Empowered Farmers Ensure Food Safety

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

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

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

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Learn making organic liquid fertiliser.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Petition Link >>  HERE

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

*Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

PANAP to join advocates vs. pesticides, GMOs in summit on food justice

PENANG, Malaysia – PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) is joining anti-pesticides, anti-genetic engineering and pro-agroecology advocates from around the world in the weeklong International Food Justice Summit in Hawai’i.

To be held from 14-22 January, the summit is being organized by the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and Pesticide Action Network (PAN) North America “to help local leaders engage a broad cross-section of people in dialogue and action around health, agriculture, economics and self-determination”.

According to the organizers, the activities include a speaking tour with international experts, a public conference, targeted meetings with organizers and impacted communities and a small-scale strategy session. PANAP executive director Sarojeni V. Rengam is among those invited to speak in the summit.

“This is a great opportunity to share on and learn from the different strategies to effectively campaign against the toxic pesticides and GMOs (genetically modified organisms) being forced on local communities by giant agrochemical corporations,” Rengam said.

Rengam added that holding the summit in Hawai’i is significant in highlighting the people’s struggle against pesticides and GMOs. “The island is being used by the agrochemical giants as their laboratory for genetically engineered crops that will push farmers and other small food producers into greater reliance on harmful pesticides,” said Rengam.

The PANAP official noted that for the past three decades, the big corporations behind pesticides and GMOs have been promising to address hunger and drought while improving the livelihood of farmers. “But this promise does not only remain unfulfilled. Worse, pesticides and GMOs have contributed in aggravating global hunger and poverty, including of those who directly produce the world’s food,” Rengam said.

Pesticide giants Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow, DuPont and Syngenta – the so-called “Big 6” – dominate not only the global agrochemical market but also control majority of the world’s seeds, while leading the development of controversial genetically engineered crops.

HAPA and PANNA pointed out that people in many Hawaiian communities directly impacted by pesticides and GMOs are rising up and that “the summit will highlight and support this growing movement, and make clear that the harms seen in Hawai’i are also found in communities around the world, and are driven by the same corporations”.

Reference: Ms. Sarojeni V. Rengam, PANAP Executive Director (sarojeni.rengam@panap.net)

For more information about the International Food Summit, the organizers may be contacted through the following:
Elif Beall, HAPA, 808.652.5039, ebeall@HAPAhi.org
Gary Hooser, HAPA, 808.652.4479, ghooser@HAPAhi.org
Paul Towers, PAN, 808.206.8868 or 916.588.3100, ptowers@panna.org
Medha Chandra, PAN, 415.728.0177, mchandra@panna.org

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Tackling the Accountability Gap of TNCs

This video presents a practical guide on the legal tools available to hold pesticide companies accountable for health and environmental damages caused by the indiscriminate use of their products.
Key areas of judicial and non-judicial intervention are:

  • Public law: legal action against governments
  • Private law: legal action against companies
  • International mechanisms: strategies for the UNFAO, Stockholm Convention, and Rotterdam Convention

Gender Heroes of the Asia-Pacific

By Sarojeni V. Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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