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People's Submission

To the Permanent People's Tribunal
Session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations

The last two days we have heard from 19 witnesses; 4 technical witnesses and 15 survivors who have vividly through the experience and scientific research compelling substantiated the allegations made in the indictment.

  We have submitted our indictment and testimonies against the 6 Agrochemical TNCs charging them of:
  1. Gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life which includes the right to safe working conditions and the right to a safe and healthy environment;
  2. Gross, widespread and systematic violations of economic, social and cultural rights particularly the right to livelihood, right to food and food sovereignty and right to freedom from interference with the family and home;
  3. Gross, widespread and systematic violations of civil and political rights particularly the right to self-determination of peoples, the right to participation and information and the rights of human rights defenders; and
  4. Gross, widespread and systematic violations of women's and children's rights

We have shown through our indictment, the testimonies of technical witnesses and survivors of violations of human rights by the agrochemical TNCs that:

- The Agrochemical TNCs have committed and continue to commit with impunity violations of the right to life and health by directly causing death, injury and chronic and irreversible impacts on health. Their products continue to destroy the environment and biodiversity.

In the case of the death of eleven-year old Paraguayan Silvino Talavera who died last January 7, 2003 because of exposure to glyphosate (Round-up Ready) being applied to Monsanto's genetically engineered RR soybeans. Petrona Villasboa, the mother of Silvino Talavero said, "We have proof that there was poison in his blood." "We are trying to hold Monsanto accountable for the death of my son from pesticide poisoning".

The case of Silvino is an example of how children are more vulnerable to hazardous technologies. Today, RR soy is widely planted in the U.S. and Latin American countries, among the world's top exporters of soy.

We have heard the testimonies from Jayakumar, Dr Mohan Kumar and Dr Mohammed Asheel that endosulfan is an endocrine disruptor and highly toxic to humans and wildlife. The effects of endosulfan are most stark in Kasargod, Kerala, India where it was aerially sprayed from 1976 to 2002. Significant congenital, reproductive, neurological damage and other health effects have been observed in more than 9,000 villagers. Around 500 deaths in Kasargod are officially acknowledged to be caused by endosulfan poisoning; unofficial estimates are around 4,000. Jayakumar said, "Bayer, India was culpable in these violations since they actively campaigned to stop the ban of endosulfan in Kerala".

Dr. Tyrone Hayes showed evidence on the endocrine disruption effects of atrazine (product of Syngenta) in not only frogs but also a wide range of animals and the effects on humans. He said, "Atrazine feminizes male frogs, males mate with males and produce viable eggs".

Paraquat, manufactured by Syngenta, is the world's most toxic herbicide. It is used by an estimated 30,000 mostly women workers in palm oil plantations in Malaysia. Women paraquat sprayers suffer from skin damage, burns, blindness, discolouration and loss of nails, nose bleeds, and respiratory problems. Nagama, a former plantation worker said, "I had to resign my job when I was 45 years old because of ill health due to paraquat poisoning." She added, "Paraquat is banned in Switzerland (Syngenta's home state), why then is it still sold and used in Malaysia?"

In Africa, there are 50,000 tonnes of prohibited and obsolete pesticides. They are often stored in deteriorating and leaky containers without adequate safeguards. Dr. Abou Thiam said, "Obsolete dumps in Africa are like ecological bombs waiting to go off."

- The monopoly control of Agrochemical TNCs in food and agriculture has led to loss of livelihoods, and loss of food sovereignty.

In the U.S., many agricultural farms have been contaminated with genetically-engineered crops, and have lost significant access to traditional seeds. Yet, instead of recognizing that they have violated the farmers' rights to reject GE crops, Monsanto has even sued these farmers for alleged "seed piracy." Monsanto has taken these farmers to court for alleged intellectual property rights infringement, and forced them to pay the company millions of dollars. Farmer witness David Runyon testified that "Monsanto attorney had said, "taking money from a farmer is like taking candy from a baby."

Javier Souza, Agronomist from Buenos Aires University said, "The push of Monsanto's RR Soy into Argentina has led to the loss of livelihood and food democracy."

