that are found in breastmilk should be removed from the market.

Metabolites of organophosphates (OPs) were found in the urine of 99% of urban pre-school children in Seattle, USA. The metabolites were present even in those whose parents did not use pesticides, indicating that at least some of them came from diet (Lu et al 2001). Proof of exposure resulting from pesticide residues in conventionally-produced food is provided by the decrease in urinary levels of chlorpyrifos and malathion metabolites in children after they converted to organic diets (Lu et al 2006, 2008).

Another route of exposure is through pesticide drift. A study of one pesticide, atrazine, showed that drift can travel 600 to 1000 miles after application and stay in the soil for up to 100 days (LSP & PANNA 2010), putting untold millions at risk.

  • Farm children in Malaysia have depressed blood cholinesterase levels indicating OP insecticide exposure (How 2014).
  • About 47% of Orang Asli children of Selangor, Malaysia have traces of OP metabolites in their urine (Sutris et al 2016).
  • School children poisonings in Mendocino and Ventura Counties in California, USA (Kegley et al 2003), Davao del Norte, Philippines (Inquirer 2006), Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka (Watts 2013) and most recently in Po Ampil Primary School in Cambodia (KEMI 2015) were due to pesticides.
  • A documented case of a healthy child becoming mentally handicapped at the age of three while playing during an aerial spray in Davao del Sur, Philippines (PANAP 2017).

Exposures are likely to be high where household insecticide use or pest extermination occurs, where pesticides are used on lawns or home garden, or where public health fogging is done to control human disease-bearing vectors like mosquitoes (Watts 2013).

The application of shampoo containing permethrin or lindane to treat head lice and vector control in schools or at home further expose children to pesticides.

Pesticides exposure is aggravated by poverty as malnutrition can worsen pesticide effects. This is compounded by racial and ethnic discrimination and even casteism that are interlinked with increased inequality, ensuring that these communities are kept disempowered, poor, invisible, unable to address the problems that come with pesticides, and lacking resources to change their farming to organic or agroecology. The majority of child labourers exposed to HHPs come from these communities.

Pesticide residues in food and water in Asia

A Nordic project (Skretteber et al 2014) showed the presence of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables from the Southeast Asian countries with residues most frequently found in guava, pitaya, chili pepper, chives and basil. Of the 111 different pesticides found in the samples, the insecticides cypermethrin, chlorpyrifos and imidacloprid, and the fungicides carbendazin/benomyl and metalaxyl were the most frequently detected.

Thai-PAN (Atthakor 2016) through multi-residue pesticide screens conducted by UK-based laboratories, found similar results in the market-sold vegetables and fruits in Thailand. Residues of banned carbofuran and methomyl were detected in cucumbers and mandarins, with all mandarin and guava sampled found to be too dangerous to eat. All chilies tested were contaminated.

India’s Ministry of Agriculture found pesticide residues in 800 food samples and residue exceeding permissible levels in 46 percent of the samples in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 2015 (Rao 2016). A comprehensive review of food pesticide contamination studies in seven cities of Pakistan (Faheem et al 2015) showed that there are samples of fruits, vegetables and meat that exceed the maximum residues level. Testing of Quaker Oats Quick 1-Minute also showed traces of the pesticide glyphosate (Business Insider 2016).

In the Phillipines (Bajet 2015), carbaryl was detected in all vegetables tested while chlorpyrifos was found in 63% of the samples. Other pesticides detected were malathion, carbofuran, methomyl, traizophos, profenos, and diazinon. Vegetables tested include pechay, tomato, eggplant and green beans.

Pesticides have contaminated the water resource of at least six villages in northern Laos where villagers were found getting sick from drinking water (Radio Free Asia 2014). Organochlorine pesticide residues were also found in the surface water of Bertam and Terla Rivers in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia (Abdullah et al 2015), in the rivers of China (Tan et al 2009, Zhou et al 2006), India (Malik et al 2009), Korea (Kim et al 2009), Vietnam (Hung & Thiemann 2002) and Thailand (Poolpak et al 2008; Samoh & Ibrahim 2009).

7. Pesticide poisoning of Asian children

Numerous cases of child poisoning occur throughout the world but are particularly high in Asia, where pesticides banned in the developed countries are still in use. Below is a brief synopsis of some recent cases.

Bangladesh
In 2015, 12 children in Bangladesh aged 2 to 6 developed symptoms of pesticide poisoning including fever, convulsions and unconsciousness after eating pesticide-laced litchis (The Daily Star 2015). Eleven died shortly after. This was not an isolated incident as 14 children also shared the same fate in 2012 (The Daily Star 2012).

Cambodia
In Oddar Meanchey province, 67 villagers including 49 children were poisoned after eating meat and vegetables kept in inadequately washed metal tubs previously used to hold pesticide for cassava trees (The Phnom Penh Post 2013).

Insecticide-tainted cucumbers caused the mass poisoning of 610 villagers, 440 of whom are children, during an anti-child trafficking event for local school children in Siem Reap Province (Khmer Times 2015).

From initial fact finding missions by PANAP and the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (PANAP 2016), children in rural Cambodia are often exposed to brain-harming pesticides like chlorpyrifos and the potential cancer-causing herbicide glyphosate during school hours.

China
Thirty-nine preschool children in China were poisoned, two of whom died, after consuming tetramethylenedisulfotetramine or TETS-contaminated food (Liberty Voice 2014). Although banned in the early 1990s, this rodenticide is widely used due to its availability and low cost.

Dubai
A three-year old Filipina together with another Filipino, died after inhaling toxic gas from banned aluminium phosphide which leaked through the AC duct of their Dubai apartment. The girl’s parents and four others were also hospitalised. The hospital report established the presence of phosphine gas in the victims’ bodies (Emirates 24/7 News 2014).

India
At least 27 children in India aged 4 to 12, were killed after eating their mid-day meal (The Times of India 2013). Forensic examination showed the presence of high toxic levels of monocrotophos, a highly hazardous pesticide. WHO had urged India to ban monocrotophos in 2009.

Previous incidents (The Times of India 2013) include: (i) the acute poisoning of 32 school children in 2002 due to the use of phorate in Kerala banana plantation; (ii) poisoning of students in 2006 brought about by phorate use in a Punjab sugarcane field; (ii) 30 schoolchildren falling ill in an agricultural field in West Bengal in 2005; (iii) hospitalisation of a 3 year-old child of Muktsar district after consuming pesticide-contaminated food; and (iv) death of a Safdipur village boy after drinking pesticide-contaminated water.

