16th November, 2011
Monsanto, Bayer and Dow face trial for 'systematic human rights abuses'
Permanent Peoples' Tribunal accuses biotech giants Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont and BASF of promoting dangerous pesticides including endosulfan, paraquat and neonicotinoids
By Matilda Lee
Scroll down to read the Olympic organisers', led by Lord Coe, pathetic defence of Dow sponsorship despite protests from MPs
The world's major agrochemical companies, Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, Syngenta, DuPont and BASF, will face a public tribunal in early December accused of systematic human rights violations.
They are accused of violating more than 20 instruments of international human rights law through promoting reliance on the sale and use of dangerous and unsafe pesticides including endosulfan, paraquat and neonicotinoids.
The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal (PPT), an international opinion tribunal created in 1979, will hear expert testimony from scientists, medical doctors and lawyers to prove the charges. Victims who have been injured by these products - from farmers, farmworkers, mothers and consumers from around the world - will also testify to the causes and nature of their injuries.
The cases will be heard over a four-day trial in Bangalore, India beginning December 3. While the Tribunal has no legal weight, and cannot force sanctions on companies, it aims to expose and raise awareness of large-scale human rights violations.
, a global network comprised of 600 organisations in 90 countries, has spent years collecting information to bring about the indictments and is seeking justice for more than 25 specific cases - such as Silvino Talavera, an 11-year-old from Paraguay who died days after breathing in a cloud of Monsanto's RoundUp herbicide sprayed by a crop duster. The trial will also hear evidence of the link between pesticide use and a decline in bees.
The corporations, known as the 'Big 6' control 74 per cent of the global pesticide market, as well as dominating the global seed market.
Bayer reject the allegations saying they are a, 'wholesale distortion of the role of pesticides in our society.' Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow, after being contacted by the Ecologist, were unavailable for comment.
An estimated 355,000 people are believed to die each year from unintentional toxic chemical poisoning, according the World Health Organization, many of these from use or exposure to pesticides and other agrochemicals. Nick Mole from PAN UK said the trial would give a voice to the otherwise voiceless victims of pesticides.
‘The pesticide industry is massive and incredibly powerful. It is difficult to prove corporate manslaughter even when these products are killing hundreds of people a year,' he says. ‘We've spoken to people who have been abused and we are allowing them to give voice to their individual stories. We will be presenting the outcome of the Tribunal to the corporations and will be inviting their response,' he says.
It is hoped that the verdict, to be delivered on December 6, will lead to greater discussions at UN institutions on holding agrochemical corporations accountable for crimes relating to the impact of their products.
Permanent Peoples' Tribunal
The PPT grew out of the work by Italian Senator Lelio Basso, and serves as a grassroots, ad hoc court to consider charges and to issue verdicts on complaints of human rights violations submitted by victims or their representative groups.
Since 1979, the PPT has held 35 sessions exposing various forms of human rights abuses in cases from the Bhopal disaster, Tibet sovereignty and the intervention of the US in Nicaragua.
Please sign the PPT Petition HERE
London ~ Wednesday November 16 2011
Olympic organisers defend Dow sponsorship despite protests from MPs
• Concerns over Dow's links to 1984 Bhopal disaster
• Company is sponsoring decorative wrapping on stadium
By Owen Gibson
The Dow Chemical Company is sponsoring the decorative wrapping on the Olympic Stadium. (AP/Dow Chemical)
Lord Coe has defended London 2012's decision to sign a sponsorship deal with the Dow Chemical Company, despite renewed protests from campaign groups and MPs who claim it has outstanding liabilities relating to the 1984 Bhopal gas leak disaster.
Appearing before the culture, media and sport select committee, Coe said he had met concerned politicians including Keith Vaz and Tessa Jowell, the shadow Olympics minister who remains on the London 2012 board.
Responding to suggestions that the Games could face a boycott from Indian athletes over the issue, Coe insisted he had not heard anything to that effect from the Indian Olympic Committee, with which he had been in dialogue.
MPs, Indian athletes and other groups launched a campaign on Tuesday aimed at convincing Locog to change its mind. The campaign is being co-ordinated by the MP Barry Gardiner, chair of the Labour Friends of India group.
Campaigners including Amnesty International and the Bhopal Medical Appeal claim that Dow Chemical continues to face outstanding lawsuits relating to the 1984 tragedy.
Louise Mensch, the Conservative MP who is a member of the committee, said it was "very worrying" that London 2012 was associating itself with Dow Chemical and Coe said that the London organising committee had looked at the issue "very carefully". He said that the disaster had happened under the previous owners of the plant and that the Indian supreme court had upheld an earlier damages award in 1999 and 2009 to settle the liabilities from the explosion.
According to campaigners, more than 120,000 people still suffer from ailments caused by the accident and subsequent pollution of the plant site.
"They are a global partner of the IOC, they are within our territory able to associate with the London Games and they are sponsoring the [stadium] wrap. It is worth remembering that in the comprehensive spending review that funding for the wrap was withdrawn."
Dow signed a deal with the IOC in 2010 to become a global Olympic sponsor and this summer agreed a deal with Locog to pay for the unbranded fabric wrap that will surround the stadium. Funding for the £7m wrap, which was to have been met from the Olympic Delivery Authority's budget, was removed in last year's CSR process as a concession to cost-cutting within the overall £9.3bn public funding package.
"I am aware of the size and scale. I am the grandson of an Indian so I'm not completely unaware of this as an issue. But I am satisfied that at no time did Dow operate, own or were involved with the plant at the time of the disaster or the time of the full and final settlement," said Coe.
Mensch said that selecting Dow as the sponsor of the 1km wrap appeared to be at odds with Locog's stated values. "On the three points that you raise – environmental, ethical and social – they met by some distance every one of those requirements in that process," said Coe.
Asked by the MP Steve Rotheram whether Dow could be replaced if the company did the "honourable thing" and withdrew from sponsoring the wrap, the Locog chief executive, Paul Deighton, said it was "getting very late" to do so and had no indication that the company would pull out.
Coe said he was "satisfied with the process and satisfied with the history".
Dow said it was "proud" to sponsor the IOC, pointing out that its relationship with the Olympics dated back to 1980, and to support Locog's plans for the stadium wrap.
"Regarding Bhopal, the 1984 Union Carbide Bhopal incident was a terrible tragedy that none of us in the industry will ever forget. However, it is disappointing that some people are trying to assign blame and responsibility to Dow," the company said.
"Dow never owned or operated the facility in Bhopal. Dow acquired the shares of Union Carbide Corporation more than 16 years after the tragedy, and 10 years after the $470m settlement agreement – paid by Union Carbide Corporation and Union Carbide India, Limited – was approved by the Indian Supreme Court. The settlement agreement has been reviewed twice and again upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 1991 and 2007."
It added: "Today, the state government of Madhya Pradesh owns and controls the site and is in the best position, and has the authority under the direction of the courts, to complete whatever remediation may be necessary and to make the right decisions for Bhopal."