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Cupping symptoms associated with dicamba damage on a cucumber plant. University of Arkansas.

Monsanto's Dicamba Problems Are Far From Over. Farmers File Another Lawsuit Over Drift Damage

Arkansas farmers filed a class-action lawsuit last week against Monsanto and German chemical company BASF, alleging that the companies' dicamba-based herbicides caused damage to their properties.

The plaintiffs claim that Monsanto and BASF implemented and controlled the dicamba crop system, releasing seed technology without a corresponding, safe and approved herbicide.

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Worldwide Honey Bee Collapse: A Lesson in Ecology

Greenpeace

By Rex Weyler

We know what is killing the bees. Worldwide Bee Colony Collapse is not as big a mystery as the chemical companies claim. The systemic nature of the problem makes it complex, but not impenetrable. Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors—pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, global warming and so forth. The causes of collapse merge and synergize, but we know that humanity is the perpetrator, and that the two most prominent causes appear to be pesticides and habitat loss.

Biologists have found over 150 different chemical residues in bee pollen, a deadly "pesticide cocktail" according to University of California apiculturist Eric Mussen. The chemical companies Bayer, Syngenta, BASF, Dow, DuPont and Monsanto shrug their shoulders at the systemic complexity, as if the mystery were too complicated. They advocate no change in pesticide policy. After all, selling poisons to the world's farmers is profitable.

Furthermore, wild bee habitat shrinks every year as industrial agribusiness converts grasslands and forest into monoculture farms, which are then contaminated with pesticides. To reverse the world bees decline, we need to fix our dysfunctional and destructive agricultural system.

Bee Collapse

Apis mellifera—the honey bee, native to Europe, Africa and Western Asia—is disappearing around the world. Signs of decline also appear now in the eastern honey bee, Apis cerana.

This is no marginal species loss. Honey bees—wild and domestic—perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide. A single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but the best and healthiest food—fruits, nuts and vegetables—are pollinated by bees. Seventy out of the top 100 human food crops, which supply about 90 percent of the world's nutrition, are pollinated by bees.

Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, calculates that bees "contribute more than €22 billion ($30 billion U.S. dollars) annually to European agriculture." Worldwide, bees pollinate human food valued at more than €265 billion ($350 billion). The bee collapse is a challenge to human enterprise on the scale of global warming, ocean acidification and nuclear war. Humans could not likely survive a total bee collapse.

Worker bees (females) live several months. Colonies produce new worker bees continuously during the spring and summer, and then reproduction slows during the winter. Typically, a bee hive or colony will decline by five to 10 percent over the winter and replace those lost bees in the spring. In a bad year, a bee colony might lose 15-20 percent of its bees.

In the U.S., where bee collapse first appeared, winter losses commonly reached 30-50 percent and in some cases more. In 2006, David Hackenberg, a bee keeper for 42 years, reported a 90 percent die-off among his 3,000 hives. U.S. National Agriculture Statistics show a honey bee decline from about 6 million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008, a 60 percent reduction.

The number of working bee colonies per hectare provides a critical metric of crop health. In the U.S., among crops that require bee pollination, the number of bee colonies per hectare has declined by 90 percent since 1962. The bees cannot keep pace with the winter die-off rates and habitat loss.

Europe Responds, U.S. Dithers

In Europe, Asia and South America, the annual die-off lags behind the U.S. decline, but the trend is clear, and the response is more appropriate. In Europe, Rabobank reported that the annual European die-offs have reached 30-35 percent and that the colonies-per-hectare count is down 25 percent. In the 1980s, in Sichuan, China, pear orchard pesticides obliterated local bees, and farmers must now pollinate crops by hand with feather dusters.

A European Food Safety Authority scientific report determined that three widely used pesticides—nicotine-based clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam—pose "high acute risks" for bees. These neonicotinoid pesticides—used in soils, on foliage and embedded in seeds—persist at the core of the toxic pesticide cocktail found in bee hives.

A Greenpeace scientific report identifies seven priority bee-killer pesticides—including the three nicotine culprits—plus clorpyriphos, cypermethrin, deltamethrin and fipronil. The three neonicotinoids act on insect nervous systems. They accumulate in individual bees and within entire colonies, including the honey that bees feed to infant larvae. Bees that do not die outright, experience sub-lethal systemic effects, development defects, weakness and loss of orientation. The die-off leaves fewer bees and weaker bees, who must work harder to produce honey in depleted wild habitats. These conditions create the nightmare formula for bee colony collapse.