Malaysia
Carbamate-laden food caused severe poisoning of more than 30 people aged 2 to 71 in Siputeh, Batu Gajah (The Malay Mail 2016). The pesticide was found in food stall samples of nasi lemak sambal, kuey teow goreng, kuih bom and cucur badak.
Children aged 10 to 11 living near rice paddies were found chronically poisoned by an organophosphate (Hashim & Baguma 2015). The children had poor motor skills, poor hand/eye coordination, attention speed and perceptual motor speed.

Pakistan
The intentional contamination of baked goods and candies with pesticides due to an alleged business dispute resulted in the death of at least 33 people, including five children (Mail Online 2016). A chemical examination indicated the presence of chlorfenapyr in the laddu, a baked confection.

8. Double standards embedded in pesticide trade exacerbates violation of children’s rights

The existence of double standards in the international trade of pesticides from developed countries to developing countries is still prevalent and involves both the export of hazardous pesticides and the transfer of production facilities.

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.

Only one country in Asia is known to prohibit the importation of pesticides that are banned in their home country: Palestine (Watts et al. 2016). Additionally, the Palestinian Authority actively confiscates pesticides illegally imported into the Occupied West Bank, including those not registered in their country of origin. This small territory, struggling against immense odds, can be a role model for the rest of the world in this respect.

Many of the pesticides banned in developed countries are still in use in developing countries. Annex 2 provides information on 21 pesticides highly hazardous to children that are still in use in many countries of Asia-Pacific.

Recommendations for protecting children from HHPs

1. SAICM develop a proposal for ICCM5 for a mechanism for global governance of pesticides, incorporating human rights measures, to enable the Agenda 2030 SDGs to be met and to ensure children’s rights are met.
2. Countries cease operating under a double standard with regard to pesticides, i.e. prevent the export of pesticides that are not registered for use in their own country due to health and environmental considerations.
3. Pesticide companies abide by all aspects of the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, but most especially do not allow their pesticides that require personnel protective equipment (PPE) to be exported to or used in countries where local conditions make the use of PPE impractical.
4. Countries and industry should ensure that the availability and use of pesticides does not violate children’s rights.
5. WHO instigate a major project, in collaboration with countries and other stakeholders, to identify the global incidence of pesticide poisoning and the pesticides causing the most problems.
6. Uphold the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health guaranteed in Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and investigate the human/children’s right violations of corporations.

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

Annex 1. Impact of pesticides on children

Pesticides cause coma and death

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

Pesticides cause birth defects

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

The most striking evidence that pesticides cause birth defects is Shruti of Kasargod, India who manifested deformities of hands, feet and other skeletal abnormalities among other congenital diseases of the heart, brain and eyes, from parental exposure to endosulfan. The congenital problems were observed to be more prevalent in girls (NIOH 2002, Quijano 2002).

Pesticides damage the brain

Voluminous studies (Watts 2013) have linked parental pesticide exposure – e.g. DDT, DDE, metolachlor, lindane – to low birth weight and decreased head circumference of children. In his review of the impact of toxins on the developing brain, Lanphear (2015) declared that “we are in the midst of an epidemic of brain-based disorders” and that “learning disabilities and mental disorders are now two of the most prevalent morbidities in children.” He drew a strong link between exposure to environmental toxins and neuropathy. The fetus or newborn lacks critical enzymes to metabolize toxins, such as PON1, that is known to metabolize OPs.

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

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

Pesticides cause cancer

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

Meta-analysis studies confirm the hazards of pesticides

A recent review (Marquez et al 2016) of meta-analysis studies confirmed that: (i) pesticide exposure during pregnancy increases the risk of cancer outcomes in a child; (ii) parental exposure before conception for both parents increases risk of leukemia and brain tumors in children; (iii) a father’s occupational pesticide exposure before conception is strongly linked to increased cancer risk in his children, suggesting damage to developing sperm; and (iv) living in rural agricultural areas increases risk of childhood leukemia.

While the review focused on studies investigating childhood cancer outcomes, Marquez et al. noted several studies that found links between prenatal or childhood pesticide exposures and incidence of cancers later in life, e.g. girls exposed to DDT before they reach puberty are five times more likely to develop breast cancer in middle age (Cohn et al 2007), and that in utero DDT exposure increases breast cancer risk (Cohn et al 2015).

Annex 2. Pesticides highly hazardous to children still in use in the Asia-Pacific

Pesticide Type Primary Crops/Use Hazards to Children No. of countries where banned*
Atrazine Herbicide Corn, soy, sorghum, sugarcane Birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption, immunotoxicant 37
Carbaryl Insecticide Tomatoes, eggplants, olives, oranges, apples Birth defects, cancer,  endocrine disruption, developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant,  immunotoxicant 32
Chlorothalonil Fungicide Potatoes, peanuts, tomatoes Cancer,  endocrine disruption, immune and developmental effects 2
Chlorpyrifos Insecticide Cotton, corn, oranges, bananas, apples, vegetables

 

Acute poisoning, birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, immune and predisposal to obesity and diabetes 1
Cypermethrin Insecticide Onions, garlic, lettuce, broccoli, cereals/grains, oilseeds, fruits Acute poisoning, cancer,  endocrine disruption, behavioral effects and delayed mental development, Parkinson’s disease later in life 0
DDT Insecticide Mosquito control Endocrine disruption,  neurotoxicant, predisposal to obesity and diabetes 68
Deltamethrin Insecticide Carrots, corn, rice, spinach, wheat Cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, immunotoxicant 0
Diazinon Insecticide Chinese Kale, Tomatoes, spinach, apples, peaches Acute poisoning, cancer, developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant, endocrine disruption, predisposition to diabetes and Parkinson’s disease 29
Dichlorvos Insecticide Beans, brassica seedlings, structural & commodity fumigation, poultry houses Acute poisoning, cancer, neurotoxicant, endocrine disruption, immunotoxicant, predisposition to diabetes and Parkinson’s disease 30
Lambda-cyhalothrin Insecticide Hay, pistachios, rice, lettuce, soy, wheat Acute poisoning, cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant 28
Malathion Insecticide Rice, mango, eggplant, lettuce Acute poisoning, birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, predisposition to ADHD, diabetes and obesity 1
Mancozeb Fungicide Potatoes, banana, lettuce, Asian pear Acute poisoning, allergic sensitization, birth defects, cancer, developmental toxicant, endocrine disruption, 1
Maneb Fungicide Potatoes, banana, lettuce, broccoli Acute poisoning, behavioral effects, birth defects, cancer,  developmental toxicant, endocrine disruption, immunotoxicant, predisposition to Parkinson’s disease 1
Methamidophos Insecticide Cotton, rice, citrus, maize, grapes, soybeans, tobacco, vegetables, hops, peaches, bananas, pineapple Acute poisoning, behavioral effects, death, developmental toxicant, neurotoxicant 47
Methyl parathion Insecticide Walnuts, potatoes, grapes Neurotoxicant, endocrine disruption 26
Monocrotophos Insecticide Cotton, rice, pulses, groundnuts, tomatoes, eggplants, mangoes, grapes, chilies, cardamom, coconut, oil palms, coffee, tea, castor, citrus, olives, maize, sorghum, sugar cane, sugar beet, pea, potatoes, soybeans, cabbage, mustard, onion, pepper, ornamentals, tobacco Birth defects, cancer,  endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, possible immunotoxicant 57
Paraquat Herbicide Cotton, oil palms, bananas, grapes, cereals, pulses, oil seeds, vegetables Acute poisoning, death, endocrine disruption, immunological effects, neurotoxicant, implicated in diabetes 35
Parathion Insecticide Cereals, fruit, nuts, vines, vegetables, ornamentals, cotton, field crops Acute poisoning, death, birth defects, cancer,  neurotoxicant, immunotoxicant, predisposition to diabetes and obesity 26
Permethrin Insecticide Pistachios, lettuce, cotton, wheat, maize, alfalfa, vector control Cancer, endocrine disruption, neurotoxicant, immunological effects 29
Propoxur Insecticide Structural, landscape

