Who Benefits, Who Suffers?


Knight

 

George and Edvino, ages 12 and 13,
have been hired as farm workers in Sao Jose dos Pinhais, a town
in the state of Parana located in Southern Brazil. This week they
are applying pesticides. Edvino, wearing a dusty Yankees baseball
cap and Lee Jeans, nervously giggles as George explains how the
hand-held pesticide sprayer broke yesterday. It leaked on their
skin while they were applying the pesticide Folidol, made by the
German chemical corporation, Bayer. From the rows of vegetables
we are standing in we can hear the chickens clucking in the shed
near the house. As we walk down the dusty rows, Biologist Maria
Eugenia Lopata asks George and Edvino if they know that Folidol
is banned in other countries because of its health and
environmental effects. George and Edvino stop, look up in
amazement, and shake their heads no.

Lopata, who teaches at the
Catholic University of Parana, has been working with the farming
community of Sao Jose dos Pinhais for over ten years. She is
originally from Brazil but has lived in the U.S. She speaks with
the frustration of someone who knows the problems of this area
intimately: "In most cases, none of these hired farm workers
know anything about the chemicals they are using or the
precautions they need to take. They sometimes work with faulty
and outdated equipment."

Several incidences prompted
Professor Lopata to start organizing pesticide education projects
designed by and for farmers. One such incident was an
investigation carried out in another region of the state by the
Superintendent of Water Resources and the Environment when large
numbers of dead fish appeared after the pesticide, Tordon (a
DowElanco–formally Dow Chemical-product), had been sprayed for
in the area for three days. The worker applying the product,
Adilson Alves Goncalves, was badly affected on his legs.
Photographs taken six months after his second contact with Tordon
show his legs still covered with sores and a rash. Goncalves had
no training and wore no protective equipment. He received no help
in seeking medical assistance.

Also, tests of drinking water
carried out by the Santa Catarina Secretary of Agriculture
indicated high levels of polluted drinking water due to
pesticides. Professor Heitor Segundo Guiherme Medina of the
Federal University of Parana, carried out a study of fish in the
state of Mato Grosso and Parana. Fish in this area, which are a
source of food, had been poisoned by the pesticide Tordon and
were disfigured and diseased.

The state of Parana is one of the
main agricultural regions and applies the highest amount of
pesticides in all of Brazil. In Parana approximately 19,000 tons
of pesticides were applied in 1989, according to Reinaldo Onofre
Skalisz, who has researched pesticide policy in Parana since
1980. In comparison to Parana, the agricultural state of Minas
Gerais used 3,916 tons and the cocoa producing state of Bahia
used 2,255 tons. Parana is also Brazil’s biggest producer of
cotton, beans, corn, and wheat. According to a 1994 report
released by the development Bank of Parana, 25% of Brazil’s
agricultural grains are produced in Parana.

At the next farm we will meet Luis
Negoseki. As we drive along, the hot summer sun of January beats
down on the araucaria trees, a symbol of Parana, marking the
subtropical agricultural landscape. Through the clouds, off in
the distance, we can see the faint outline of the coastal
mountain range Serra do Mar. Professor Lopata informs me as we
drive up to the farm that the Negosekis stopped growing tomatoes,
even though they bring in a larger profit than other vegetables,
because the pesticide they needed to use on the tomatoes was
making the family dizzy and nauseous. When we ask what pesticide
he is now applying to the crops Luis Negoseki wipes the sweat off
his forehead with the back of his hand and replies, "Aldrin
and Folidol."

Aldrin, made by Shell Corporation,
has only recently been restricted by law to specific crops in
Brazil. However, it is still used by farmers on both the
restricted crops and the unrestricted crops. After scientists
commonly accepted that aldrin is a carcinogen in the 1970s,
countries such as the United States, Switzerland, Germany, Italy,
Israel, Spain, Finland, Argentina, Belgium, and France gradually
started to ban aldrin.

Lopata asks Luis Negoseki if he
knows if any of the pesticides he is using are authorized only
for certain crops. Luiz Negoseki pauses for a moment. A tractor
can be heard off in the distance as he puts his hoe into the dirt
and replies, "Sometimes the agronomist I buy the pesticides
from tells me how to use it, but if I don’t buy the pesticides
from an agronomist then I am not given this information."
Lopata tells me later this is a common response.