Bayer makes and markets imidacloprid and clothianidin; Syngenta produces thiamethoxam. In 2009, the world market for these three toxins reached over $2 billion. Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont control nearly 100 percent of the world market for genetically engineered (GE) pesticides, plants and seeds.

In 2012, a German court criminally charged Syngenta with perjury for concealing its own report showing that its genetically modified corn had killed livestock. In the U.S., the company paid out $105 million to settle a class-action lawsuit for contaminating the drinking water for more than 50 million citizens with its "gender-bending" herbicide Atrazine. Now, these corporate polluters are waging multi-million-euro campaigns to deny responsibility for bee colony collapse.

In May, the European Commission responded, adopting a two-year ban on the three neonicotinoid pesticides. Scientists will use the two years to assess the recovery rate of the bees and a longer-term ban on these and other pesticides.

Meanwhile, the U.S. dithers and supports the corporations that produce and market the deadly pesticides. In May, as European nations took action, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the neonicotinoid pesticides, in spite of a U.S. Department of Agriculture report warning about the dangers of the bee colony collapse.

Also in May, President Obama, signed the now infamous "Monsanto Protection Act"—written by Monsanto lobbyists—that gives biotech companies immunity in federal U.S. courts from damages to people and the environment caused by their commercial compounds.

Solutions Exist

Common sense actions could restore and protect the world's bees. Experienced bee keepers, apiculturists, farmers, the European Commission and the Greenpeace report, Bees in Decline have outlined these solutions:

  • Ban the seven most dangerous pesticides
  • Protect pollinator health by preserving wild habitat
  • Restore ecological agriculture

Ecological farming is the over-arching new policy trend that will stabilize human food production, preserve wild habitats and protect the bees. The nation of Bhutan has led the world in adopting a 100 percent organic farming policy. Mexico has banned GE corn to protect its native corn varieties. In January, eight European countries banned GE crops, and Hungary has burned over a 1,000 acres of corn contaminated with GE varieties. In India, scientist Vandana Shiva and a network of small farmers have built an organic farming resistance to industrial agriculture over two decades.

Ecological or organic farming, of course, is nothing new. It is the way most farming has been done throughout human history. Ecological farming resists insect damage by avoiding large monocultures and preserving ecosystem diversity. Ecological farming restores soil nutrients with natural composting systems, avoids soil loss from wind and water erosion, and avoids pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

By restoring bee populations and healthier bees, ecological agriculture improves pollination, which in turn improves crop yields. Ecological farming takes advantage of the natural ecosystem services, water filtration, pollination, oxygen production and disease and pest control.

Organic farmers have advocated better research and funding by industry, government, farmers and the public to develop organic farming techniques, improve food production and maintain ecological health. The revolution in farming would promote equitable diets around the world and support crops primarily for human consumption, avoiding crops for animal food and biofuels.

Ecosystems

The plight of the bees serves as a warning that we still may not quite understand ecology. Ecological farming is part of a larger paradigm shift in human awareness. The corporate denialists appear just like the Pope's shrouded inquisitors in 1615, who refused to look through Galileo's telescope to see the moons of Jupiter. Today's denialists refuse to recognize that Earth's systems operate within real limits. However, the state religion in this case is money, and the state religion won't allow it. The denialists cling to the presumed right to consume, hoard, and obliterate Earth's great bounty for private profits. But hoards of money won't reverse extinction, restore lost soils or heal the world's bee colonies.

A great reckoning awaits humanity if we fail to awaken from our delusions. Earth's delicately balanced systems can reach tipping points and collapse. Bees, for example, work within a limited range of marginal returns on the energy they exert to collect nutrition for their colonies. When winter bee deaths grow from 10 percent to 50 percent, the remaining bees are weakened by toxins, and the wild habitats shrink that thin, ecological margin of energy return can be squeezed to zero. Surviving bees expend more energy than they return in honey. More bees die, fewer reach maturity and entire colonies collapse. This crisis is a lesson in fundamental ecology.

Rachel Carson warned of these systemic constraints 50 years ago. Ecologists and environmentalists have warned of limits ever since. Bee colony collapse now joins global warming, forest destruction and species extinctions among our most urgent ecological emergencies. Saving the world's bees appears as one more necessary link in restoring Earth to ecological balance.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.

