Food Security is defined as 'The ability of a country to produce or import enough food for normal health and physical activity of its people'.
Thursday, October 4, 2012
Slow Death and Fast Profits: The Globalisation of Pesticides and Poison
The next time anyone in India serves up a good old ‘wholesome’ meal of rice and various vegetables, they will probably take in half a milligram of pesticide also, around a pin prick. That would be more than 40 times what an average North American person would consume.
India is one of the world’s largest users of pesticides and a highly profitable market for the corporations that manufacture them. Ladyfinger, cabbage, tomato and cauliflower in particular may contain dangerously high levels because farmers tend to harvest them almost immediately after spraying. Fruit and vegetables are sprayed and tampered with to make them more colourful, and harmful fungicides are sprayed on fruit to ripen them in order to rush them off to market.
Research by the School of Natural Sciences and Engineering at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore has indicated disturbing trends in the increased use of pesticide. In 2008, it reported that many crops for export had been rejected internationally due to high pesticide residues.
Kasargod in Kerala is notorious for the indiscriminate spraying of endosulfan. The government-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala aerially sprayed the harmful pesticide on cashews for a period of over 20 years. Consequently, it got into rivers, streams and drinking water. Families and their children have been living with physical deformities, cancers and disorders of the central nervous system ever since.
Officials and the pesticide companies benefited from the spraying. At the time, cashew was grown without pesticides throughout Kerala, but the government run plantation invested millions of rupees of public money in spraying the deadly pesticide. Endosulfen poisoning cases also emerged elsewhere, including in Karnataka.
Monsanto’s controversial Round Up is now being used in place of endosulfan, which is in fact still being used in various parts of the country.
According to the writer Marie-Monique Robin, whoever controls the food (and pesticide) business controls the world. And Monsanto, backed by the US Government, is setting out to do this through its genetically manipulated (GM) seeds and its pesticides and weedicides.
This is the company has been responsible for manufacturing polychlorinated biphenols that cause cancer, dioxins that lead to chloracne, GM bovine growth hormone that produce mastitis in cattle and genetically modified organisms containing insect toxins, including GM corn, GM soya and Bt cotton, which are strongly associated with a range of health hazards. It also produced Agent Orange which the US dropped on Vietnam to destroy jungle and consequently led to mass death, disease and deformities. In June 2001, adding insult to injury, Monsanto was accused by farmers of Ninh Thuan province of pressuring them to use genetically modified seeds that resulted in corn and maize crop failures and economic ruin. In Indonesia, the corporation bribed more than 140 government officials to have its Bt cotton released without an environmental risk assessment.
Dr Meryl Hammond, founder of the Campaign for Alternatives to Pesticides, told a Canadian parliament committee in 2010 that a raft of studies published in prestigious peer-reviewed journals point to strong associations between chemical pesticides and serious health consequences, including endocrine disruption and fertility problems, birth defects, brain tumours and brain cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, childhood leukaemia, cancer clusters in communities, gastric or stomach cancer, learning disabilities, non-Hodgkin’s lymphomaand canine malignant lymphoma. More