health and chemical pollution

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People's Caravan in Asia, November 2000

Pesticide use and Asia's collapsing agricultural sector

The Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) reports:

According to the World Health Statistic Quarterly, a World Health Organisation (WHO) publication, about 25 million workers in developing countries are poisoned every year by pesticides. Of particular concern from pesticide exposure is the potential for long-term disruption to the human endocrine (hormone) system causing development and reproductive abnormalities and diseases. The November 2000 People's Caravan in Asia found many examples of unnecessary and dangerous use of pesticides.

people's caravan 2000

Pesticides are Poisons

Asian countries are gripped by the tragedy of a collapsing agricultural sector. Under the guise of feeding the world during the Green Revolution-led by the International Rice Research Institute's (IRRI) promotion of high-yielding varieties (HYVs) in Asia-much of the seed diversity, once prominent in Asia, has been lost.

From an environmental and human health perspective, monoculture cropping encourages increasing pesticide use. Pests quickly develop resistance while their predators are killed off and farmers turn to increasingly higher doses and/ or stronger, more toxic pesticides, as pest resurgence occurs.

Farmers are also often forced to increase the use of fertilisers to counter the loss of soil fertility resulting from a limited source of nutrients provided by one type of crop. HYVs also demand far more water and nutrients adding to the depletion of soil fertility and water resources. In addition pesticides and fertilisers build up as toxic residues in food and contaminate our soil, water and air, not to mention the health and living environment of farmers, agricultural workers and farming communities.

Farmer Jahanara Begum, speaking at a public meeting in a rice field in Chakaria, Bangladesh, said, "We have so many varieties of rice seeds, but instead we are going for the varieties from IRRI and the seed companies. These seeds need a chemical package. So we are doing deals with scientists and transnational companies. When we use local varieties we get a yield of 40 kg of rice. When we use pesticides and the companies seeds we get 20 kg more but we also destroy our soil, water and biodiversity."

She added, "How many poisons are you using? We have lost our birds, our fish, the wildlife. We have lost all this for 20 kg more and we spend more money on our family's health. Bangladesh has such fertile land. We can grow so much. Still we have so much biodiversity."

Furthermore, "For the last eight years I have used no pesticides. My costs have gone down and my yields have gone up. In nature there is a balance between predators and prey. Pesticides destroy this natural balance."

The People's Caravan 2000 -
"Citizen's on the Move for Land and Food Without Poisons"
in India, Bangladesh, the Philippines

One year after massive protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and its brand of globalisation-the People's Caravan 2000 ended three weeks of activities in India, Bangladesh and the Philippines, with simultaneous events in Japan, Korea and Indonesia.

With speakers, information and personal testimony on the theme, "Citizen's on the Move for Land and Food Without Poisons!", the People's Caravan traveled over 2 500 kilometers through Tamil Nadu, India (November 13-18), Bangladesh (November 18-24) and within Manila, the Philippines (November 25-30). The caravan called for an end to the devastating effects from the globalisation of agriculture and instead advocated genuine agrarian reform, food sovereignty, social justice and land and food without poisons.


The People's Caravan rallies in front of the U.S. Embassy to commemorate "One Year Since Seattle".
Photo by S. Hindmarsh, PAN AP.

The People's Caravan, while highlighting these issues, was also about hope. It was about celebrating local initiatives towards more sustainable healthy agriculture that is in the hands of the people, that is for the people, that can really feed our people and free them from dependence on hazardous pesticides and other dangerous agricultural inputs and technologies.

Over 10 000 people-local farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolk, students, scientists, environmentalists, teachers, the media, government officials, policy makers, and anti-pesticide and anti-genetic engineering advocates-participated in lively discussion at public meetings, press conferences and educational 'teach-in's at bus stops, in rice fields, in villages and towns. Food festivals, seed exchanges, songs and street theatre celebrated our local initiatives towards more sustainable, healthy agriculture.

(source: Summary of Events, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP), January 2001)

For more information and the full reports of the Caravan:

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