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GMO Corn’s Looming Disaster

Pesticide Action Network

Responding to a study released last week highlighting the increased resistance of weeds to glyphosate, and the potential introduction of new corn varieties genetically engineered (GE) to be used with more highly toxic weedkillers, farmers are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action to protect rural economies.

If USDA deregulates 2,4 D resistant corn, farmers will once again shoulder the cost of the failed promise of GE crops.

“Widespread planting of 2,4-D corn will inevitably lead to a surge in the herbicide’s use,” said George Naylor, an Iowa corn and soybean farmer. “This will not only have adverse effects on public health from air and water pollution, but will also pose another economic risk to Midwest farmers whose non-2,4-D resistant crops will take the brunt of more herbicide drift."

The study in last week’s edition of Bioscience projects greatly increased herbicide use and collateral damage to nearby, non-resistant crops and wild habitat. 2,4-D is well understood to drift, both directly after it is applied and through volatilization, drift that takes place long after an application. As a result, farmers growing their products within miles of cornfields where 2,4-D is applied could face crop losses and serious financial hardship. In addition, organic farmers could lose their certification for years if their fields are contaminated.

Authors of the article, relying in part on industry analysis, note that use of 2,4-D and dicamba herbicides, first used during World War II, are expected to increase ten fold over the next decade. Dow AgroSciences is the driving force behind 2,4-D-resistant seeds, while Monsanto, the dominant manufacturer of glyphosate-resistant seeds, is collaborating with the European industry giant BASF (soon moving to the U.S.) in engineering dicamba-resistant seeds. And other pesticide and biotech firms have similar products in the pipeline. For years, Dow, Monsanto, and the rest of the “Big 6”, have argued that genetically engineered crops result in reduced pesticide use or can even “resist” drought, though with little to no documented success, according to independent scientists.

“Genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant seeds are the growth engines of the pesticide industry’s market strategy,” said Dr. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. “Repackaging antiquated pesticides as new solutions for Midwest economies is a disaster waiting to happen.”

The study also ties the increase in herbicide use to the decline of sustainable weed management. The authors note that USDA has increased funding at major universities for chemically-intensive methods while at the same time decreasing funding for agroecological methods—such as cover cropping, crop rotation and limited tillage—that are successful at improving weed control and reducing weed pressures.

At the same time, weed scientists have been raising red flags around the impending problems of resistance, the reliance on the “pesticide treadmill” and the need to invest in sustainable weed control, or Integrated Weed Management.

"It is only going to get worse," said Lee Van Wychen, director of science policy at the Weed Science Society of America in a Reuter’s interview.

The Weed Society of America just announced it will focus its May 2012 meeting on finding solutions to herbicide resistance. However, concerns remain about Monsanto’s efforts to undermine science and promote the next wave of GE technology, including 2,4-D and dicamba.

"I'm convinced that this is a big problem," said Dave Mortensen, professor of weed and applied plant ecology at Penn State University. "Most of the public doesn't know because the industry is calling the shots on how this should be spun."

For more information, click here.

Who Will Control the Green Economy?

ETC Group

From the United Nations (U.N.) Rio+20 preparatory meetings in New York, ETC Group launched Who Will Control the Green Economy? The 60-page report connects the dots between the climate and oil crises, new technologies and corporate power. The report warns that the world’s largest companies are riding the coattails of the "Green Economy" while gearing up for their boldest coup to-date—not just by making strategic acquisitions and tapping new markets, but also by penetrating new industrial sectors.

DuPont, for example, already the world’s second largest seed company and sixth largest company in both pesticides and chemicals, is now a powerhouse in plant-based materials, energy and food ingredients. DuPont’s business plan is not unique. Other major players in seeds, pesticides, chemicals and food—including Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, BASF and Unilever—are also making strategic investments in risky technologies and forming R&D collaborations in hopes of turning plant biomass into all kinds of high value products—and profit.

Since the turn of the millennium, the vision of a bio-based economy has been taking shape, with its promise to solve the problems of peak oil and climate change and to usher in an era of sustainable development, it quickly acquired a patina of green. New technologies, primarily synthetic biology or extreme genetic engineering, enabled by advanced bioinformatics and genomics, are the bioeconomy’s engine while agricultural feedstock is its fuel.

