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PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP)
Press Release; 13 October 2015

Bayer, Syngenta breach UN pesticide code, groups say

In a 96-page report submitted to the United Nations (UN), PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) and other civil society groups charged that German chemical giants Bayer and Syngenta are violating the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.

The groups claimed that Bayer and Syngenta - two of the world's most dominant pesticide corporations - failed to adequately label their products with appropriate safety advice and health warnings. Both companies also failed to promote the use of protective equipment for users of their pesticides. Lastly, Bayer and Syngenta failed as well in monitoring business practices and the adverse impacts of pesticide use.

The report, which covers the two firms' operations in Punjab, India, was submitted to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) Panel of Experts on Pesticide Management, which is expected to make recommendations for the needed follow-up actions. (You may download the report here).

FAO developed the Code of Conduct in 1985 to manage the global risks associated with pesticide use. Fully endorsed by the industry, the code applies to governments and pesticide companies alike. Aside from PANAP, groups that helped prepare the report include the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Bread for the World, the Berne Declaration, and Punjab-based organic farming movement Kheti Virasat Mission.

The groups are also releasing a video as a practical guide on the legal tools available to hold pesticide firms accountable for health and environmental damages caused by the indiscriminate use of their products. The video features lawyers, activists, doctors, scientists and consumers who shared their experiences and provided insights into using national and international mechanisms to demand reforms in the pesticide industry.

In the mid-1960s the so-called Green Revolution introduced new farming techniques to Punjab that relied on increased inputs such as fertilizer and chemical pesticides. After decades of the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides, people are seeing the adverse effects on their health as well as the surrounding environment. This is especially so in the Malwa region or the "cotton belt", where 75% of the pesticides in Punjab are consumed. Pesticides do not only adversely affect adults, but also children. Compared to adults, children breathe more air, eat more food and drink more water per unit of body weight which leads to greater exposure in a pesticide-contaminated environment; pesticides have been linked to birth defects, endocrine disruption, cancer, damage to the nervous system, breathing difficulties and adversely impact intellectual and behavioural development.

The said groups demanded Bayer and Syngenta to: (1) Withdraw all pesticide products with inadequate labels from the Punjabi market; (2) Refrain from selling pesticides if the availability of appropriate protective clothing cannot be guaranteed; (3) Guarantee farmers are adequately trained in how to use their pesticides; (4) Train the people who sell their products to market them responsibly; and (5) Offer a disposal scheme for empty containers.
Furthermore, PANAP and the others called for greater visibility of the Code of Conduct, more transparency of the monitoring process, and increased involvement of civil society to make the system more relevant.

The groups emphasized the importance of strong cooperation to confront European pesticide manufacturers, to access information on different laws and the operations of parent and subsidiary companies, and most importantly to ensure that any intervention genuinely addresses the concerns of those most affected.

more information:
Video: “Tackling the Accountability Gap“ – Legal tools to hold pesticides companies accountable http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uPnViIQxzFA

Monitoring Report: http://www.evb.ch/fileadmin/files/documents/Syngenta/151009_Ad_Hoc_Monitoring_Report_Final.pdf

Case Report: Bayer and Syngenta Pesticides in Punjab: http://www.evb.ch/fileadmin/files/documents/Syngenta/BD_Pesticides-in-Punjab_Case-Summary_151004.pdf