India: FAO/WHO monitoring mechanism failed to address mismanagement of pesticides by co's, says civil society

A Monitoring Report submitted by ECCHR to the Panel of Experts on Pesticides Management at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations alleges that Bayer and Syngenta are involved in the sale of highly hazardous pesticides but fail to adequately inform the farmers about the dangers of the pesticides or the necessary safety measures. The report, based on numerous accounts from Punjabi farmers shows that the business practices of these transnational chemicals giants violate the FAO Code of Conduct. Syngenta issued a statement saying it will investigate the accuracy of these claims and will take appropriate action. Bayer issued a statement saying it undertakes all efforts to supplement the information given on the labels with appropriate educational materials and strictly adhere to the label and leaflet regulations. 

The ECCHR and a coalition of organisations including Berne Declaration, Kheti Virasat Mission, Pesticides Action Network – Asia Pacific and Bread for the World, have since issued public replies in criticism of Syngenta's and Bayer's statements, along with further video material relating to the allegations in India. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Syngenta and Bayer to respond. Their individual answers are available below.

The monitoring report was assessed at the FAO/WHO Joint Meeting on Pesticide Management (JMPM), held in New Dehli from 10 to 13 April 2017. In November 2017, the FAO/WHO published its recommendations. While the JMPM said it encouraged the use of a multi-stakeholder dialogue to improve pesticide risk reduction in India, it did not present any concrete recommendations on how to improve the shortcomings identified in the report and failed to assess corporate adherence to the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Mangement. The report is available below. ECCHR, along with several civil society organisations, in an open letter on 21 November 2017 criticised the lack of effectiveness of the monitoring mechanism and urged the FAO/WHO to implement changes to effectively address the widespread mismanagement of pesticides worldwide. On 21 April 2018, the FAO replied saying that they have noted the expressed concerns but that the JMPM is merely an expert panel providing guidance on pesticide management and have no enforcement powers for compliance with the Code or associated policy guidelines. Both letters are available below.

Carolijn Terwindt and Christian Schliemann from ECCHR have also written a blog on how the UN complaint mechanism's lack of teeth on pesticides management runs the risks of rendering the UN monitoring mechanism meaningless. The blog can be read here

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Article
12 October 2015

ECCHR demands investigations by FAO and WHO: Bayer and Syngenta pesticides endanger tens of thousands in Punjab, India

Author: European Centre for Constitutional & Human Rights

Foreign companies come with their pesticides and say they will double production. They do not think about the harms to human beings in the country,” a farmer reported when being interviewed as part of a survey carried out on the use of pesticides in Punjab (India) in March 2015. The farmer’s testimony is part of a video on possible legal action on highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs...[and]...is also included in a Monitoring Report submitted by ECCHR on 6 October 2015 to the Panel of Experts on Pesticides Management at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations which is currently meeting in Beijing (China). The report is supported by Bread for the World (Germany), the Berne Declaration (Switzerland), the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific(Malaysia) and Kheti Virasat Mission, an organic farming movement based in Punjab (India). The report is based on numerous accounts from Punjabi farmers and documents how Bayer and Syngenta are involved in the sale of highly hazardous pesticides but fail to adequately inform the farmers about the dangers of the pesticides or the necessary safety measures. In the opinion of the five organizations from Europe and Asia, the report shows that the business practices of these transnational chemicals giants violate the FAO Code of Conduct.

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Company response
8 October 2015

Syngenta's position on FAO monitoring report

Author: Syngenta

While we can confirm that we comply with the local legistlation, we are open to the possibility of working with other stakeholders. While the samples used for report are small and the monitoring periods brief, we acknowledge that some of the issues raised by the report are potentially relevant to farming communities, not only in India...but some other developing countries...Syngenta welcomes discussing the iusses highlighted int eh report with the authors and look forward to working with he Governmnet of India, farmers and civil society organizations to continuously imporve the implementation of stewardship and best practices labeling.  

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Article
30 September 2015

Ad Hoc Monitoring Report: Claims of (non-)adherence by Bayer CropScience and Syngenta to the Code of Conduct Provisions on Labeling, Personal Protective Equipment, Training, and Monitoring

Author: European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, Kheti Virasat Mission, Pesticides Action Network Asia Pacific, Bread for the World & Berne Declaration

It is the view of the submitting organizations that the labels of the pesticides in question are in violation of the Code of Conduct, Guidelines on Good Labelling, various commitments made by the industry, as well as Indian law. The companies in question also appear to be violating the Code of Conduct, FAO Guidelines for Personal Protection when using Pesticides in Tropical Climates, and industry commitments to promotion of PPE and training....In addition, submitting organisations considered that even where companies applied the recommendations of the Code of Conduct and the Guidelines on Good Labelling on various issues such as font size, pictograms, and colour codes, farmers were in large part still unable to read and understand these labels. This is not in itself an outright violation by the companies of specific recommendations of the Code of Conduct but rather a contradiction of the recommendations of the Guidelines to its self-proclaimed objective to only advocate for labels that fulfil the requirement of clarity.  

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Article
30 September 2015

Case Reports: Testimonies of farmers

Author: European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights

These are the companies who are drawing profit.” - “What the farmer gets is the pesticide inside his body and illness takes all his money.”...Two farmers discuss the impact of pesticides, Bhotna Village, Punjab, 14 March 2015 

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