On other farms where land owners
hire workers to apply the pesticides, land owners clandestinely
buy chemicals for non-specified crops. They believe that the
stronger chemical will produce a higher crop yield. This happens
often in Brazil, Lopata explains, if the health of the land
owner, who buys the pesticide and does not apply it, is not
directly affected. In cases in which farm laborers are considered
disposable, not unlike migrant farm workers in the United States,
the land owners’ only concern is crop yields.

The other pesticide that Luiz
Negoseki mentioned, folidol, also known as methyl parathion, is
an organo-phosphate insecticide that affects the nervous systems
of organisms. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
parathion registration document states: "Methyl parathion
causes poisonings among all categories of workers who use or come
into direct contact with the pesticide. The risk extends not only
to mixer/loaders and applicators, but to field workers and
bystanders as well. In addition, these poisonings occur under the
most stringent protective conditions and during use when in
accordance with label directions. Little or no margin of safety
exists for parathion use." Parathion’s use is prohibited in
Japan, South Africa, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Ireland,
and Jamaica. It is severely restricted in Columbia, Belgium and
Switzerland. Brazilian Agronomist, Jose Pedro Coelho Santiago,
says that methyl parathion is authorized for use in Brazil on
cereals, fruits, potatoes, beans, sugar cane, coffee, and other
products.

Joao Teixeira da Cruz, who works
with Lopata and with the Sao Jose Department of Agriculture, has
some concerns about aerial spraying in Parana. Although
pesticides are commonly applied by aircraft in Parana State,
standards of aerial spraying have only been inspected in the
state since July 1991. Farmers have been under no requirement to
observe marker flags, wind direction, and the dangers of
pesticides falling outside the target area. A number of workers
remain in the field holding marker flags during the actual aerial
spraying. An article on aerial spraying in Agrotecnica, a
publication of the Swiss chemical corporation, Ciba-Geigy, shows
a photograph of aerial spraying depicting a worker holding a flag
and houses nearby.

Brazil is the major user of
pesticides in Latin America and also produces and exports
pesticides to other Latin American countries. One comparison
drawn by researchers Burton and Philogene showed that Brazil’s
expenditure on pesticides of $1,993 million in 1990 was half as
much as all other users in Latin America combined. This puts
Brazil among the world’s largest pesticide consumers.

According to projections by
toxicologist, Dr. Flavio Zambroni, from the poison control center
in Campinas, Sao Paulo, at least 280,000 Brazilians, 2% of the
population, are contaminated by pesticides each year. Zambroni
estimates that for each case registered in hospitals or clinics,
there are 250 unreported cases, due mainly to the lack of
doctors’ knowledge. Doctors commonly mistake pesticide poisonings
for food poisoning or other illnesses.

In 1989, researcher W. Carvalho
analyzed occupational exposure to two highly toxic pesticides,
BHC and DDT (banned in the U.S.), in the cocoa-growing State of
Bahia. All workers returned immediately to work on the crop after
the application of pesticides. Most workers did not use gloves,
aprons, masks, or goggles. All workers used the same clothes for
days or even weeks.

Rural workers often complain of
constant headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, insomnia, and other
symptoms during the periods when they are applying pesticides in
the Novo Friburgo region of Rio de Janeiro, where a small
percentage of farmers have died from pesticide poisonings,
according to Greenpeace researcher David Hathaway. They often
feel too weak to work and know the cause, but are unaware of
alternative pest control methods.

Health and safety issues are
exacerbated by a general lack of hazard awareness, lack of basic
health care in rural areas, and the lack of protective clothing,
or difficulty of wearing protective clothing in tropical
climates. There are also shortages of facilities for washing
after pesticide application, or in case of accidents. Many times
used pesticide containers are re-used for storage and drinking.
Illiteracy, reading complex labels, misleading information, lack
of regulatory authorities, and lack of enforcement all contribute
to health hazards related to pesticides. Also, labor is abundant
in most developing countries resulting in a disregard for
workers’ health.

When pesticides clearly have
affected agricultural laborer’s health, and unemployment is high,
some employers adopt the cynical position of reducing individual
health risks by not guaranteeing work.

Neither George or Edvino were
informed about safety precautions to take before applying
pesticides. When asked if they had read the label they George
replied, "I couldn’t understand all of those words. I don’t
think we are supposed to read that stuff anyway." George
recalls his older brother telling him to not to act sick if the
pesticides start to make him ill. "I don’t want to get
fired," he commented.

