Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International hailed the verdict of the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) against the world’s six largest agrochemical companies Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF after a historic four-day session that culminated in Bangalore, India yesterday.
Victims and survivors of the pesticide industry from all over the world, represented by PAN International, testified before a distinguished international jury to indict the “Big 6” for human rights violations. Based on evidence presented before it, the Tribunal found the Defendant agrochemical TNCs “responsible for gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children’s rights.” (see the verdict here)
The Tribunal also found agrochemical TNCs responsible for violation of indigenous peoples’ human rights, and further found that “their systematic acts of corporate governance have caused avoidable catastrophic risks, increasing the prospects of extinction of biodiversity, including species whose continued existence is necessary for reproduction of human life.”
Sarojeni Rengam, PAN Asia Pacific Executive Director, said that the Tribunal’s verdict is a victory for peoples who have been most affected by the Big 6’s control over food and agriculture. “We are elated with the verdict. It affirms what people all over the world already know and are experiencing: that the pesticide industry is to blame and should be held accountable for the systematic poisoning of human health and the environment, loss of food sovereignty and self-determination, and increased world hunger and poverty,” she said.
The PPT, founded in 1979 in Italy, is an international opinion tribunal that looks into complaints of human rights violations. Borne out of the tribunals on the Vietnam War and Latin American dictatorships, the PPT has held 37 sessions so far using the rigorous conventional court format. While its verdicts are not legally binding, these can set precedent for future legal actions against Defendants, and can pressure governments and institutions.
Jurors for the PPT Session on Agrochemical TNCs are Indian legal scholar Upendra Baxi, British scientist Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, African environmental lawyer Ibrahima Ly, German economist Elmar Altvater, Italian professor Paolo Ramazotti, and PPT Secretary General Dr. Gianni Tognoni. (see profile of jury here)
The Tribunal said that the home States of the Big 6 (US, Switzerland, and Germany), have “failed to comply with their internationally accepted responsibility to promote and protect human rights,” by not adequately regulating, monitoring and disciplining these corporations. The Tribunal further said that these States have “unjustifiably promoted a double standard approach prohibiting the production of hazardous chemicals at home while allowing their own TNCs unrestrained license for these enterprises in other States, especially of the Global South.”
The Tribunal also found host States responsible for failure to protect the human rights of its citizens by offering “magic carpet type hospitality” to agrochemical TNCs and therefore not adequately protecting social movement activists or independent scientists from harassment, not limiting the “global corporate ownership of knowledge production in universities and related research sites,” “not recognizing the value of indigenous knowledge and social relationships they create and sustain,” and “not fully pursuing alternative and less hazardous forms of agricultural production without having learnt the full lessons from the First Green Revolution.”
The Tribunal also found that the policies of World Trade Organization in relation to Intellectual Property Rights are “not balanced with any sincere regard for the grave long-term hazards to humans and nature already posed by the activities of agribusiness and agrochemical industries.” International financial institutions, named in the indictment as the International Monetary Fund-World Bank, do not follow “a strict regime of human rights conditionalities” and “have yet to develop policies concerning their support for hazardous manufacture, application or process,” said the Tribunal.
The Tribunal recommended that national governments should “prosecute the Defendant agrochemical companies in terms of criminal liability rather than civil liability.” It also urged governments to take action to “restructure international law” to ensure the accountability of transnational corporations, to “accept a less heavy burden of proof on the victims and to fully commit to and legislate for the precautionary principle,” and “to prevent TNCs from directly or indirectly harassing and intimidating scientists, farmers and human rights and environmental defenders.”
It also urged international organizations and intergovernmental institutions to uphold human rights and the welfare of populations, and protect of biodiversity and ecosystems by subordinating the interests of corporations pursuing patents.
“The Tribunal’s recommendations must immediately be acted upon, for they echo what civil society and people’s organizations have been demanding for a very long time. The prosecution of the Big 6 must be started to bring justice to fruition for the thousands of victims and survivors of the pesticide industry. The precautionary principle must be put into place and the patent regime abolished, as recommended by the Tribunal. That is the only way to stop these human rights violations, which continue every day without impunity,” said Rengam.
Rengam further added that the Tribunal just marks the beginning of an escalated international people’s movement against agrochemical TNCs, which is now armed with a powerful verdict that can be used in every part of the world. “The next step towards justice and liberation from the Big 6’s control will be determined by the people’s unity, strength, and determination to stand up against corporate greed and aggression, just as was shown in this victorious PPT Session,” she concluded.