Dec 7, 2011 Times of India
Pesticide victims seek justice
BANGALORE: It's estimated that around 1,70,000 children, mostly girls below 14, are exposed to highly toxic pesticides such as endosulfan and monocrotophos for long periods of time. Commercial cotton cultivation accounts for 55% of total pesticide consumption in India.
Former child labourer from a nondescript village in India, Ashwini worked from the age of seven to eleven in cotton plantations. There, she sprayed pesticides for a daily wage of Rs 25. On Tuesday, she was in Bangalore to present her case before the Permanent People's Tribunal.
Comprising eminent people like legal scholar Upendra Baxi, molecular geneticist Ricarda Steinbrecher, professor of law Ibrahima Ly, professor of philosophy Masayoshi Tarui, German economist Elmar Altaver, Paolo Ramazzotti and Gianni Tognoni, secretary general of Permanent People's Tribunal, victims of pesticide poisoning, scientists and health experts came together to present their cases before the tribunal to seek justice against human rights violation by the pesticide and biotech industry.
"There's no accountability on the part of corporates who continue to pollute the environment and there's no law binding on them either. Our aim is to start a worldwide campaign by involving people and inviting them to participate in forcing the authorities to intervene appropriately," said Sarojeni V Rengam, executive director, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific.
PAN officials said they're hopeful of making corporates more responsible. "This overwhelming show of support from around the world at this tribunal surely indicates the beginning of a global campaign," said Rangem.
Daily News & Analysis (India), Dec 7, 2011
Peoples tribunal is on a roll
Activists, farmers and scores of others rejoiced as the seven-member jury of the Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) delivered its verdict after three days of deliberations, on Monday evening.
The Tribunal, the first such to be held in India, called for more responsibility on part of six agrochemical transnational corporations.
It recommended action to restructure international laws to make corporations more accountable. There should be lesser burden on victims to provide proof, the jury stressed.
“If there is negligence, omission, bad faith, deliberate intent, then the other side has to defend itself. Statements that it is an act or that nobody could control are not enough. Companies cannot make fancy defence, said Upendra Baxi, a member of the jury, giving the example of the Bhopal Gas tragedy.
During the tribunal, the jury heard 19 witnesses; four technical witnesses and 15 survivors who substantiated the allegations made in an indictment by the Pesticide Action Network International.
The indictment said that “agrochemical transnational companies have committed and continue to commit with impunity violations of the right to life and health by directly causing death, injury and chronic and irreversible impacts on health. Their products continue to destroy the environment.
The jury heard 25 cases against the big six of the pesticide industry. These related to endosulfan poisoning, Monsantos genetically engineered crops, poisoning of the Arctic region, child labour in India, Bayers pesticides killing bees across the world, harassment of scientists, Syngentas illegal field experiments of GE soy and corn, paraquat poisoning in Malaysia and pesticide stockpiles in Africa.
Like other PPTs, Indias first, too, reiterated the need to intensify action to protect human rights. The definition of rights, too, is not what the law says but what the people say, Baxi said. Suffering people are the original authors of human rights, the right to be human, the right to remain human, the right to say I cannot be a site of experimentation, the members of the jury said.
Double standards regarding the usage of pesticides cannot be tolerated. “If you consider a substance harmful to your own people, you should not be allowing your corporations to manufacture it and export it, Baxi said.
Pesticides manufactured by Germany-based Bayer are banned in the country, but continue to be used in other parts of Europe. The population of bees has declined by 40% to 60% across the world owing to the use of these neonicotinoid pesticides.
The verdict was significant not only from the human rights perspective but also because environmental issues were put into it, said Philipp Mimkes.
The Hindu, December 7, 2011
Panel slams host countries for failure to check agrochemical MNCs
At the end of three days of depositions by citizens from around the world, a panel of jurors of the Permanent People's Tribunal, an international opinion tribunal, presented its findings that indicted parent states of six agrochemical multinational corporations, host countries such as India, and international bodies (such as the United National, Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Trade Organisation).
States also culpable
The failure of states to regulate, monitor and discipline the activities of these companies makes them also culpable, the jurors said.
Witnesses from around the world had testified in the four-day Permanent People's Tribunal regarding the health impact, human rights violations and unethical practices by six transnational corporations Bayer, BASF, Dupont, Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow Chemical.
Presenting various facets of the findings, juror and German economist Elmar Altvater said that economic liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation of formerly public goods have led to this situation. “Transnational companies have grown in size over the years and have accumulated capital, he said. These companies have not been responsible in their pursuit of higher profits, and for this people have had to pay the price, he emphasised.