While seductive, the new green techno-fixes are dangerous because they will spur even greater convergence and concentration of corporate power and unleash privately owned technologies into communities that have not been consulted about—or prepared for—their impacts. If the “Green Economy” is imposed without full intergovernmental debate and extensive involvement from peoples’ organizations and civil society, the Earth Summit to take place in Rio de Janeiro June 20-22, 2012 risks becoming the biggest Earth grab in more than 500 years.

“The goal is not to reject the green economy or technologies, but these are tools that must be guided by strong social policies," said Kathy Jo Wetter of ETC Group. "Agenda 21 called for technology assessment back in 1992 and the need for such a precautionary tool, that includes strict oversight of corporate concentration, is now more urgent than ever before.”

“Corporate control over our food system threatens peasant farmers around the world," said Alberto Gomez of La Via Campesina. "We already produce 70 percent of the world’s food, but our ability to do so in an agro-ecological way is being undermined by the kind of corporate control this report documents.”

Who Will Control the Green Economy? will be launched at the Rio+20 intersessional meeting taking place in New York, Dec. 15-16. Kathy Jo Wetter, one of the report’s researchers, will present the findings on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011, at 7 p.m. at a side-event on agriculture at Rio+20, in conference room 6, North Lawn Building at the U.N. Headquarters. Alberto Gomez will also speak at this event.

What you will find in the Who Will Control the Green Economy? Report—December 2011

Naming The Green Economy's “One Percent” 

Who Will Control the Green Economy? provides hard data on the largest and most powerful corporate players controlling 25 sectors of the real economy. This is the only freely available report to assemble top 10 listings of companies (by market share) from 18 major economic sectors relevant to the Green Economy. These lists include the top 10 players in water, energy, seeds, fishing and aquaculture, food retail and processing, chemicals, fertilizer, pesticides, mining, pharmaceuticals, biotech, the grain trade and more. The report also identifies the leading players in a handful of new and emerging industrial sectors including synthetic biology, big data, seaweed and algae production and livestock genetics (pp.1-2).

Corporate Concentration Unchecked 

ETC Group has been monitoring corporate ownership trends for 30 years and the trendline is remaining steady—more monopoly everywhere. For example, the top 10 multinational seed companies now control 73 percent of the world's commercial seed market, up from 37 percent in 1995 (p. 22). The worlds 10 biggest pesticide firms now control a whopping 90 percent of the global 44 billion dollar pesticide market (p.25). 10 companies control 76 percent of animal pharmaceutical sales (p.34). 10 animal feed companies control 52 percent of the global animal feed market (p.33), 10 chemical firms account for 40 percent of the chemical market (p.11), 10 forestry companies control 40 percent of the forestry market (p. 31), 10 mining companies control a third of the mining market (p. 29) and the top ten energy companies control a quarter of the energy market (p.10).

Forget Windmills, Think Grain Mills

The "Green Economy" may evoke iconic images of solar panels and wind turbines but this is not actually where corporate activity is focusing. While non-hydro and non-nuclear renewable energy is only a thin sliver (1.8 percent) of global energy consumption—almost all of this consists of harvesting and burning biomass for energy and fuels and now chemicals. This report shows how the major corporate realignments in the new "Green Economy" are happening around plant biomass (pp.8-12, 18-21).

New Green Oligopolies 

This report uncovers new corporate convergences across diverse industry sectors as large players position themselves to dominate the "Green Economy." A case in point is the DuPont company—the world's 2nd largest seed company, 6th largest chemical company and 6th largest pesticide company which is now emerging as a major player in biotech, biofuels and bioplastics, synthetic biology, seaweeds, ingredients and enzymes while partnering with the worlds third largest energy company, British Petroleum (B.P.) (pp. ii-iii).

Food Dollars Trump Energy Dollars 

Conventional wisdom says the size of the global energy market weighs in at $7 trillion and dwarfs every other economic sector. According to our research, however, the global grocery market ekes out ahead of energy—even when government subsidies paid to producers for energy and agriculture are taken into account (p.37). 