Sugar cane, cocoa, grapes, maize, rice, vegetables, cotton, alfalfa, forestry, ornamentals

Acute poisoning, cancer,  developmental toxicant, endocrine disruption, immunosuppressant 29
Glyphosate Herbicide Rice, Soy, corn, cotton, canola, oil palm Birth defects, cancer, endocrine disruption, immunotoxicant, kidney damage, implicated in Parkinson’s disease 1

For the full PAN International list of Highly Hazardous Pesticides and the full PAN International Consolidated List of Bans (PAN CL), see http://pan-international.org/resources;

* The PAN CL is not complete, as many countries do not publish lists of banned pesticides, and/or do not notify the Secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention, which is the only international body that keeps track of such bans.

Not banned in any country, but is not approved in the European Union.

 

_______________________________________________________________

1 Current use pesticides covered by the Stockholm Convention are DDT, lindane and endosulfan.

2 See for example: the 2009 IAASTD – International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and
Technology for Development; the 2011 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to the 16th Session of the UN Human Rights Council; FAO international and regional symposia on agroecology.

3 Watts MA and Williamson S. 2015. Replacing Chemicals with Biology: Phasing our Highly Hazardous Pesticides with agroecology. Pesticide Action Network International, Penang. https://panap.net/2015/11/replacing-chemicals-biology-phasing-highly-hazardous-pesticides-agroecology/

 

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PANAP Submission to the UN SR on the Right to Food

(1) The use of pesticides has had detrimental effects not only on the environment but also on human health, both from direct and indirect exposure.  

What are the successful and unsuccessful measures taken by Governments and businesses to prohibit, ban, restrict and phase out pesticides that are harmful to human health?  

International Leve 

PAN AP defines highly hazardous pesticides as those that have high potential to cause illness, injury or death to humans and animals or damage to the environment. These include pesticides that are acutely toxic or for which there is evidence of carcinogenicity, mutagenicity, reproductive toxicity, immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption, neurological or developmental, and toxicity to the environment. The list of HHPs developed by PAN and the criteria used are available here >> http://pan-international.org/wp-content/uploads/PAN_HHP_List.pdf

States in the Asia and the Pacific region have taken measures to regulate some highly hazardous pesticides by participating, adopting and ratifying several international instruments. Most countries in Asia and the Pacific are parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, and participate in the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management (SAICM).

Through these conventions many pesticides (such as most of the dirty dozen) have been banned or are regulated in many countries.  Many of the pesticides in WHO Class 1 have been banned worldwide due to ongoing pesticide campaigns and lobbying of CSOs and other agencies/organisations.

However, international management of pesticides is weakened due to: –

1. Vested interests, for example, India blocked discussion of endosulfan at the Stockholm Convention’s technical review committee (POPRC) stages of discussion although eventually under enormous pressure from its own populace consented to allow it to be listed under the Convention. The Indian Government was the manufacturer of endosulfan. With the Rotterdam Convention (2013) an industry representative from Guatemala deceived delegates by claiming to speak on behalf of Guatemalan government. Guatemala blocked the listing of paraquat under the Convention as it was concerned about the implication listing would have on its exports of the herbicide.

2. Failure of some countries to ratified the conventions even though they are signatories. For example, Malaysia, Malta, Brunei and the United States. The US is one of the world’s biggest producers and users of pesticides and is the home to large pesticides corporations like Monsanto, Dow and Du Pont.

3. No international convention or framework that regulates highly hazardous pesticide The Fourth International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM4)- [which implements the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) formally recognised HHPs as an ‘issue of concern’. ICCM4, recognizing that HHPs “cause adverse human health and environmental effects in many countries, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries”, encouraged stakeholders to undertake concerted efforts to implement the strategy developed by FAO, UNEP and WHO to address HHPs at the local, national, regional and international levels “with emphasis on promoting agroecologically-based alternatives and strengthening national regulatory capacity to conduct risk assessment and risk management”. It welcomed the offer of FAO, UNEP and WHO to develop modalities to implement the strategy. However, FAO/UNEP/WHO, have not developed the modalities.

While the African region and other stakeholders suggested a global alliance for the phase-out of HHPs but this was blocked by certain countries and some of the UN agencies. Nothing has been put in its place. So, there is no framework for progressing the phase out of HHPs and their replacement by safer methods of pest management.

At the national level  

Over the years, many countries have tried to improve their regulation of pesticides used in agriculture. However, the regulation of pesticides used in other sectors varies greatly from country to country and is often in the hands of different authorities. While many new regulations are in place, many of them are based on the FAO/WHO code of conduct’s life cycle approach, which is still has many limitations.

1. The existence of double standards in the international trade of pesticides from developed countries to developing countries, especially in Asia and the Pacific, is still prevalent and involves both the exports of hazardous pesticides and the transfer of production facilities. This situation is intensified with the lack of resources for prevention and control of pesticides in developing countries and lack of legislation and inspection by governments. Overall, this factor further contributes to the continued impact of pesticides on human health, especially women and children’s health and well- being. For example, paraquat manufactures by Syngenta is banned it is home country but widely available and used in the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, India, China and many Asian countri  In the case of Malaysia in 2002, the Pesticide Board announced the ban of paraquat i.e. no new registration of paraquat would be allowed and the ban would have been in place in 2 years (Public Eye. 2002.)  However, the massive lobbying of Syngenta and the palm oil industry at the highest level ensured the repeal of the ban and the use of paraquat continues to poison plantation workers and farmers. In this case, for the Malaysian government economic interests are more important than the rights of workers for a safe working environment.

