Firms making billions from ‘highly hazardous’ pesticides, analysis finds

Use of harmful chemicals is higher in poorer nations, according to data analysed by Unearthed

 A farmer without a mask sprinkles pesticide on crops in India. Photograph: Sanjay Baid/EPA

The world’s biggest pesticide companies make billions of dollars a year from chemicals found by independent authorities to pose high hazards to human health or the environment, according to an analysis by campaigners.

The research also found a higher proportion of these highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) in the companies’ sales in poorer nations than in rich ones. In India, 59% of sales were of HHPs in contrast to just 11% in the UK, according to the analysis.

The data from Phillips McDougall, the leading agribusiness analysts, are from buyer surveys focused on the most popular products in the 43 nations that buy the most pesticides. It was obtained and analysed by Unearthed, a journalism group funded by Greenpeace UK, and the Swiss NGO Public Eye.

The pesticides market is dominated by five companies – Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, FMC and Corteva (formerly Dow and DuPont). These companies sold $4.8bn of products containing HHPs in 2018, making up more than 36% of all their income, according to the analysis. Bayer said the analysis was “misleading” but declined to provide its own figures. Some companies also disputed the list of HHPs used.

The Unearthed and Public Eye analysis calculated that almost a quarter of sales by the big five were of products containing pesticides linked to human health effects, including known or presumed carcinogens, while 10% came from pesticides toxic to bees. Another 4% of sales were of chemicals that are acutely toxic to humans, the analysis found. About 200,000 suicides each year are attributed to pesticide poisoning, almost all in developing countries.

In rich countries, the average proportion of sales that were HHPs was 27% compared with 45% in low and middle income countries, reaching as high as 65% in South Africa, according to the analysis.

global survey of pesticide management in 2018 by the World Health Organization and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found “various critical shortcomings”, with countries needing to strengthen their rules and enforcement to “minimise their harmful effects on humans and the environment”.

Baskut Tuncak, UN special rapporteur on hazardous substances and human rights, said: “It is inappropriate for companies to earn such significant income from HHPs in this day and age. The continued use of these products is unsustainable and is causing a multitude of human rights violations around the world.”

A report in 2017 co-authored by Tuncak accused pesticide companies of the “systematic denial of harms”, “aggressive, unethical marketing tactics” and lobbying of governments, which has “obstructed reforms and paralysed global pesticide restrictions”. It also said the idea that pesticides were essential to feed a fast-growing global population was “a myth”.

Unearthed used a list of 330 HHPs compiled by Pesticide Action Network International (PAN), based on judgments from authorities such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, European Union bodies, the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants and the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

The FAO and WHO classify some but not all of these pesticides as HHPs on their list and a spokesman for BASF said the PAN list was “inflated”. Keith Tyrell, director of PAN UK, said: “Efforts to strengthen the UN’s approach are consistently blocked by the pesticide industry.”

Croplife International, the pesticide industry’s lobby group, has accepted that 15% of the chemicals its members sell are HHPs, but said many of these can be used safely in practice.

“Our members support the [voluntary] FAO International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management,” said a CropLife International spokeswoman. “We support countries to identify, and if necessary, remove HHPs from their markets.” Neither CropLife International nor the five companies responded to a request for an example of the voluntary removal of an HHP.

“Pesticides identified on the PAN list are often classified based on the acute toxicity of the active ingredient rather than the formulated product, which is not consistent with practical use,” said the CropLife International spokeswoman.

Tyrell said: “Pesticide companies refuse to publish information on the ingredients contained in their products so the UN and others, including PAN, are forced to look solely at the toxicity of the active ingredient.”

Bayer also disputes PAN’s list. For example, PAN includes Bayer’s glyphosate on its list based on the 2015 conclusion of the IARC that it is “probably carcinogenic to humans”. But Bayer says glyphosate should not be on the list, based on the conclusions of other bodies, such as the European Chemical Agency in 2017.

A spokesman for Bayer said the differing sales from nation to nation reflected the different needs of farmers: “Agriculture is very different from region to region due to different climates, pests, diseases and crops. In Brazil, for example, farmers must manage pests such as Asian Soybean Rust or insect pressure which don’t exist in Europe.”

He also disputed the financial analysis by Unearthed and Public Eye: “Bayer finalised the acquisition of Monsanto on 7 June 2018. Before, Bayer had divested parts of its businesses to competitors. Their calculations are therefore misleading.” Asked to provide alternative figures, he said: “Bayer doesn’t break down its sales figures by country, product or active ingredient. These figures are confidential.” Unearthed said its analysis follows standard practice for the financial analysis of merged companies.

A spokeswoman for BASF said: “BASF is convinced of the safety of its products when they are used correctly following the label instructions and stewardship guidelines. All products are extensively tested, evaluated and approved by public authorities in the respective countries. Additionally, all active ingredients in these products are approved in at least one OECD country.”

Tuncak said: “Systemic issues in many low- and middle-income countries prevent any reasonable assurance of proper handling and use of pesticides.”

Juman Kubba, at Greenpeace UK, said: “Keeping the world hooked on an industrial farming model based on crops drenched in toxic pesticides is in these companies’ interests. But these dangerous chemicals have no place in a healthy food system and governments must ban them worldwide.”

