Friday, December 17, 2010

Ban Endosulfan and Paraquat now! Asia/Pacific agriculture and plantation unions join environmental groups in call to halt production

Agriculture and plantation trade unions in Asia/Pacific have joined with non-government organisations Pesticide Action Network Asia-Pacific (PAN AP) and Thanal, in calling for the banning of the toxic chemical Endosulfan. Endosulfan is linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive defects and has no antidote.

The decision was reached at the IUF Asia/Pacific regional meeting on health and safety for workers in agriculture and plantations held in Trivandrum, Kerala, India on 14-15 December 2010. The Government of India remains the only country in the world opposed to the inclusion of Endosulfan in the Stockholm Convention, which would lead to a ban.  In reaching the decision in India, unions from India and unions from other Asia/Pacific countries have issued a call to the government to ensure the basic human right to a safe workplace is ensured through the banning of this harmful chemical.

Unions at the meeting heard reports from Thanal (an environmental NGO from Kerala at the forefront of campaigns for justice of victims of Endosulfan poisoning) and PAN AP on the effects of pesticides and chemicals on agriculture workers.  Discussion also involved trade union strategies for incorporating health and safety into organising and trade union strengthening.  Unions also endorsed the global campaign for the banning of Paraquat.

“The continued used of highly hazardous chemicals, like Endosulfan and Paraquat, in agriculture and plantations occurs because workers are denied fundamental rights,” noted Ma Wei Pin, IUF Asia/Pacific regional secretary. “Agriculture and plantation workers are denied the right to know the risks they are facing and the right to negotiate regarding the use of these chemicals.”

“In the wake of global efforts to change practices to sustainable agriculture and better ecological farming, it is high time agriculture is made as safe as possible for farming and working communities. Nations need to change with the times, and commit to a phase out of Endosulfan and Paraquat and other highly hazardous pesticides” said Sarojini Rengam, Executive Director, PAN AP.

Kristina Olssen, international secretary of the IUF affiliate Kommunal who attended the meeting as a guest noted, “Our union was active in the successful banning of Endosulfan in Sweden in 1995 and our union welcomed the subsequent European Union ban.  Our union was clear on the negative and harmful effects of Endosulfan and believes all workers throughout the world should be able to work in an environment free of this toxic chemical.”

C Jayakumar noted, “We look forward to working with trade unions globally through the IUF in making the world toxic free.”

A joint press release from IUF Asia/Pacific, Thanal and PAN AP is available here.

Participants to the IUF Asia/Pacific regional meeting of agriculture and plantation unions, Trivandrum 14-15 December 2010.

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