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12 Jun 2018

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

Company Responses

Syngenta View Response
Crop Life India View Response
Bayer CropScience (part of Bayer) View Response
Syngenta View Response