Graham White and Philip Minke described the drastic decline of bee populations across the world, which started in the mid-1990s. At the same period that Bayer introduced neonicotinoid pesticides in the market, honeybee populations started dying everywhere in Europe, US and in other countries. This has imperiled the livelihoods of thousands of beekeepers and compromised food security and jeopardizes the ecosystem.

In 2007, farmers and activists occupied a piece of land in Brazil where Syngenta was conducting illegal field experiments of GE soy and corn. Hours after the occupation, more than 30 heavily armed security guards arrived and fired at them. Valmir Mota, was killed with a point blank shot to the chest. The guards also shot another farmer in the head, which resulted in the loss of her one eye. Barbosa who survived, said "We (Via Campesina) were protesting sterile seeds that would make us dependent on TNCs. We decided to occupy Syngenta's fields." He added that, "the Swiss government publicly apologized for Syngenta's violence in Brazil". But Syngenta continues to expand its market with impunity.

- Agrochemical TNCs continue to violate the rights of indigenous peoples with impunity.

Persistent Organic Pollutants (many produced by Syngenta, Bayer and Dow) travel northwards and accumulate in the environment contaminating the arctic which had devastating effects on the way of life of the Arctic tribes.

Vi Waghiyi, Yupik succinctly described it in her statement, "The health and well-being of our Arctic Indigenous Peoples is connected intimately to the climate, wildlife, and the Arctic ecosystem spiritually, culturally and traditionally. 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, and our traditions and cultures. They must be held accountable and prevented from causing further harm."

- Agrochemical TNCs undermine science and independent research as well as have harassed and discredited scientists who have upheld the truth

Syngenta has harassed and attempted to discredit Dr Tyrone Hayes, scientist who exposed the negative impacts of Syngenta's pesticide, Atrazine. Dr. Hayes said, "Syngenta asked me to manipulate data, hide data or purchase my data. I refused." Scientists like Dr Hayes who speak the truth, lose their funding and are isolated from the rest of the scientific community.

The TNCs have influenced the focus and outcome of the research by donating research grants to Universities or funding research that is corporate owned especially when universities are vulnerable due to privatisation. As Dr Quijano said, "Most toxicologists are in the employ of TNCs or TNC influenced institutions. Most scientific journals controlled or influenced by Big Corporations. UN bodies dealing with chemicals are highly influenced by big business or governments protecting big business."

Agrochemical TNCs have used the threats of and actual legal suits and counter suits to silence critics and tie activists for years in litigation.

  Agrochemical TNCs have violated the rights of women and children

In India, it is estimated that 169,900 children below 14 years old, mostly girls, work in cotton plantations. In exchange for lowly wages and bonded through family debts, child labourers are exposed to highly toxic pesticides such as endosulfan and monocrotophos for long periods of time. The testimonies from Ashwini and Shankar emphasised the impact of the pesticides and the inhumane work conditions including long hours and hazardous work with no form of protection and information.

- Collusion between Agrochemical TNCs and governments facilitated by international institutions and aid agencies effectively developed policies, law making processes and weakened governments' protection mechanisms to increase profits and expand markets.

In the case of paraquat, we have shown how governments repealed the ban to allow the continued use of paraquat due to a combination of pressure and public relations exercise by the Syngenta and the oil palm plantation industry.

In Indonesia, Monsanto bribed the government officials to allow the field testing of GE cotton.

The "revolving door" practice of placing agrochemical representatives in high government decision making positions and then slipping back to their corporate posts is common. While these agrochemical representatives are in high government positions they change or enact policies that are serve their corporate interests.

In the case of Liberty Link rice debacle, the USDA quickly registered the LLRice601 immediately after it was found that this had illegally contaminated the US rice production. This was done very speedily without the necessary process. Bayer in arrogance claimed that it was an act of God.

The policies of the institutions such as World Bank/IMF and the WTO have aided the global strategy of multinational corpoarate hegemony, initially through SAP and the Green Revolution and now total trade liberalisation. In fact it is clear that the WB directly supported and facilitated the expansion of markets for the agrochemical TNCs in Africa as well as directly to the corporations by providing funds for the procurement of pesticides, seeds, and fertilizers to developing countries. The WTO's policies of liberalization and privatization particularly the TRIPs and AoA also allows the amassing of profits for these corporations.