Chemical pesticides are also
responsible for water pollution, soil degradation, insect
resistance and resurgence and the destruction of native flora and
fauna. Pesticides kill insects as well as their natural
predators; and over time, many of the parasites build up a
resistance to the chemicals. As a result, the continued and
increasing use of pesticides becomes necessary. According to
World Watch researcher Gary Gardner, more than 900 species are
presently resistant to at least one pesticide- up from 182 in
1965.

 

The "Green"
Revolution’s Influence on Brazil

The Green Revolution is commonly
defined as the widespread movement to ease chronic food shortages
in developing countries through the development of seeds that
have been bio-engineered to produce higher crop yields. The Green
Revolution was developed in the 1940s under Rockefeller and Ford
Foundation and supported by the World Bank and the International
Monetary Fund which are all based in Northern industrialized
countries. These higher-yielding varieties of seeds are highly
dependent on irrigation, fertilizers, and pesticides.
Corporations that produce these biologically engineered seeds,
pesticides and fertilizers have a lot to gain from this
manufactured dependence of developing countries on their
products. For example, in response to greater pesticide use in
Brazil, Monsanto Chemical Corporation, based in St. Louis,
Missouri, is stepping up efforts to introduce Roundup Ready
soybeans, genetically engineered soybeans that are designed to
work with their pesticide Roundup.

The Green Revolution, according to
Vandana Shiva, director of the Research Foundation for Science,
Technology and Natural Resource Policy India, was a
techno-political strategy to create abundance in agricultural
societies and reduce the threat of communist insurgency and
agrarian conflict. "Development" then became a strategy
to "combat scarcity" and generate material abundance.
However, the connection between agricultural inputs and food
security, particularly food for the poor, is tenuous.
Distribution is a greater problem than production, as access to
food is limited by poverty, not the quantity of food produced
annually. The Green Revolution does not recognize that most of
the food targeted for large scale pesticide use does not feed the
Third World population but is destined for export to wealthier
countries. The Green Revolution in fact encourages and
perpetuates export agriculture economies.

The ideology of the Green
Revolution often spread to the governments of developing
countries. These governments then often pushed their own
development projects based on the agricultural theories of the
Green Revolution. Brazil’s First National Development Plan in
1972 laid down a policy of increasing agricultural productivity,
and reducing pesticide imports by developing the Brazilian
pesticide industry. Pesticide promotion intensified, and
thousands of sales representatives were employed. The plan, as
Brazilian Agronomist Reinaldo Onofre Skalisz illustrated in a
1991 survey of pesticide use and policy, encouraged agricultural
concentration on soy, wheat, and cotton, crops which require
large quantities of pesticides.

The Brazilian government actively
promoted pesticide use. Following the First National Development
Plan, the Bank of Brazil began to make rural credit dependent on
farmers applying 15% of the sum granted to pesticides.
Advertising in newspapers, magazines, leaflets, and television,
companies promoted the idea that pesticides were indispensable to
agricultural productivity and better quality foods while being
harmless to people and the environment. Pesticide imports into
Brazil remain high and the scale of use makes Brazil an
attractive market for exporters.

Public concern in Brazil started
to rise after journalists revealed that tomatoes were being
treated with mercury compounds. Mercury is a poison that effects
the nervous system. A large percentage of the workers in sugar
cane fields in the state of Rio de Janeiro were poisoned by
mercury. As Brazilian activist, Jose Lutzenberger, revealed in
the 1981 public television broadcast Pesticides and Pills: For
Export Only,
"the big international outfits that produce
and sell these products know what’s happening and they sell it
even if it is prohibited for use in the exporting country."

 

U.S. Pesticide Exports

Professor Lopata and I ride along
a dirt road to the Farmer’s Cooperative in town where most of the
farmers in this area buy their pesticides. We must roll up our
windows in the sweltering heat as other cars and trucks pass
because the dust from the road makes it hard to breath. At the
Cooperative, we examine the dusty containers of pesticides on the
shelves. "So many of these are made in other countries but
prohibited to be used where they are made," Lopata comments
in a cool, matter-of-fact manner. Then her eyes change and she
looks at the agronomist behind the counter and whispers to
herself, "Why are we a dumping ground?"

