Bayer and Syngenta: FAO/WHO fail to asses whether pesticide sales in India breach international standards
“Foreign companies come with their pesticides and say they will double production. They do not think about the harms to human beings in the country,” said one farmer interviewed as part of a survey carried out on the use of pesticides in Punjab (India) in March 2015. The farmer’s testimony is part of an ECCHR monitoring report and a video on possible legal action against highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs), that the Panel of Experts on Pesticides Management of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Orgnisation (WHO) assessed during its annual meeting in April 2017 in New Delhi.
The experts at the FAO/WHO, however, failed to deliver specific recommentations for business behavior that fully adheres to the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management. Therefore, ECCHR and its partner organizations urged the FAO/WHO in an open letter to implement urgently needed changes to effectively address the widespread mismanagement of pesticides worldwide.
Open letter to FAO/WHO: Monitoring process on pesticides management on its way to becoming meaninglessOpen Letter FAO_WHO Monitoring_Report_Punjab_20171120.pdf (320.8 KiB)
ECCHR Monitoring Report on pesticide sales in India
The monitoring report was submitted in October 2015 to the Panel of Experts. ECCHR compiled the report with support from Bread for the World (Germany), Public Eye (Switzerland), the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (Malaysia) and Kheti Virasat Mission, an organic farming movement based in Punjab (India).
Download Monitoring Report to FAO151009_Ad Hoc Monitoring Report Final.pdf (5.6 MiB)
Case Report: The impact of pesticides in Punjab (India)CaseReport_Pesticides_IndiaPunjab_FAO_20151009.pdf (495.3 KiB)
The report shed light on the deficient labeling of products, the widespread failure to provide protective clothing, and insufficient training of vendors.
Based on the evidence from farmers in Punjab, it was possible to show how Bayer and Syngenta sell highly hazardous pesticides but fail to ensure that farmers are adequately informed about the dangers of the products or the necessary protective measures. The report also questions whether the companies do enough to monitor their business practices and the consequences of these practices for human health and the environment in the region.
The five organizations from Europe and Asia say the report is a clear indication that these companies’ business practices in India are in breach of the FAO/WHO Code of Conduct.
In June 2016, the FAO raised the possibility of discussing the report at the Panel of Experts’ annual meeting in October 2016 in order to present recommendations on it. They intend also to undertake an assessment of the complaint mechanism to establish whether and how it could be improved.
At the FAO/WHO meeting, representatives from ECCHR and its partner organizations will present the 2015 report and submit their views on the FAO/WHO complaint mechanism.
The International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management
The International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management was introduced by the FAO in 1985 to globally regulate the risks associated with pesticides. The current version of the Code of Conduct (2013) is officially supported by the World Health Organization. The Code stipulates that risk management is the joint responsibility of governments and pesticide producers. Bayer and Syngenta have publicly pledged to adhere to the Code.
ECCHR and its partner organizations are calling on Bayer and Syngenta to immediately halt sales of dangerous pesticides such as Confidor and Larvin (Bayer) and Gramoxone and Matador (Syngenta) in India. The FAO Panel of Experts is called on to conduct a comprehensive and independent investigation of the allegations against Bayer.
There is also an urgent need for a response from the governments in Germany and Switzerland, where Bayer and Syngenta are based. These states have an extraterritorial human rights obligation to ensure that corporations respect human rights in their overseas activities. This includes carefully monitoring export permits for pesticides.