Asian countries would have to bear the economic burden of pesticides due to these double standards. For example, UNEP’s 2013 “Cost of Inaction” report estimated that the accumulated health costs of acute injury alone to smallholder pesticide users in sub-Saharan Africa will be approximately US $97 B by 2020. It is not known what the costs of inaction on pesticides are in the Asia Pacific region.

2. Pesticide do not know borders and contaminate lands, soils, water, air and fog. The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (2002) report entitled Organic Agriculturand Rural Poverty Alleviation: Potential and Best Practices in Asia reported that in Thailand, “an estimated 70% of applied pesticides is washed away and leaches into the soil and water, resulting in excessive pesticide residue contamination in the local ecology and food chain.” Considering the global use, pesticides now contaminate all parts of the world. Therefore, the inherent nature of pesticides is difficult to regulate and control.

3. Inherently toxic nature of pesticides are especially hazardous to women and children. Intake of and exposure to pesticide contaminated food, water and air have taken, and continues to take, a heavy toll on society. Teratogenic pesticides in the environment cause congenital abnormalities in newly borns e.g. abnormally placed urinary opening on penis, absence of one or both testes (Rocheleau et al 2009), micropenis (Gaspari et al 2011), missing or reduced limbs (Schwartz & LoGerfo 1988); anencephaly (Lacasana et al 2006); spina bifida (Brender et a 2010); and heart disease (Yu et al. 2008). Stillbirths (Medina-Carrilo et al. 2002), ADHD ( Marks et al, 2010), and autism (Landrigan et al. 2012) have been linked to pesticide exposure. Research (see review by Watts, 2013) give sufficient evidence to indict low level exposures to pesticides as a serious threat to health and well-being of children, and the subsequent generations. Many pesticides can be readily transferred from the mother across the placenta to the developing foetus during pregnancy (Daston et al. 2004), and so children are born already carrying a significant load of pesticides.

Pesticides impact women differently; especially since the pesticides women farmers and agricultural workers spray are potentially toxic to the foetus, while pregnant and during breastfeeding. Women are particularly susceptible to the effects of pesticides, due to physiological characteristics, and socio-cultural and economic circumstances—they are often the poorest of the poor in their communities.

Women can be exposed even if they do not directly apply the pesticides as they often work and raise their children in a toxic environment mixing the pesticides, harvesting the pesticide-drenched crops, weeding whilst the insecticides are being applied, thinning sprayed crops, washing out the pesticide containers or washing pesticide-contaminated clothing. And yet, women are less likely to receive formal training in reduced risk handling practices. For example, women plantation workers in oil

palm plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia were often not aware of the impacts of paraquat on

their reproductive health. Women in these plantations often spray pesticides even when they are pregnant.  Women in Vietnam, have been documented to spray when they are pregnant, are often less educated and are not able read or understand pesticides labels.

4. Many countries in Asia are poor which further puts them at risk to pesticides. The use of pesticides and exposure to these chemicals are aggravated by poverty. Pesticides, poverty, food, and health are inextricably linked in a vicious cycle. The greater the level of poverty, the greater is the tendency is that people will be exposed to the worst pesticides, and the worse the adverse effects are likely to be. And with this kind of poverty, there is less ability to take action e.g. to seeking treatment for health effects, or switching to safer methods. The cycle of poverty and ill-health spirals  intensifies, as the already malnourished become even less able, through pesticide poisoning, to provide food for themselves.

This is made worse with racial and ethnic discrimination and even casteism that are interlinked with increased inequality and ensures that these communities are kept disempowered and poor. This discrimination makes them unable to be heard and to address the problems if they arise. Poverty intensifies the exposure to the worst pesticides particularly malnutrition can worsen the effects of pesticides and children are the most affected.  Due to poverty there is often malnutrition, and being malnourished can worsen the effects of pesticides: for example low levels of protein, resulting in low enzyme levels, enhance vulnerability to organophosphate insecticides

Business

Agrochemical corporations profit from the production and sale of pesticides that are inherently poisonous while the world’s rural populations and children face the daily hazard of pesticide poisoning. Corporations have used their political, economic and other influences to promote and protect their vested interests. The agrochemical market is dominated by a few companies that produce pesticides and own their proprietary seeds.”  They have immense influence and lobbying power.  The industry is consolidating as they merge and take over other corporations. Hence they are able to control and manipulate the food system to maximise their profits instead of maximising food security for all people. Recently, Bayer (Germany) announced that it will take over Monsanto (U.S.). At the same time, Syngenta (Switzerland) is being bought by ChemChina (China), and Dow Chemical (U.S.) is merging with Du Pont (U.S.). Another key company in this arena is BASF (Germany).

These corporations have the obligation to ensure that chemicals are used in such a manner that they are not a threat to human health and the environment. Moreover, the realisation of the right to health requires proactive action to eliminate risks to health (and health risks from their presence in the environment) posed by chemicals and pesticides in their production, use, release, and incorporation into products. This realisation requires the elimination of pesticides that are known to cause cancer and other chronic, irreversible effects and the distribution of information about these to the general public.

This is further emphasised in the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management which states that corporations have the responsibility to ensure pesticides are handled safely during their life cycle and disposed of in such a way that they do not constitute a threat to human health or communities living in their proximity. For example, the International Code of Pesticide Management (FAO/WHO), article 5.2.5, calls upon pesticides industry to halt sale and recall products as soon as possible when handling or use pose an unacceptable risk under any use directions or restrictions and notify the government. However, in parts of Asia workers have less control on the types of pesticides they are using or even to stop applying these pesticides.  Lack of protective equipment, which is anyway ill-adapted to local weather conditions especially in hot climates such as India and South East Asia, contributes to pesticide poisonings.

The right to life, to health, and to a healthy environment must take precedence over corporate and proprietary rights. The right to engage in a profit-making venture (selling a chemical) is a derogable, conditional right, while the right to health is a non-derogable, fundamental human right. States must protect children’s rights within their territory and jurisdiction, including protection from abuse by business enterprises that produce, import, trade/sell and use pesticides.

Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, this requires taking appropriate steps to prevent, investigate, punish and redress such abuse through effective policies, legislation, regulations and adjudication. States should set out clearly the expectation that all business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or jurisdiction respect human rights throughout their operations.  To this end, businesses must have policies in place to conduct human rights due diligence and address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved (Ban Toxics et al. 2015).

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

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

 

(2) Do you believe that is possible to shift from industrial agriculture systems to agroecologicamethods?

Yes.  