It is increasingly accepted by
public health professionals and environmentalists that products
which are banned or severely restricted in industrial countries
should not be exported to developing countries, yet no country
prohibits the export of pesticides banned in their own country.
In spite of the health and environmental risks illustrated by
researchers and advocates, pesticide sales to parts of the
Southern hemisphere, particularly the richer countries in Latin
America, are growing. Trade liberalization, such as GATT and
NAFTA, and monetary policies developed by the World Bank and the
International Monetary Fund structural adjustment policies which
encourage cash crops for exports, will tend to increase pesticide
sales in agriculture exporting countries, according to British
Agrochemical’s 1992 Annual Report.

The pesticides market is dominated
by a small number of transnational corporations: the top 10
companies control 73% of the world market, and 20 companies
control 93%, according to the 1990 edition of Agrow World Crop
Protection News .
The top 15 are all based in Western Europe
or the United States, led by Ciba-Geigy (Swiss), ICI (UK), Bayer
(German) and Phone Poulenc (French).

Pesticides are big business. The
sales of the top 25 companies amounted to approximately $23.5
billion in 1990 and $29 billion in 1995 according to reports in Agrow
World Crop Protection News.
In 1994, pesticide sales in
Brazil were US$1.4 billion which shows an increase from about
US$l billion in 1993. Many companies see Latin America as a
target area for their products.

A Worldwatch report paper
published in 1987 revealed that between 1972 and 1985, imports in
pesticides in Latin America increased by 48%.

The top pesticide companies all
recorded increases in dollar sales in 1995. Global agrochemical
sales rose by 11.9%, according to Agrow’s report in 1996. More
than 334 million pounds of pesticides were exported from US ports
between 1992 and 1994, according to a March 1996 report by the
Foundation for Advancements in Science and Education (FASE). The
report, based on the analysis of US Customs shipping records,
found that exports of "hazardous pesticides" increased
26% between 1992 and 1994, growing from 100 million pounds in
1992 to 126 million pounds in 1994. These estimates, FASE
stresses, must be viewed as extremely conservative since 74% of
all pesticides exported left the US with product names omitted
from shipping records. The majority of hazardous exports went to
destinations in the developing countries.

FASE defines hazardous pesticides
as those that are banned, severely restricted or considered
"restricted use" pesticides in the US; those that are
known or suspected of causing cancer, genetic mutation or
reproductive damage; or those that the US Environmental
Protection Agency classifies as "highly toxic."
According to this FASE report, in 1994, US companies exported
more than three million pounds of pesticides designated by the
United Nations Environment Program as "likely to cause
problems under conditions of use in developing countries."
These include the pesticide mentioned earlier: methyl parathion.
Brazil was one of the countries that received the greatest
quantities of pesticides between 1992 and 1994 from the us.

The data used in the FASE report
is based on US Customs shipping records the most complete source
of information on exports in the public

record. However, the great
majority of pesticides exported are not specifically named in
these records and nearly half of all pesticides were exported
anonymously, the result of companies obtaining permission from
the US Treasury Department to mask their names on shipping
documents available to the public. FASE was able to identify
exporters for approximately 60% of the pesticides exported
between 1992 and 1994. The principle companies responsible for
exporting unidentified pesticides in 1994 included Rhone Poulenc
(France), Zeneca (UK), and American Cyanamid. More than 150
million pounds of unidentified pesticides were exported in 1994
by anonymous manufacturers.

The chemical companies argue that
there are compelling reasons to export pesticides overseas such
as to sustain agricultural yields. Instances of starvation and
increasing population in developing countries are frequently
cited to justify this approach. However, investigations show that
up to 70 percent of all the pesticides used in developing
countries are not applied to food for local consumption. "At
least 50 percent and up to 70 percent are instead applied to
export crops," reports David Weir in Circle of Poison. "Pesticides
are applied to food that people eat in the US, not people in the
Third World. It is applied to cocoa, to coffee, to bananas,
tapioca, all sorts of luxury crops, to non-food items like
cotton." Furthermore, distribution of food is a greater
problem than production of food, as access to food is limited by
poverty, not the quantity of food produced annually.

One reason pesticide use is so
much more intense on export crops than on subsistence food crops
is that the multinational corporations which control the
production and marketing of exports demand a blemish-free
product. Nothing less, they say, will meet the discriminating
standards of the consumers in Europe, North America, or Japan.
Researcher David Pimental reported in Bio-Science that in
the United States it is estimated that 10 to 20 percent of
pesticides used on fruits and vegetables serve only to improve
their appearance.