Systematic Violations and Lack of Accountability

These cases of violations are not isolated. The survivors from the Arctic to death of bees have shown very clearly widespread and systematic violations of people's rights to life and health and livelihoods. These violations impact on the economic, social and cultural rights, civil and political rights and in particular the rights of women and children. The onslaught of agrochemical TNCs and the monopoly control of the means of production particularly land, water, and seeds is evident. This monopoly control have devastated farmers, local small food producers and indigenous communities who are losing their basis of survival, their culture, and identity and their knowledge and skills.

The legal and policies framework have made it impossible for communities and vulnerable groups that are the most affected to access to justice. They face huge obstacles to hold these TNCs, parent company and their agents who have contributed to death, ill health and environmental damage liable.

The lack of corporate accountability and remedy under international and local laws as well as the deliberate failure of these agrochemical TNCs to observe the customary rights and norms under international law, had devastating impact on people, livelihoods and environment. It has also been aggravated by the complicity of the States and their failure to protect their citizens from this onslaught. Inspite of current existing international instruments such as Conventions that define rights it is not to possible to make TNC accountable. At the global level there is lack of mechanisms for corporate accountability.

These agrochemical TNCs continue to escape liability for their unlawful and often lethal conduct outside of their host states. The United States, Germany, and Switzerland, where the headquarters of the six corporate defendants are located, bear not only responsibility but legal liability for their failure to regulate the export of dangerous agrochemicals and the genetic engineered seeds and crops that inflict great environmental harm and endanger the health and lives, both directly and indirectly.

For 27 years, the survivors of Bhopal have struggled for justice - and they are still waiting. The Indian courts have failed to bring justice while the US courts using the "forum non convenience" have absolved themselves from hearing the case in the courts.

The people's response in the face of the tremendous onslaught has been to continue strengthening the people's movements and consolidation of resistance against globalization and the tyranny of the agrochemical TNCs. We continue to assert our economic, social, cultural and political rights at all levels and realize our rights to food sovereignty, through self determination, and empowerment. However, a global mechanism is urgently needed to bring out justice.

In this regards, we ask the PPT session to consider our recommendations:

Our Recommendations:

1. Eliminate Highly Hazardous Pesticides

The development, manufacture, distribution and use of highly hazardous pesticides should cease as these are fundamentally incompatible with the inherent, and universal right to life and health.

2. Protection of Genetic Resources

The use, field testing, cultivation, production, distribution, sale, and commercialization of genetically engineered seeds, crops, and food should cease as this contravenes the right to health, healthy environment, and social and economic rights.

Patents on life forms should not be permitted. Intellectual property (IP) standards applied to all other fields of technology should not be extended to agriculture. Dismantle the IP system in relation to seeds, foods, animal breeds, medicines, etc.

Stop the privatisation of knowledge. The space has to be created where people can design their own agricultural systems and exercise their right to self-determination. Traditional knowledge has to be respected and safeguarded.

3. Advancement of Food Sovereignty and Ecological Agriculture

People's food sovereignty is in itself a powerful organising concept to re-build lives and communities. It provides another way forward other than trade. While the interdependence of countries and peoples for their food needs is recognized, this should be based on socially-appropriate and ecologically-sensitive models. Agricultural policies should be formulated along the principles of food sovereignty, ensuring the people's right to productive resources and self-determination. States should invest in ecological food production systems that ensure sustainability.

4. Restructuring International Financial Institutions

The system of structural adjustment programmes and conditionalities for loans and aid by international financial institutions should be dismantled. Development aid should promote national and food sovereignty.

5. Precautionary Principle

The Precautionary Principle should be the basis of decision-making on policies, technology, research, and regulations in the areas of food, health and environmental conservation. It should be part of the jurisprudence with laws developed and regulatory mechanisms.

There have been more than 7000 people and 400 people's organizations representing agriculture workers, peasants, women, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, pastoralists and civil society groups who have so far endorsed and supported the Permanent People's Tribunal Session on Agrochemical TNCs and Calls for accountability of agrochemical TNCs.

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