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

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

Modern agroecological approaches to food production, together with many of the ecological practices that have evolved with farmers working alongside nature through hundreds of years, are proving to be  sustainable,   economically   advantageous   and   good   for  food   security.   Successful   cases   of agroecological  farming  in  Asia,  Africa,  Latin  America,  Europe  and  USA,  presented  in  the  book “Replacing Chemicals with Biology, phasing out highly hazardous pesticides with agroecology” (Watts & Williamson 2015) substantiating the long-standing claim that ecological principles applied to agriculture are effective tools in the management of pests, including weeds, and provide sustainable livelihoods to farmers and rural communities.

Examples: Agroecology leads to economic growth

The adoption of agroecology has been suggested to lead to food insecurity. Yet, a considerable body of evidence shows that this is not true.

An analysis of 133 comparisons of yields of organic and conventional farming systems in low income countries revealed that agroecological organic systems were producing 80% more than conventional farms.   In  high   income   countries,   160   comparisons   showed   organic   yields   averaged   92%   of conventional farms (Badgley et al, 2006)

In 2004, the German Institute for Technical Cooperation (GTZ) undertook an evaluation of an organic rice-growing programme in Cambodia, based on the practices of Sustainable Rice Intensification (SRI). They found that farmers practicing SRI techniques recorded 41% higher yields than those that did not. Such increase was recorded across all five provinces over four years and a range of different agroecosystems. These yield increases were accompanied by a 75% increase in profit. GTZ concluded that “if just 10% of Cambodian  rice farmers would convert just 42% of their rice area to SRI, the economic benefit to the nation would be $36M, more than enough to justify an extensive program for SRI within the agricultural extension system” (Markandya & Setboonsarng, 2008).

A study (Pretty et al., 2006) of 286 sustainable agriculture projects in 57 countries, involving 12.6 M farmers on 37 M hectares in the process of transitioning to sustainable agriculture demonstrated an average yield increase of 79% across a wide variety of systems and crop types, ranging from 18% to over 100%. Of the projects for which there was data on pesticide use, 77% reported an average decline in pesticide use of 71%, with an average yield increase of 42%. Average yield increases of over 200% were gained in Madagascar (rice), China (cotton, wheat, maize), Ethiopia and Lesotho (sorghum, teff, sweet potato).

In China, the agroecological rice-fish-frog system increased rice yield by 10.1%, with an additional yield of fish and frogs of 1,77.5 kg/ha. Organic rice in the Philippines had similar yields to conventional rice but overall farm output was increased.  In Kenya, the push-pull  system of weed management  has resulted in dramatic yield increases, 350% for maize, 250% for sorghum, and more than 100% for finger  millet.  The introduction  of a tiny  parasitic  wasp  in the West  Sahel  resulted  in millet  yield increases of 40%.

There is a wealth of scientific and evidential data showing that crops can be grown perfectly well without using pesticides. The case studies show that agroecological farming can improve food security and strengthen food sovereignty, while providing better adaptation to climate change and reducing harmful environmental impacts.

In our view it is entirely feasibly for all production to move to agroecological methods, but this should be done in a staged approach with sufficient support for farmers making the transition including expended research and extension efforts. In order for this transition to succeed it must include women at all levels (UNEP,2016).

(3) Some particularly exposed or vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women, farmers, farm workers, indigenous peoples and migrant workers, are at greater risk to the effects of pesticides due to higher exposure or increased sensitivity. 

Please explain the efforts undertaken by Governments and businesses to prevent and mitigatdetrimental impacts of pesticides on the health of these vulnerable groups. 

Some effort has been taken to mitigate pesticides by banning certain pesticides. See full list here >> http://pan-international.org/pan-international-consolidated-list-of-banned-pesticides/

However, industry has strongly lobbing power in overthrowing or reversing bans of certain pesticides for example, Malaysia banned paraquat it in 2002 and then reversed the ban in 2006 due to industry pressure, especially Syngenta. In Davao, Philippines, the local authorities banned aerial spraying due to community protest but the Supreme Court of the Philippines reversed the banned, stating that is unconstitutional due to pressure by banana corporations.

While there are, some efforts made to ratified the International Labor Organization (ILO) by states, there are still many gap and future challenges. Read report here >> http://www.panap.net/sites/default/files/TurningPoint_ILO_conventions_and_gaps.pdf

Agricultural work is considered one of the most dangerous occupations in the world. Data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) show that 170,000 out of the estimated 335,000 fatal work-related accidents every year occur in agriculture.

A snapshot of recent field surveys of pesticide poisoning in Asia:  

Bangladesh, 2014   85% of applicators reported suffering gastrointestinal problems during and after spraying, 63% eye problems, 61% skin problems, and 47% physical weakness. Most commonly used pesticides: OPs and synthetic pyrethroids.

India, 2014   a survey by the Calcutta School of Tropical Medicine and the NRS Medical College found that 30% of farmers using pesticides in a district in West Bengal were experiencing neurological symptoms. In 2012 a survey of pesticide-exposed farmers in Punjab, India, reported 94.4% exhibited some symptoms of poisoning.

Pakistan, 2012   in a small study of female workers picking cotton 3-15 days after pesticides were last used, 100% of them experienced headache, nausea and vomiting.

South Korea, 2012   acute occupational pesticide poisoning amongst young male Korean farmers was reported to be 24.7%.

 Iran, 2012   12% of pesticide applicators involved in rice growing suffer acute pesticide poisoning.

 

Paraquat, a highly hazardous pesticide is still widely used in Asia. Farm workers, indigenous peoples and migrant workers, are at greater risk to the effects of pesticides due poverty and are not fully made aware of the impacts of paraquat by the management. For example, workers in oil palm plantations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines.

According to the ILO, about 60 percent of the estimated 215 million child labourers worldwide work in agriculture Also, some effort by national governments to regulate and ban children working in farms and agriculture, while in reality children still work in farms and plantation sectors due to poverty.  Worldwide, children are involved in pesticide application, but the exact number is unknown due to the absence of comprehensive monitoring by the State. Article 3(d) of the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor specifies such labor as “work which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children”.

For example children help their parents in oil palm plantations in Philippines, help pluck tobacco leaves laced in pesticides in Indonesia and suffer health impacts after being are exposed to pesticides from their parents and indirectly from their environment (Human Rights Watch, 2016,Sutris et al, 2016 ; Hashim & Baguma,2015).

 

(4) Is there any study that has been done conducted by your organization using disaggregated data

to differentiate and detect impacts on above mentioned vulnerable groups?

