November 30, 2011
To commemorate the 27th anniversary of the Bhopal, India disaster that left 8,000 dead after Union Carbide chemical manufacturing plant exploded, a coalition of anti-pesticide groups are taking the biggest players in the industry before an international tribunal.
The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal, the successor of the International War Crimes Tribunal, examines allegations of violations of human rights. The tribunal will convene Dec. 3-6 in Bangalore, India, where it's being hosted by Pesticide Action Network International.
The network of some 600 anti-pesticide groups lays out their case against the six biggest agrochemical companies in a 230-page indictment. "The victims and survivors of [pesticide industry] aggression are the poor peasants, small-scale farmers, agricultural workers, rural women, children, and indigenous and agricultural communities around the world," according to the document.
The "Big Six" are Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow and Dupont. (Arysta LifeSciences, the manufacturer of the newly registered and embattled fumigant methyl iodide, ranks tenth in PANNA's list, based on global market share.)
One witness in the global group of alleged victims of pesticide poisoning, Juana Cortez, worked in Watsonville. She attributes a miscarriage, as well as chills, headaches and shaking—all symptoms that began when she was pregnant—to over-the-counter pesticides she sprayed at home to get rid of mosquitos.
“Rights to life, health and livelihood are inherent to our humanity,” said Kathryn Gilje, co-director of PANNA, in a statement. “There is no system of accountability that follows actions across national borders or over the decades it takes to prove guilt. Until we hold them accountable, pesticide corporations will continue to avoid responsibility for their human rights violations.”