 

Circle of Poison

After we visit a few farms,
Professor Lopata and I rest in the limited shade of some
araucaria trees and eat our lunch. From this elevated part of Sao
Jose dos Pinhais we have a view of many of the farms we just
visited. As I notice the sweet smell of freshly turned earth on
our shoes Lopata inspects her sandwich. "I wonder what kind
of chemicals I’m subjecting my body to as I eat this … you know
in the United States you’re still affected by the pesticides you
have banned," she says firmly.

Many consumers in the United
states have fought to have pesticides banned or severely
restricted in their own countries, only to find residues
returning in imported food. The FDA estimates, through spot
checks, that 10 percent of our imported food is contaminated with
illegal residues of banned pesticides. However, Weir challenges
this figure as being too low, claiming that "the FDA’s most
commonly used analytical method does not even check for 70
percent of the almost 900 food tolerances for cancer-causing
pesticides." (A tolerance is defined as the amount of
a pesticide allowed in any particular food product.) Also, in
1986, the US General Accounting Office reported that the FDA
tests almost no domestically grown food for pesticides and does
not prevent the sale of the contaminated food it does find.

Few studies of pesticide residues
are carried out in Brazil, but the information available does
give rise to concern. In 1969, meat exported to the US from
Brazil was found to be contaminated by pesticide residue. Also,
cheese exported from Brazil was rejected by Canada and soy
exported to Japan was rejected because of high residues of
pesticides. The Brazilian Minister of Agriculture responded by
creating a laboratory (LARA) to examine exported products. In
1985 LARA published a study showing that 80% of all meat destined
for consumption in other countries was contaminated with DDT and
BHC. 15% of this exceeded levels of contamination deemed
acceptable by the World Health Organization.

Multinational corporations defend
the trade of banned chemicals to developing countries by claiming
that each country is competent and responsible for determining
its own policies on the export and import of products. They argue
that if the government of Brazil wishes to subject its people to
a pesticide the US considers dangerous, then the manufacturer
should not feel constrained because a Western country has banned
the pesticide.

This raises an interesting
question: "Why does Brazil have hardly any
regulations?" As criminologist John Braithwaite observes,
one must question the liberal democratic ideal of national
sovereignty "when one is talking about countries who …
make their decisions about the chemical industry on the strength
of bribes." Indeed, due to corruption and other pressures
from multinationals, most third world countries have been unable
to stop the flow of dangerous products. Jose Lutzenberger,
Brazilian environmentalist, comments that "Unfortunately,
the multinational corporations, whether from the US or Europe,
are so strong that they manage to transform the Brazilian
Ministry of Agriculture into a true subsidiary of them."

 

Parana State Fights Back
Against the Brazilian Federal Government’s Lax Pesticide
Legislation

The seriousness of the health and
environmental impacts of pesticides in Brazil and the apparent
indifference of the federal government prompted several Brazilian
states to pass their own laws. In June 1982, pesticide residue
polluted the waters of Rio Guiaba which supplies water to the
city Porto Alegre in the State of Rio Grande do Sul. Rio Grande
do Sul passed the first law followed by the state of Parana in
the same month.

This step provoked a violent
reaction from the pesticides industry, which argued in the
Supreme Court of Brazil that the state laws were
unconstitutional. The German Federation of Pesticide
Manufacturers demanded that the federal government over-rule the
state laws. A conglomeration of European pesticide industries
wrote to the Brazilian government warning about the serious
repercussions the situation could have on the industry, and
shortly afterwards asked the then Minister of Agriculture, Nestor
Jost, to use his influence to modify the situation in favor of
industry.

Some aspects of the state laws
were ruled unconstitutional: specifically the articles referring
to environment and toxicological data, which were said to be only
within the jurisdiction of the Brazilian environmental
authorities and the Brazilian Department of Health.

Since this law came into force,
the authorities in the state of Parana have found that the
Ministry of Agriculture lacked information about various
products. The major pesticide manufacturers have all tried to
address labeling shortcomings, however, pesticides are still used
by illiterate agricultural workers or are too complex. Parana is
concerned that labels do not indicate symptoms of poisoning. A
survey carried out by the Secretary of Agriculture for the state
of Parana, in 1987, found that 40% of products sold omitted this
information and 60% did not indicate how poisonings should be
treated. Examples of contradictory, misleading, or wrong
information on pesticide product labels include:

  • Cobra 21 (lactofen), made by
    the German Corporation Hoechst, says that no fatty
    materials should be taken in the event of poisoning by
    the product. On the next line it says that a large
    quantity of milk should be drunk in the event of
    poisoning. A correction sticker has been placed over
    these instructions.
  • The US corporation Monsanto
    published a technical leaflet saying that their product
    Roundup (glyphosphate) is less toxic than kitchen salt,
    aspirin or vitamin A.
  • A leaflet on Verdict, made by
    DowElanco (a corporation based in the U.S.), which is
    registered only for use on soy in Brazil, carries
    recommendations for use on 13 other crops, such as
    cotton, coffee, citrus, eucalyptus, and tomatoes.

