Devinder Sharma Amidst a hurricane of lawsuits that agrochemical multinational Bayer-Monsanto faces in the US and elsewhere over its herbicides Roundup and Dicamba’s alleged link to cancer, a joint investigation by Unearthed, a journalists’ research group founded by Swiss NGO Public Eye and Greenpeace UK, found that India tops the global chart with nearly 59 per cent of the sales being of ‘highly hazardous pesticides’. Japan follows with 52 per cent; Brazil, 49 per cent; US, 36 per cent; and the UK, only 11 per cent. As per a report in The Guardian, agrochemical companies have disputed this data. Bayer has specifically termed it ‘misleading’, but has still not countered it with its own data. Meanwhile, CropLife International, a powerful lobby group of the agro-chemical industry, claims only 15 per cent of its products are ‘highly hazardous’, 10 per cent that can be ‘used safely and responsibly’. Nevertheless, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), highly hazardous pesticides (HHP) are defined as “pesticides that are acknowledged to present particularly high levels of acute or chronic hazards to health or the environment, according to internationally accepted classification systems.” This reminds me of a discussion I had with Nobel laureate Norman Borlaug in the mid-1980s. On what he had to say about Rachel Carlson’s path-breaking book Silent Spring, considered to have spearheaded the environment movement, Borlaug said she was an ‘evil force’ and ‘these are the kind of people who don’t want hunger to go away’. He then explained that pesticides are like medicines. Farmers have to use them carefully, taking all the precautions. What Borlaug said could be debated at length, but it certainly formed the basic strategy for the Green Revolution, wherein pesticides were used to save crops from pest damage. But over the years, as pesticides became more pervasive in environment, innumerable studies have shown the use and abuse of chemical pesticides leading to environmental damages, ecological imbalances, pest resistance and contamination of the entire food chain. More recently, the UN Human Rights Council has said that pesticides have “catastrophic impacts on the environment, human health and society as a whole.” Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, told The Guardian: “It’s a myth. Using more pesticides has nothing to do with getting rid of hunger. According to FAO, we are able to feed 7 billion people today. Production is definitely increasing, but the problem is poverty, inequality and distribution.” The report further said: “Chronic exposure to pesticides has been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, hormone disruption, developmental disorders and sterility.” After the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) published a report linking Glyphosate (the active ingredient in RoundUp herbicide) to cancer in humans, a flurry of lawsuits in the US was unleashed against the use of the toxic pesticide. While Monsanto (which has since been bought over by Bayer) claimed that regulatory agencies worldwide, including European Commission and US Environment Protection Agency, do not point to a link between Glyphosate and cancer, a large number of cancer victims nevertheless began filing legal cases. As per the latest count, an estimated 42,000 (and still counting) lawsuits have been filed so far. Several legal sources say that the number of plaintiffs may have already swelled to over one lakh by now. The lawsuits now have also moved on to another herbicide, Dicamba. On February 15, a US federal court awarded a Missouri farmer $265 million in damages for the destruction of his peach orchard. The farmer charged the two big agrochemical companies – Bayer and BASF – for wreaking havoc on his orchard from Dicamba herbicide sprays done by his neighbour that drifted to his field. The companies face another 140 more or less similar lawsuits against Dicamba.
Malaria drug considered for COVID-19 may raise risk of heart problems, scientists say
Shabana Azmi, Hema Malini condemn the attack on doctors in Indore
Lata Mangeshkar, Priyanka, Vicky pledge donations to PM-CARES, CM relief fund
Salman Khan’s nephew Abdullah Khan passes away at 38
Free treatment of Corona
© 2020 State Times Daily Newspaper