 

Following interviews on pesticide use with over 1,300 peasant farmers and agricultural workers from eight Asian countries, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific released its report ‘Communities in Peril: Asian Regional Report on Community Monitoring of Highly Hazardous Pesticide Use’ in

2010.The study, which was conducted in collaboration with local partner organizations, revealed

that 66% of pesticide active ingredients used on vegetables, cotton, paddy rice, and other crops are highly hazardous according to PAN International classification criteria. The interviews, which were conducted in 2008, gathered a substantial amount of data from one-on-one interviews in local languages in Cambodia, Sri Lanka, China, Philippines, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Report available here >> library.ipamglobal.org/jspui/handle/ipamlibrary/544

 

In 2015, 400 children were poisoned by pesticides in Cambodia, after initial investigations it also difficult to pin point the exact source of contamination in the supply chain, the results of the type of pesticides that were in the children blood was also not made public. In many parts of Asia, government labs are also ill equipped due to insufficient resources, this makes it further to document the toxicity and impacts of certain pesticides.

 

Full details of food contamination involving children are also not disclosed by public authorities in various countries in such as India, Malaysia and Philippines, despite cases being reported to the media. In addition, countries often lack access to laboratory facilities to fully test for pesticide active ingredients and concentrations.

 

 (5) States have an obligation and businesses a responsibility to implement the right tinformation on hazardous substances.

 How are Governments and businesses ensuring that pesticide users and consumers are informed of the hazards and risks of pesticides used in food production? 

In Asia, to some extend there are ongoing trainings and information available of the products online or via pesticides sellers or on government websites. However, this mostly extends to agricultural use and not on pesticide residues found in food.

However in reality: –

1) Many labels are too small to read or not translated into local languages, vulnerable groups in Asia often lack proper education to full understand the basic labels. Due to porous borders in the Mekong Region, pesticides are shipped or are transported in illegally to Laos, Cambodia and labels are in Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai. See full report here >> http://www.panap.net/sites/default/files/Illegal-pesticide-trade-in-Lao-and-Cambodia.pdf

Similarly, in India, paraquat is sold illegally and is widely available and in some places paraquat is sold in plastic carrying bags; many users can’t read the label; it is mixed with other ingredients that are not recommended; it is sprayed with leaking knapsack sprayers; and it is applied on crops for which its use has not been approved. Full report >> http://www.panap.net/sites/default/files/Paraquat-use-India_EN_WEB.pdf

2) Environmental defenders and independent scientists that help regulators and the public ikeeping an eye on the use of hazardous pesticides are targeted and publicly shamed. In the

Philippines, for instance, Dr. Romeo Quijano has been persistently harassed by banana plantation owners after uncovering and exposing the impacts of aerial spraying of pesticide. A court case (a form of a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation or SLAPP) that was filed against him more than one and a half decade ago over his research on banana plantations and pesticides has been recently revived in an attempt to revoke his license as a doctor.

3) In Malaysia in 2015, the National University or University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) published a study on the pesticide residues in river and drinking water in Cameron Highlands, the Malaysian government (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Health and Water Works) responded to the study which was highlighted by PAN Asia and the Pacific by saying that they would look into it but so far nothing has been done.

 

(6) Please provide your views on good practices by Governments and business to assess, monitor, prevent and mitigate the risks of exposure to hazardous pesticides, and what further steps could be taken.  

Answers may focus on systems present at the national, regional and/or the global level.  

Countries have made some efforts to mitigate pesticides by banning certain pesticides mentioned in question 1.  

Governments and relevant others should take further steps to:

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

 

(7) Gaps and weaknesses in international and national regulatory systems allow the use opesticides that are unsafe, even when used legally and per instruction, on the market.  

Please provide examples of regulatory gaps (e.g. flaws in the registration process of pesticide products, lack of rigorous testing and safety standards, and lack of full disclosure to the publicand good practices in building effective protection frameworks governing the production and use of pesticides.  

 

Suggestions and analysis have been

provided in questions 1 to 6

 

Lack of full public disclosure  

Residues found in food – The nature of pesticides that are highly hazardous are unsafe, they often find their way to food, the environment. Studies from Scandinavia and EU have found pesticides residues in numerous samples of vegetables from Asia, that exceed the minimum residue limit (MRLs). Information on residues is often hard to get publicly, especially in Asia due to limitations on the right to information. Governments also lack the capacity to test for residues.

The principle of minimum harm in pest management: Choose the method that causes the minimum harm to humans and the environment whilst still being sufficiently effective.

Meriel Watts. 2000. Ethical Pesticide Policy: Beyond Risk Assessment”. University of Auckland

Using the precautionary principle  

The States have an obligation to prevent exposure of children to toxics including pesticides and safeguard the child’s right to a health and safe environment.  State Parties should adopt the precautionary principle and the principle of minimum harm. Registration processes must move from an industry supportive model of risk assessment to a more public health supportive model of hazard assessment, with cut-off criteria that prevent the registration of pesticides that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, developmental neurotoxins, immunotoxins and endocrine disruptors.

Opt for alternative assessments 

Registration must include alternatives assessment and opt for the least harmful method of managing pests, weeds and diseases. Where effective non-chemical methods or less toxic chemicals exist, a toxic pesticide should not be registered or used. If there are none, then the next step is to determine whether the pesticide meets cut-off criteria for hazardous properties, such as the EU and Brazil have.  (Watts & Williamson 2015). This is an improved version of the substitution principle which first came into operation in Swedish pesticide policy in 1985. “According to the Swedish Act on Chemical properties (SFS 1985, p 426) section 5 ‘anyone handling or importing a chemical product must take such steps and otherwise observe such precautions as are needed to prevent or minimize harm to human beings or to the environment. This includes avoiding chemical products for which less hazardous substitutes are available.” | Bergkvist et al 1996.  Sweden’s National Board of Agriculture did recognise the need to assess nonchemical methods: “If equally effective, non- chemical methods are available for a certain control a pesticide will be banned for that control.”  Liden 1989

Global transformation towards ecosystembased agriculture

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

 

(8) Please provide examples of successful efforts (supported and incentivized by Governments) to reduce the use of pesticides in agricultural food production, including ecological methods of pest control and agro-ecology.

  • Several countries have already taken the first steps, including Brazil, France and some states

in India to move towards agroecology. For example,

  • France: France has the top to bottom approach. The French farm minister, Stéphane Le Foll, revived the national pesticide reduction plan which steered a landmark agricultural reform act in 2014. The Law for the Future of Agriculture, Food and the Forest promotes agroecological approaches and targeted 200,000 French farms by 2025. It incorporates agroecology to the curriculum of agricultural colleges across the country. The policy recommendations include: (1) Establishing a way of taxing environmental impact of agrochemicals; (2) Trebling the proportion of organic farmland from 1.8% to 6%; (3) More public research to evaluate the environmental impacts, economic value and agronomic effectiveness of genetically modified crops, via an independent high level authority.