Now, products sold in the state of
Parana must have special labels to show they conform to the
restriction imposed.

There is presently a great deal of
indifference from the Brazilian federal government. In December
1990, registration of 116 pesticide products was up for renewal,
and the President extended the date form six months. At the end
of this period all of these products were refused registration,
either because the manufacturer had not provided sufficient
product data, or the relevant ministry did not have the resources
to carry out the work necessary for registration. In spite of
this decision, three Ministries (Health, Agriculture, and
Environment) met in July 1991 and agreed to extend the
registration of the products. The State of Parana has to date
ignored the extension and begun to ban their sale.

However, as illustrated in the
State of Parana’s report on pesticides, Pesticides: A Reality
of Parana,
bans often fail to actually control sales. In
1987, agronomists of Parana’s Secretary of Agriculture carried
out a survey of the 265 best-selling pesticides in the state to
see whether the manufacturers had presented to the Ministry of
Agriculture the correct data: there was no information at all for
120 products (45%), partial information on 142 (54%) and only
three (1%) presented all the information including the pesticide,
crop, and symptoms.

Individual states commonly have
difficulties banning a pesticide if it is allowed in the rest of
the country. The pesticide commonly referred to as BHC was banned
in January 1981 by Parana State. But the regulation allowed sales
to continue until the end of 1983, to enable companies to get rid
of their stocks. Without any facilities for collection of
out-of-date or banned pesticides, they often remain easily
accessible and stored under hazardous conditions. Parana’s
Secretary of Agriculture confiscated 300 tons of BHC products,
and storage continues to be a environmental and health problem.
In 1991, three tons of BHC were found buried in the town of
Apucarana.

With the aim of getting a better
picture of the effects on pesticides on exposed workers, the
Secretary of Agriculture began work in collaboration with the
state’s hospitals, agricultural workers and the general public to
research the incidence of poisonings. From 1984, the Secretary of
Health began joint work with the Toxicological Information Center
and health clinics throughout the state to document the health
and environmental impact of pesticides. Doctors are asked to
complete standard forms indicating personal details, the product
responsible, the relevant crop and symptoms. Parana hopes to
acquire a clearer picture of the extent of the problem and the
regions most affected.

However, it is difficult to draw
firm conclusions on trends from figures revealed through these
sources. Agronomist Reinaldo Skalisz reports that poisoning
figures fell after 1984 largely because the system for collecting
information became less rigorous. In 1990, the Secretary of
Health tightened procedures and the number increased again. The
forms are often poorly completed. Common omissions include the
product, active ingredient, and the crop.

 

Prior Informed Consent and GATT

Important policy advances have
been made in regard to health and environmental hazards
associated with pesticide trade. In 1985, the United Nations Food
and Agriculture Organization (FAO) introduced an International
Code of Conduct on the Distribution and Use of Pesticides (the
FAO code), and in 1989 it incorporated a mechanism, known as Prior
Informed Consent
(PIC), which enables governments to stop
imports of a number of named pesticides. Pesticides will be
placed in the PIC process if they are a chemical that is banned
for health or environmental reasons in at least one country or if
they cause health or environmental problems under the conditions
of use in "developing countries." PIC provisions not
only make it easier for the Brazilian Federal Government to
reject hazardous imports, but also act as a means of transferring
information and providing a structure for the work of health and
environmental advocacy groups in so-called developing countries.
But as a trade-based mechanism, there are limits to what it can
achieve.

There is no provision through UN
agencies or governments for monitoring or enforcing the FAO Code.
For pesticides not in the PIC process, but banned or severely
restricted for any reason in an exporting country, the exporting
country is required to notify the importing country that a
shipment should be expected. Few governments have set up schemes
to notify of such exports, and many banned or severely restricted
products are exported without notif ication.