Synthetic Biology's Meteoric Rise 

In the early 1990's the early commercialization of genetic engineering technologies drove massive reorganization of the seed, agrochemicals and pharmaceutical sectors and the emergence of 'life science' giants such as Monsanto and Novartis. Today, the new technologies of synthetic biology are spurring another frenzy of mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures around the biomass economy drawing large energy and chemical players such as Dow, DuPont, B.P., Shell, Exxon, Chevron and Total into new alliances with grain, forestry and seed giants such as Monsanto, Cargill, Bunge, Weyerhaeuser and ADM. At the heart of these new alliances are surprisingly new synthetic biology companies such as Life Technologies Inc, Amyris, Solazyme and Evolva—all rapidly being promoted to significant roles in the global food, energy, pharma and chemicals sectors (pp.8-12).

Controlling the Blue Economy, too. 

Biomass found in oceans and aquatic ecosystems accounts for 71 percent of the planet’s surface area. That’s why energy and chemical corporations such as DuPont, Statoil , DSM, Exxon, Mitsubishi, Monsanto, Chevron and shipping giant Stolt Nielsen are looking to the wild, wet frontier for new sugars and oils to fuel the bio-based economy, proposing the large-scale exploitation of algae, seaweed, fish and all the aquatic biomass found in lakes, rivers and coastal estuaries. (pp. 18-21)

For more information, click here.

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Pesticide and Biotech Corporations Guilty of Human Rights Violations

Pesticide Action Network

After an intensive public trial covering a range of human rights violations, jurors issued a scathing verdict to the six largest pesticide and biotechnology corporations, urging governments, especially the U.S., Switzerland and Germany, to take action to prevent further harms.

“The trial shed light on widespread and systematic human rights violations by the world’s six largest pesticide corporations,” said Kathryn Gilje, co-director of Pesticide Action Network North America, and who reported live from the trial. “The existing justice system has failed to provide adequate protections for our health, our food and farmers’ livelihoods. Pesticide corporations will continue to go to great lengths to avoid responsibility for their human rights violations until we create a strong system of accountability.”

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 more than $42 billion and operates with impunity while more than 355,000 people die from pesticide poisoning each year, and hundreds of thousands more are made ill. In addition, pesticide corporations have put livelihoods and jobs in jeopardy, including, farmers, beekeepers and lobstermen.

Over the past few days, witnesses from across globe, including the U.S., shared their stories of the harms of pesticides and biotechnology. Among them was Viola Wighiyi, an indigenous Yupik mother from St. Lawrence Island in Alaska. "The corporations are contaminating us without our consent and affecting our lands, our subsistence foods, the health and well-being of our people, our children and future generations," she said.

More than fifteen witnesses testified at the trial sharing the impacts of pesticides on their lives, livelihood and health. Witnesses included:

  • David Runyon, Indiana farmer. Runyon and his wife Dawn almost lost the 900-acre family farm when pesticide and genetic engineering giant Monsanto found contamination of seeds on their property. The company threatened to sue Runyon unless he paid them for genetically modified seeds, seeds that had been carried by the wind from a neighboring farm. Runyon testified that a Monsanto attorney said, "Taking money from a farmer is like taking candy from a baby."
  • Dr. Tyrone Hayes, University of California - Berkeley professor. Hayes, a former researcher for Syngenta, has been continually threatened by the company ever since he brought to light the damages of their high profile herbicide atrazine. His research has demonstrated that even at small amounts, the chemical significantly can feminize male frogs. At the trial he noted that farmworkers can have 24,000 times those levels of Syngenta’s atrazine in their system.

The verdict lays out the six pesticide corporations as responsible for gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and childrens’ rights, and the systematic violation of indigenous peoples’ human rights.The jury also found that the corporations have caused avoidable catastrophic risks, increasing the prospects of extinction of biodiversity, including species whose continued existence is necessary for reproduction of human life.

The verdict also names three particular nations as culpable alongside the corporations. Their preliminary findings state, “The United States, Switzerland and Germany [home states for the pesticide corporations] have failed to comply with their internationally accepted responsibility to promote and protect human rights…The three states, where six corporations are registered and headquartered, have failed to adequately regulate, monitor and discipline these entities by national laws and policy.”

The trial began on the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, in which more than 20,000 people have died after an explosion at a Dow Chemical facility. And it concluded before International Human Rights Day. The trial was hosted by the Pesticide Action Network International, a network of more than 600 participating nongovernmental organizations, institutions and individuals in more than 90 countries working to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) was founded in Italy in 1979 as a people’s court to raise awareness of massive human rights violations in the absence of another international justice system. The PPT draws its authority from the people while remaining rooted in the rigors of a conventional court format. Citing relevant international human rights laws, precedents and documents such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in its findings, the PPT examines and passes judgment on complaints of human rights violations brought by victims and their representative groups.

