Saturday, December 10, 2011


Guilty as charged

"Truth be told, there were tears in my eyes as I sat there, translating and tweeting amongst the bustling crowd of media and hundreds of people, most of them farmers. After an intensive public trial covering a range of human rights violations, on December 6, the jurors issued a scathing verdict to the six largest pesticide and biotechnology corporations, urging governments to take action to prevent further harm. The crowd erupted in a roar of applause, and later, congratulations were shared in at least seven languages.

The verdict was handed down to the six largest pesticide corporations — Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow and Dupont — collectively known as the “Big 6,” for their human rights violations, including internationally recognized rights to life, livelihood and health. The agrichemical industry is valued at over $42 billion and operates with impunity while over 355,000 people die from pesticide poisoning every year, and hundreds of thousands more are made ill. In addition, pesticide corporations have put livelihoods and jobs in jeopardy, including those of farmers, beekeepers and indigenous peoples.

The preliminary findings, to be elaborated and finalized by the jury over the next two weeks, include these recommendations for governments:

Prosecute corporations for criminal liability, rather than civil liability only;
Fully commit to and legislate for the precautionary principle; and
Prevent corporations from directly or indirectly harassing and intimidating scientists, farmers and human rights and environmental defenders, in any form.
The tribunal was only made possible through the incredible collaboration of many people — and the support of 400 organizations and more than 7,000 individual people, worldwide. The Center for Food Safety, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, and Farmworker Association of Florida were key contributors in United States.

As for my part, I'm elated and exhausted, both. But that's just tonight. Tomorrow, it's time for the planning meeting for what comes next, and I'm energized and honored to take part, and for PAN to be part of the growing momentum around the world that seeks an end to corporate abuse, putting fairness and dignity in its place.

Nearly 30 years after the the original "Dirty Dozen" campaign that launched PAN International, I feel another global groundswell coming on."

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."

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