The farm minister, Michel Barnier, set up committees to draft policy actions to be implemented and relevant targets among which are the twin targets to promote organic farming: 20% of food served in public sector canteens by 2012 would be organic and organic production would occupy 20% of French farmland by 2020 and a target of 50% reduction in pesticide use by 2018. The set of measures aimed at pesticide reduction over the next ten years became known as the Ecophyto 2018 plan.

Ecophyto managed to keep the French rate of growth in agricultural pesticide use below that of its European neighbours. The next stage, the move from a 25 percent reduction to a 50 percent reduction is based on a more enlightened view of the nature of agricultural competitiveness. No fewer than 1,500 pesticide products were taken off the French market as of 2016.

  • Brazil: Brazil launches the Agroecology Plan and Organic Production and passed the law entitled Law No. 14.486 creating the State Policy on Organic Production and Agroecology.

The Plan aims to coordinate policies and actions for an environmental-friendly  agriculture and the organic food production, with an initial investment of 8.8 billion allocated to 125 initiatives all over the country (FAO Lex Database, 2014).  

  • Sikkim, India, this is the first state in India that was declared organic by India’s Prime Minister in 2016. The state brought about a gradual process of training and transitioning their farmers for change, which took about 12 years. The state had extensive laws and bans on pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and even jail time for offender. Now there are more than 75,000 hectares of agricultural land that are organic. So far, at least three other states In India such as Kerala, Mizoram, and Arunachal Pradesh — have started to transition towards agroecology.
  • Cuba adopted decentralized agrarian policies that encouraged individual  and  cooperative forms  of  production  beginning  in  the  1990s.  Overly bureaucratic state-run  farms  were   replaced  with thousands  of  small  urban/suburban  organoponicos,  parcelas,  and   patio  gardens,  and  millions  of  acres  of  unused  state  lands  were  given  out to  small  farmers.  Agricultural   cooperatives were encouraged and flourished due to the  relaxation  of  the  Cuban   government’s  policy of free  access  to  land  for  anyone  growing  food  for  local   consumption.  Farmers are  allowed  to  remain  on  the  land  as  long  as  they  meet  minimum  requirements  with   respect  to  overall  production  and  commitments  to  sell

to  public  institutions and  the  state.  Farmers practice seed banking and kept tracked by scientist to ensure that  these  crops  are planted  annually to provide  resources  in case of calamities. The government established institutions to support the agroecology policy. The  Tropical  Agriculture  Research  Institute  (INIFAT) facilitated  the   production  of  vegetables  in  raised  beds  enriched  with  organic  matter.  The Foundation  for  Nature  and  Humanity  trained  hundreds  of  permaculture  “promoters,”  who  in   turn  teach  others.  It also hosts  workshops,  conferences,  and  symposiums. The  Association  of  Forestry  and  Agriculture  Technicians (ACTAF) publishes  a  variety  of  technical  manuals  targeted  to  members  of  the  agricultural  community  and  others  interested  in building  a  sustainable  food  system  based  on  agroecological  principles and provides  technical  advice  to  farmers. Throughout  the  1990s  the  government  set  up  a  chain  of  national  vegetarian  restaurants to promote  health  and  nutrition.

 

(9) Please share any information regarding court decisions or on-going litigation in relation to the detrimental effects of pesticides, in particular in relation to the right to food.

Many litigation cases in Asia are not made public and are very expensive and tedious for effected communities to bring forward.

So, five years ago, called the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) found Monsanto and five other giant agrochemical companies guilty of “gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children’s rights.”

On 6 December 2011, the PPT, an opinion tribunal that looks into complaints of human rights violations, issued a landmark verdict upholding the charges made by affected communities against Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF.

Convened in Bangalore, India and organized by Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International the PPT said that the world’s then six largest agrochemical transnational corporations (TNCs) are responsible for violation of indigenous peoples’ human rights, and further found that “their systematic acts of corporate governance have caused avoidable catastrophic risks, increasing the prospects of extinction of biodiversity, including species whose continued existence is necessary for reproduction of human life.”

Similarly, the Monsanto Tribunal, an international civil society initiative to hold Monsanto accountable for human rights violations, for crimes against humanity, and for ecocide. Eminent judges will hear testimonies from victims, and deliver an advisory opinion following procedures of the International Court of Justice took place from 14 to 16 October 2016 in The Hague, Netherlands.

 

(10) Please provide any additional information you believe would be useful to understand challenges confronting Governments and businesses in their efforts to prevent and mitigate adverse impact of pesticides on human health, right to food and the environment.

National Policy Changes towards Agroecology  

One of the biggest challenges is the bias of many national governments to chemical-intensive large corporate agriculture and marginalization of agroecology. A growing body of literature and experience has been unmasking the dangers of corporate agriculture. In contrast, numerous studies and practices back agroecology as the sustainable alternative to feed the world. Related to this is the continuing trend of land and resource grabbing especially in poor countries that further monopolize land and other productive resources in the hands of giant firms in agribusiness, mining, infrastructure development and others. Such trend further undermines efforts of small food  producers to advance agroecology as corporations take over farmlands. (An important dimension of this phemonenon is how it impacts on the collective rights of the people and their individual human rights. Land and resource grabbing violates the social, economic and cultural rights of communities over their land. In most cases, their civil and political rights are violated as well when they fight back to defend their communities against the land grabbers.)

There is much that national governments can and should do to assist the uptake of agroecology by farmers. The first big step is to challenge assumptions that current levels of dependency on synthetic chemical pesticides are necessary, and that large-scale, specialized farms highly reliant on agrochemical and fossil fuel inputs are the best way to provide food for all. On the contrary, there is clear evidence that small, diversified, agroecologically-managed  farms can be just as productive overall – or more so – than inputintensive and monocultural systems. Countries need to change their policies to put agroecology at the centre of their approach to agriculture.

Several countries have already taken the first steps, including Brazil, Ecuador and France. National policies need to protect small farmers, their ownership of and their access to water and seeds. They need to ensure equal rights for women in every sphere. An FAO report found that ensuring women farmers are adequately resourced could increase agricultural output in low-income countries between 2.5 and 4 percent, and reduce the number of undernourished people by 100-150 million. Governments need to invest in agricultural knowledge by supporting research based on farmer needs and experiences, including farmer participatory research, as well as extension services and farmer networks.

National economic policies must strengthen local food systems, re-localise markets to reduce wastage during transport and storage and improve farmers’ ability to sell, and improve access to credit. Policies are needed to prevent global food retail chain domination of domestic markets.

Such domination allows these chains to determine prices that result in farmers being underpaid and left struggling to survive. Full-cost accounting for agriculture would ensure the external costs of chemical-based production are taken into account. Replacing subsidies on agrochemicals with financial credits for agroecology (such as soil carbon sequestration) would level the playing field.

