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Permanent People's Tribunal: Six largest agrochemical TNCs to stand trial for human rights violations


Giants of the pesticide and biotechnology industry will stand trial for human rights violations in a landmark Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT) to be held in India on December 3 to 6, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) announced today.

Organised by PAN International, the PPT Session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations (TNCs) will hear cases of violations to the right to life, health, and livelihood by Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, BASF, and DuPont. These cases will be brought by survivors and expert witnesses from around the globe, and will be heard by a distinguished international panel of jurors.

"There is no international legal mechanism in which corporations can be held accountable for human rights violations. With the help of governments and institutions, agrochemical TNCs have gotten away with poisoning whole populations, polluting the environment, and destroying livelihoods especially of small food producers. This impunity has to end," said Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PAN AP.

To be highlighted in the PPT are cases of pesticide poisoning in Asia caused by Bayer's endosulfan and Syngenta's paraquat, widespread death of bees in Europe and North America linked to Bayer's neonicotinoid pesticides, contamination of drinking water sources by Syngenta's atrazine in the U.S. Midwest, Monsanto's monopoly on seeds and violation of farmers' rights, toxic dumps of obsolete pesticides in Africa, the death of a child in Latin America linked to Monsanto's glyphosate for genetically-engineered (GE) crops, poisoning of the Arctic tribes by various persistent organic pollutants, harassment of scientists, and many others.

"It is the first time survivors of agrochemical TNCs' human rights violations will come forward and share their stories so that together, they may achieve justice. This PPT will be held not just for the sake of victims, but also would-be victims that include the next generation," said Irene Fernandez, PAN AP Chairperson.

Fernandez emphasised that the PPT aims to come up with recommendations for an effective system of ensuring corporate accountability.

For the Asia Pacific region, representatives of Malaysian palm oil plantation workers, villagers of Kasargod in Kerala, and child labourers in cotton plantations in India will testify on the severe harm brought by pesticides and GE technology.

Also, to stand trial in the PPT are the governments of the United States, Germany, and Switzerland-countries where the six agrochemical TNCs are based-for allowing these companies to harm the environment and people on a massive scale, for allowing the corporate takeover of agriculture at a global scale, and for failing to hold these TNCs accountable, even for horrific crimes such as the 1984 Bhopal Tragedy.

The International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the World Trade Organization are charged as well, since their structural adjustment programmes and free trade agreements have paved the way for agrochemical TNCs to take control of agriculture and displace millions of farmers globally, and have ensured that governments of Third World countries promote and use agrochemical TNCs' products.

Agrochemical TNCs are increasing their control over agriculture, the heart of the world's food system. Globally, only six companies control 72 per cent of the global pesticides market worth USD44 billion and 73 per cent of the seeds market valued at USD27 billion. Since the Green Revolution of the 60s, millions of farmers were made dependent on their pesticides. The so-called Gene Revolution also pushed farmers into dependency on their GE seeds.

"Their lies of 'feeding the world' cannot hold sway any longer when the number of hungry people continues to rise, after almost five decades of the Green Revolution and two decades of the Gene Revolution. There is an urgent need for these companies to be stopped in their tracks and be made to answer for decades of corporate injustice and greed," said Rengam.

Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, BASF, and DuPont will be charged with violations of more than 20 instruments of international law, including violations of the right to health and life; right to a safe and healthy environment, and safe working conditions; right to livelihood; right to food and food sovereignty; right to self-determination; right to participation and information; rights of human rights defenders; and rights of women and children.

"It is time that the global community takes notice of the extent of the harm to humanity and the planet caused by agrochemical TNCs, and takes action to hold them to account," said Javier Souza from PAN Latin America, who chairs PAN International.

The PPT is an international opinion tribunal. Borne out of the tribunals on the Vietnam War and Latin American dictatorships, the PPT started in 1979 in Italy. The PPT has held 35 sessions so far, exposing various forms of human rights violations through alternative judgments and legal articulations.

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