A summary of the trial, including summaries of cases against the Big 6, can be found by clicking here. Photos from the trial are available here.

For more information, click here.

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Before Trial, Victims of Pesticide Corporations Share Their Stories

Pesticide Action Network

With the trial beginning Dec. 3, victims of the six largest pesticide corporations are speaking out about the industry’s widespread human rights violations. Their stories, available on YouTube, in addition to a 230-page legal indictment, document violations of human rights to life, health and livelihood.

“Rights to life, health and livelihood are inherent to our humanity,” said Kathryn Gilje, co-director of Pesticide Action Network North America, and who will be reporting from the trial. “Pesticide corporations have jeopardized these rights because 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.”

Prosecutors cite the six largest pesticide companies—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 agrochemical industry is valued at more than $42 billion and operates with impunity while more than 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, farmers, beekeepers and lobstermen.

“The right to care for and work the land is basic and fundamental,” said David Runyon, a 900-acre Indiana farmer. “Monsanto and Co. have undermined my ability to provide for my family and prosper as a farmer. And the Big 6 have overstepped any system of justice and need to be held to account for their activities.

Runyon is one of more than fifteen witnesses testifying at the trial in Bangalore, India, beginning Dec. 3. He and his wife Dawn almost lost the family farm when pesticide and genetic engineering giant Monsanto found contamination of seeds on their property. The company threatened to sue Runyon unless he paid them for genetically modified seeds—seeds that had been carried by the wind from a neighboring farm.

Runyon is just one person standing up to pesticide corporations. Earlier Nov. 30, other victims of human rights violations shared their stories online, including:

  • Viola Waghiyi, a Yupik Eskimo and mother from St. Lawrence Island in Alaska. Waghiyi and her community have suffered from the global migration of pesticides that end up in food and contaminate the breast milk of native peoples, threatening their health and way of life.
  • Jeff Anderson, co-owner of California Minnesota Honey Farms. Anderson loses about half of his commercial beekeeping hives each year that threatens his livelihood, in part, due to the pervasive use of pesticides on and in many of the crops he is trying to help pollinate.
  • Juana Cortez, a farmworker from California’s Salinas Valley. Cortez, like many women, suffered reproductive harm, including the miscarriage of a child, due to pesticide exposure.

“Pesticide corporations have gotten away with human rights violations for far too long,” said Paige Tomaselli, staff attorney from the Center for Food Safety, and a prosecutor at the trial. “We will try them in an international court, shining a spotlight on their brazen violations of rights to live, health and livelihood.”

The opening statement of the prosecution’s 230-page indictment outlines the global threats to human rights:

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. They are at the mercy of the expanding power of the agrochemical [corporations] and are losing their control over their seeds and knowledge, and suffering debilitating physical and chronic effects due to pesticide poisoning, including coping with the destruction of their children’s health. These small food producers are losing their livelihoods, suffering increased hunger and malnutrition, and having their very means of survival threatened. Even children have been victimized and forced to carry the legacy of pesticide poisoning in their bodies, which is then passed onto their descendants.

Attorneys, witnesses and jurors from across the globe head to India to begin an intensive three-day trial, starting on Dec. 3. The trial commences on the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, in which more than 20,000 people have died, after an explosion at a Dow Chemical facility. The trial is hosted by the Pesticide Action Network International, a network of more than 600 participating nongovernmental organizations, institutions and individuals in more than 90 countries working to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) was founded in Italy in 1979 as a people’s court to raise awareness of massive human rights violations in the absence of another international justice system. The PPT draws its authority from the people while remaining rooted in the rigors of a conventional court format. Citing relevant international human rights laws, precedents and documents such as the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights in its findings, the PPT examines and passes judgment on complaints of human rights violations brought by victims and their representative groups.

A summary of the trial, including summaries of cases against the Big 6, can be found by clicking here. Biographies of victims of pesticide exposure are available here and background information on pesticide and biotech industry consolidation is available here.

Follow Kathryn Gilje during the trial on Twitter @KatatPAN.

For more information, click here.

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