FMC referred the Guardian to the response from CropLife International and Syngenta and Corteva did not respond to requests for comment. SOURCE


‘Bill Gates is continuing the work of Monsanto’, Vandana Shiva tells FRANCE 24

“Our guest is Vandana Shiva, a world-famous environmental activist from India. Her latest book is entitled “One Earth, One Humanity vs. the 1%”.

She tell us about more her opposition to big multinationals such as Monsanto for their nefarious influence on agriculture. But Shiva also singles out billionaires like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg for criticism.

“When Bill Gates pours money into Africa for feeding the poor in Africa and preventing famine, he’s pushing the failed Green Revolution, he’s pushing chemicals, pushing GMOs, pushing patterns”, she tells FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman SOURCE

An end in sight for chlorpyrifos

Kid in field

Last week, California got great news from the state’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) — use of the brain-harming pesticide chlorpyrifos will be forbidden in California after December 31, 2020.

Chlorpyrifos has been linked to severe and permanent brain damage in young children, including ADHD, IQ loss and autism. It has also been the source of several farmworker poisonings in the state.

Steps to eradication

While the use of chlorpyrifos in California will end next December, there are a few key dates to look forward to before then that will aid in eliminating the harmful chemicals from the state’s agricultural and food system. DowDuPont (now Corteva), the principal manufacturer of chlorpyrifos, will have to cease all sales of the pesticide in California as soon as November 8.

Then, distributors must stop selling the chemical to growers by February 6, 2020. Hopefully with sales ending in February, chlorpyrifos will be mostly out of circulation well before the date in December fully prohibiting use.

Until then, all uses of chlorpyrifos must comply with existing restrictions, including a ban on aerial spraying, quarter-mile buffer zones and limiting use to crop-pest combinations that lack alternatives.

An ongoing process

PAN celebrated California Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement in May of this year to initiate the cancellation process of chlorpyrifos — applauding this strong action at the state level while we await progress on the pesticide at the federal level.

But as we celebrated, we braced ourselves for an ongoing and possibly unwieldy battle to see the cancellation process though. Just last month, the agrichemical corporations that manufacture chlorpyrifos filed an opposition to the accusations served against them by DPR that kicked off the cancellation process.

So last week’s announcement from DPR with a concrete timeline for phasing out chlorpyrifos was a welcome victory.  MORE

Re: The Green New Deal: First, Shoot the Economists

Photograph Source Senate Democrats

Soon to be released research from the United Nations is expected to place species loss, a/k/a mass extinction, as an environmental threat equal to or greater than climate change. Industrial agriculture— vast expanses of monoculture crops managed with chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, will feature prominently as a cause. This plant agriculture supplies people with increasingly toxic and processed food and antibiotic and hormone dependent factory farms with animal feed.  Together, these link the model of capitalist efficiency economists have been selling for the last two centuries to environmental crisis.

Understanding the theoretical precepts of Western economics is crucial to understanding these crises. Capitalism is scientific economic production, a method in search of applications. Its object is to maximize profits, not to growth nutritious food sustainably. As industrial agriculture has demonstrated, these objectives are antithetical. Crop yields have increased as the nutritional value of the food produced has declined. But far more troublingly, the narrow focus on profits has led to a form of environmental imperialism where interrelated ecosystems are viewed atomistically.

Mass extinction is largely attributable to the drive for economic control— the expansion of industrial agriculture to feed factory farm animals has been both geographic and intensive. The annihilation of insects through pesticide use on crops has led in turn to the annihilation of the species that feed on them. Interrelated ecosystems are systematically destroyed through a logic that does not ‘work’ otherwise. Leaving ecosystems intact upends it. When value is granted to what is destroyed, industrial agriculture ceases to earn a profit. In a broader sense, this means that it never earned a profit in the first place.

Unlike the narrow technocratic fixes being put forward to resolve global warming, mass extinction points to the systemic problems within capitalist logic. Within it, reconfiguring pieces of the world has a limited impact— so small in fact that the impact is considered ‘external’ to production processes. In an interrelated world, reconfiguring pieces— including annihilating or favoring them, impacts the broader relationships within the system. Were capitalist production not rapidly killing the planet, such esoterica could have remained within the purview of academia.

But it is killing the planet, suggesting that the organizing logic of capitalism is fundamentally flawed. MORE


The Green New Deal and the case against incremental climate policy

Can Eating Organic Lower Your Exposure to Pesticides?

A new study tracks the pesticides and residues in a small cohort of eaters, and found significant reductions when they switched to an all-organic diet.

For consumers uncertain about the value of organic food, a new study adds evidence to a larger body of research showing that eating organic very well may reduce pesticides in the human body. The study, which was just published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research, finds that families eating a 100 percent organic diet rapidly and dramatically reduced their exposure to four classes of pesticides—by an average of 60 percent—over six days.

Conducted by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health and funded in part by the nonprofit environmental group Friends of the Earth, the study builds on prior studies—including one conducted on adults in Australia, and two on children in Seattle and California—which all similarly found that switching to organic food quickly and substantially reduced pesticide exposures.

“It’s striking that the levels dropped so dramatically after only six days,” said Kendra Klein, senior scientist at Friends of the Earth and one of the report’s authors. “That’s the good news,” she said. “We’re seeing that something you ingest can clear from your body in a few days. The problem is that we’re eating that food so continuously that we’re getting a daily exposure despite the excretion.” MORE