GATT, the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade, puts a whole new spin on provisions to limit
pesticide trade. Under the terms of GATT or the World Trade
Organization (WTO), as it is now called since the Uruguay Round,
Prior Informed Consent could be seen as a non-tariff barrier to
trade, which the World Trade Organization seeks to eliminate. The
PIC provisions require that decisions to ban or severely restrict
a pesticide are ‘not used inconsistently with the provisions of
GATT.’ It does not prevent the production and export of
pesticides banned domestically.

In theory, the treaty that emerged
from the GATT Uruguay Round should allow more access to so-called
Developing Countries to the markets of industrialized countries
for their processed products but, in turn, will further open the
markets of Third World economies to multinational corporations.
The WTO Committee on Trade and Environment, formed after the
Uruguay Round, is currently debating the issue of exports of
domestically prohibited goods and will present a decision in
December 1996 at the WTO Ministerial Conference held in
Singapore.

 

What Is Our Responsibility?

Professor Lopata has talked with
farmers at several community meetings about organizing projects
to educate about the safe use of pesticides and how to decrease
the use of pesticides. Information about the use of pesticides in
the area is currently being gathered. However, lack of resources
and funds continue to hamper these projects from progressing at a
quick pace. "It takes a lot of work to put projects like
this together that involve the whole community. The farmers work
so much that it’s hard to schedule meetings. It’s hard for the
farmers to resist pesticides when they are bombarded with
advertisements or dependent on pesticides for a certain brand of
seed they are buying."

Yet a few farmers throughout
Brazil have resisted by introducing other methods of farming such
as biological controls, inter-cropping, crop rotation and others
in place of pesticides. In a recent study of several hundred
organic farms (farms that do not use pesticides) spread over 14
countries and four continents, published by the United Nations
Development Program, it was concluded that "organic
agriculture is a feasible option for environmentally and
economically sustainable production strategies in developing
countries." Yet, the pressure to adopt industrialized
agricultural methods has been hard to resist. It began with the
demand for land in developing countries to supply crops to the
northern industrialized countries, and was later reinforced with
economics strategies, promoted by the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund and other money lending institutions,
for development based on the export of cash crops.

A few days after Lopata gave me a
tour of the farming community, I accompanied agronomist Joao
Teixeira da Cruz to a Health Department meeting which discussed
pesticides and workers safety. The buzzing fluorescent lighting
and the pungent smell of the freshly cleaned and deodorized tiles
of the Health Department floor were a direct contrast to the
lifestyle of the farmers I was just immersed in.

I was introduced to everyone in
the room and I described how many of the Brazilian farm workers
that I had recently met did not know that many of the pesticides
they were using were banned in other countries for health and
environmental reasons. The room became silent except for the
humming of the fluorescent light over our heads. A member of the
Health Department turned to me and asked, "Well, do the
people of the United States know what their companies are doing
to us in Brazil?"

What is our responsibility in the
United States? Or rather, what is our ability to respond? There
are a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOS) throughout
the United States that are educating the public, lobbying the
government and monitoring corporations and researching issues
around the international trade and use of pesticides. Some NGOs
are organizing boycotts of produce that have pesticide residues
in the hope that corporations will get the message that some
customers do not agree with their actions.

For example, the Pesticide Action
Network has made a list of twelve pesticides, the "dirty
dozen," which are banned in many countries but still
internationally exported. This list has been used to lobby
governments and educate the public about the international
pesticide trade. Also, the Foundation for the Advancement in
Science and Education is currently demanding that the EPA and
other government agencies enforce proper labeling, ensure that
comprehensible information about safe use is available, and
include information about less-toxic alternatives with pesticide
shipments to developing countries. However, for the most part,
NGOs do not have the resources to compete with and challenge the
chemical corporations. What about corporate responsibility and
ethics?

Corporations and their executives,
accustomed to getting away with exporting domestically banned
pesticides and causing detrimental health and environmental
effects in developing countries, will change only if the costs of
this activity outweigh the benefits. Multi-national corporations
have the power to co-opt Third World governments, and only strong
a strong international code which is well enforced and costly to
disobey as proposed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
can prevent these types of

unethical practices. Those injured
by hazardous pesticides will not be protected from an alliance of
corporations seeking to continue exporting domestically banned
pesticides in the name of free trade unless citizens organize and
demand that the World Trade Organization not allow corporations
to export domestically banned pesticides as prohibited by the PIC
agreement of the FAO. The fight for corporate responsibility will
not be a topdown fight but a bottom-up fight.