 

“… scaling up agroecological practices can simultaneously increase farm productivity and food security, improve incomes and rural livelihoods, and reverse the trend towards species loss and genetic erosion.”

Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the  right to food, 2011

 

Changes to pesticide regulatory systems

are also needed. The presumption that a pesticide should be registered if it meets certain hazard or risk criteria, regardless of whether it is needed, should be replaced by the presumption that pests, weeds and diseases should be managed by the least hazardous method   and chemicals registered only if need can be demonstrated.

Existing registrations should cease when nonchemical methods or less hazardous pesticides can be substituted.

International actions to support agroecology 

International policy action is also needed. Steps must be taken to reverse the harmful impacts of unregulated trade and redirect misguided international development policies and initiatives that hinder local, national and regional transformation towards agroecological food and farming systems. There is a need to reform, and in some cases dismantle, institutions such as regional and global trade arrangements and ownership laws that hinder the scaling up and out of agroecology.

There is a need to include and recognize women’s roles, expertise, skills and knowledge, in food production and national policies.

Re-structuring and re-alignment of these institutions is needed to support state and non-state actors’ obligations to respect, protect, and fulfil universal human rights to food, health and a safe working environment, and to advance equitable and sustainable development goals.

Intellectual property regimes that privatized seed resources – transferring ownership to commercial interests and criminalizing farmers for seed saving – need to be reoriented to protect farmers.

Corporate influence over public policy and agrifood systems must be curtailed. UN agencies, bi- and multi- lateral development institutions, international research institutes, private and public donor agencies need to prioritize participatory community-based farmer-led agroecological research, extension and education. There needs to be an FAO and a UN-wide adoption of agroecology as the central direction of agriculture.

All UN agencies can contribute in important ways in assisting governments to bring their focus to agroecology. The World Bank and international financial institutions should redirect the focus of their agricultural and poverty-reduction programs to assist countries in transitioning towards equitable and sustainable agroecological systems.

International and regional research institutional arrangements should prioritize agroecological research, extension and education. Multilateral and bilateral funding agencies as well as private foundations have an essential role to play in supporting the scaling up and scaling out of agroecology.

International actors must firmly commit themselves to overcoming the political, institutional and market constraints that stand in the way of widespread adoption of agroecology. It is time to restrain corporate power and influence over public agencies and democratize the agri-food system at all levels and across all relevant institutions.

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Communities Push For Petition to keep pesticides out of schools in Asia

A petition demanding state governments to set up buffer zones around schools to protect children from the effects of pesticide drift was launched on November 20, 2016 on the occasion of International Children’s Day by PANAP and its partners.

For a #PesticidesFreeWorld both for the children & environment.-Source: PANAP

A month after the launch, the petition has garnered 449 individual signatories. The petition will go on until June 2017 hoping to reach even greater number of supporters of close to one million to push governments in the region to make them realize the gravity of the problem and make them take action.

This is important because our schools are no longer safe. They are becoming silent killing fields for children especially those in rural areas.Pesticide drift was behind the recent poisoning of 30 school children in Po Ampil Primary School in Cambodia. Children have also been poisoned in the US (Mendocino and Ventura Counties, California), the Philippines (Davao del Norte), and Sri Lanka (NuwaraEliya District).

Children are slowly dying before us. To make matters worse, there are no proper laws or regulations to monitor the use and harm of pesticides on children. This is alarming! Our children can be poisoned and be left to suffer the rest of their life and the corporations behind these assaults can be free out of any prosecution or charges of negligence.

Children especially in countries like India, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka are often on the frontline of these pesticide assaults. This is also the reason that PANAP partners in these countries are driving for the petition to gain traction to push state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones around schools.

Data show that pesticides drift hundreds of meters from the area of use at health-harming concentrations for days and even weeks after application. An estimated number of 1.5 billion children in Asia live in rural areas. Pesticides severely impact their lives, health and intelligence. The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) recognizes the child’s “inherent right to life” and that the survival and development of the child should be ensured to the “maximum extent possible”.

Through this petition, PANAP hopes to gather a critical mass that will pressure governments to ensure that children’s rights are upheld.

 

A chorus of support

Here are some of the thoughts on why this petition is important to people across the globe.

1. Davao, Philippines
“… because clean, safe air is a basic human right. Children should not be deprived of this right.” – Mary Ann Fuertes,

2. Ipoh, Malaysia
“Our children need a pollution free environment. Stop the greed that destroys our children’s lives.”- Amar-Singh HSS

3. Mandurah, Australia
“This should be banned full stop. Stop letting the greed of a few poison us and our planet” – Corinne Coombs

4. Mumbai, India
“Children are far more vulnerable to pesticide exposure compared to adults. And children spend a substantial amount of time of the day in school. So minimising / eliminating pesticide exposure to children in school needs to be an obvious first priority.” – Lakshmanan S

5. Chicago, IL, USA
“Children are our most important resource. They can’t protect themselves, so we have a responsibility to do so. They are our future.” – Theresa Kastner

6. Rome, Italy
“Am signing because I believe that children should be protected from harmful pesticides especially in vulnerable countries that have insufficient safeguards and hardly monitored by state governments.” – Teresa Dagdag, Maryknoll Sister

 

Activities held in conjunction with International Children’s Day

1. ‘Zee the Bee’ Storytelling Session (MALAYSIA)
Children listened to the story of ‘Zee the Bee’ narrated by one of PANAP’s staff during the storytelling session in conjunction with International Children’s Day at Straits Quay Marina Mall, Penang. The little ones were also accompanied by their parents who sat in to find out about the harms of toxic pesticides.

2. Petition Drive (MALAYSIA)
The PANAP team members engaged with parents and children to inform them about the importance of the petition to urge state governments to institute pesticide-free buffer zones around schools.

3. ‘Towards Pesticides-Free Environment’ Project (VIETNAM)
For the first time students were given opportunities from the get-go to organise a large-scale event. This event which took place in Dong Dat 1 Primary School saw an active participation of 300 pupils. The event also attracted high profile personnel from People’s Committee, Phu Luong Agriculture Extension Unit and local leaders. The local leaders agreed to send a letter on the impact of pesticides on children. This activity is organised by the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD), a leading Vietnamese NGO supporting rural communities to adapt to the changing environment and sustainably manage their own livelihoods.

4. School children against pesticides (CAMBODIA)
Children from Po Ampil, Takeo shared their thoughts on the harmful effects of pesticides with CEDAC, an NGO specializing in sustainable agriculture and rural development.

Please watch video here.

 

Please join us in stopping schools from becoming silent killing fields of children. Spare just two minutes of your time to sign the petition to create safer schools for children across the region.

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