Rome, 10 July 2017: Dr Vandana Shiva: “The Poison Cartel, hiding behind new trade agreements like CETA, is putting at risk the survival of farmers and the health of citizens and of the environment; the right to water must remain in the commons.”
“It is still small farmers who produce 70% of the food we eat globally. But a handful of corporations, which we call the “Poison Cartel”, are forcing their model of production on us, which wipes out small and medium size farmers from the market to keep selling low quality, pesticides contaminated food, dangerous to the health of citizens and of the environment. We can still change course, from a model which only leads to the depletion and destruction of our resources making life on earth impossible, to a model which instead takes care of the Earth and biodiversity, based on a healthy relationship between food producers and consumers”, Dr Vandana Shiva declared on the occasion of the conference “Poisons at the Door: Free Trade Agreements and pesticides: health and employment at risk”, which took place at Campidoglio in Rome. Other participants in the event, organised by Navdanya International and promoted by Esclab were: the Councilor for the Environment at Rome Municipality, Pinuccia Montanari, President of the Environmental Commission of Roma Capitale, Daniele Diaco, M5S MEP and representative of the Environment Committee Mirko Busto, oncologist and hematologist Dr Patrizia Gentilini. Associations were represented by: Monica Di Sisto, spokesperson of Stop Ttip Italy, Ruchi Shroff, Navdanya International, Marica Di Pierri, A Sud.
On the sidelines of the conference, Vandana Shiva met the mayor Virginia Raggi and the Councilor for the Environment at Rome Municipality, with whom she talked about the importance of defending water as a public commons: “I have been fighting my whole life – said Dr Vandana Shiva – against privatization of water, which should always be available to everyone, especially the poorest; no one can be denied the right to water.” Dr Vandana Shiva later participated in a Flash mob at the Capitol: NO to the closure of “nasoni”(Rome public open drinking water fountains), YES to water as a common good to reiterate the importance of water as a common good.
Considering that on July 25 the Italian Senate will vote on the ratification of CETA, the core theme of the debate was on the impact of free trade on our food and production system with a focus on pesticides and their potential adverse effects on consumers and workers, including the presentation of scientific data from recent research on the presence of pesticides in Canadian products, and the report “Poisons in our Plate“, prepared by Navdanya International, Seed Freedom, A Sud and CDCA, on the use of glyphosate in Italy and worldwide, as well as additional data on the effects of pesticides on human health.
Dr Vandana Shiva went into the substance of trade agreements, mentioning how they affected India: “There are agreements which basically allow the dumping of poor quality food or heavily contaminated by hazardous chemical substances on any country, to the point of subverting the balance of local supply chains and of national and local economies. These rules are dictated by a ‘Poison Cartel’ of giant transnational agribusiness corporations that have brought us GMOs and pesticides, disease and malnutrition, and the subversion of the democratic principles of our civilization. But we will not be forced to be dominated by these poisoners. Let us write together the new rules of economy and trade in which there is respect for the planet and for human rights. Why must we leave this power in the hands of poison producers? If we do not set rules that are ethical and ecological and fair, with a vision towards the future, they will continue to prevail.”
Monica di Sisto, spokesperson of Stop TTIP Italia campaign
“Canada uses 99 active ingredients which are banned in the European Union, the most renowned being glyphosate, against which a major signature campaign was recently launched by the European Citizens’ Initiative(ECI), which already has over a million signatures. Either we mobilize and change the way we decide our rules or our democracy will change dramatically. It will change the way safety standards are regulated, as well as all the rules that protect the environment and our rights. We are not against trade, but we need the right rules. CETA not only breaks down tariff barriers, which are the so-called non-tariff barriers. CETA’s enemy is anything that represents a cost to companies and that slows down trade, regardless of what this is intended to protect or defend. For the internal decision-making committees of CETA, science, health, labour rights are off-topic. These treaties are a gift to big business. They are not designed to help small and medium businesses, as only 0.3% of Italian companies are exporting to Canada. They bring no benefit to the economic fabric of Italy and simply serve some very large industrial groups, to make smooth the rules for those who need to cross many borders to do business. “
Ruchi Shroff, Navdanya International
“The Poison Cartel, as we call it at Navdanya, is made up of those same companies that originally produced chemicals for the war industry, such as Bayer and Monsanto, among whose products there’s, for instance, Agent Orange, which was used during the Vietnam War. In order to continue to make profits they needed to find a way to reuse and keep producing the same products and they saw enormous potential for this in agriculture. Among the many tools corporations are using to consolidate and extend their control and power, they are now merging with one another: Monsanto with Bayer, Syngenta with Chem-China and Dow with Dupont. By merging they become stronger and both their monopoly and the pressure they can make on governments and international institutions increases. They are putting in place every possible strategy, whether it is propaganda, or philanthropy, or trade treaties, with the aim of continuing to to dominate the market. Regarding glyphosate, let’s just think of the recent campaign of hate attacks triggered by Monsanto against the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which had declared glyphosate ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ in 2015. The severity of this smear campaign is unprecedented. The industrial agriculture model is based on the false premise that only through production intensification we will be able to feed the world’s growing population. Despite having destroyed much of our soil, polluted water and put biodiversity at risk, despite having massively contributed to climate change, the industrial agriculture model produces only a fraction of the global food supply. Looking beyond the myths and propaganda created by multinationals, we find sufficient knowledge, research and case examples to assert that we do not need to use toxic products to produce our food”.
“MaricaDi Pierri, A Sud
“In the report ‘Poisons in Our Plate’, prepared by A Sud and Navdanya International, we have analyzed not only the impacts of pesticides on health and the environment, as well as denounced the inadequacy of regulations in force, but also we have wanted to talk about civil society movements on the ground in varius parts of the world which are opposing this indiscriminate dissemination of poisons and and what they are doing to stop it. In Europe we have seen a strong mobilization with the European Citizens’ Initiative against glyphosate. With the aim of strengthening the campaign we have launched an initiative with Il Salvagente, where we have tested urine samples of 14 pregnant women living in Rome. 100% of the samples were tested positive to glyphosate. Also consider that, theoretically this was supposed to be a low risk category, especially because of the distance from agricultural area. These results make us understand the need for increased and adequate information on these issues.”
Patrizia Gentilini, oncologist and hematologist of ‘ISDE Italy
“Poisons are inside us. It is not only glyphosate. There are hundreds of chemicals in our body, which have been detected through several tests. In particular, the amount of chemicals found in a sample of 300 pregnant women in the United States raises questions about their impact during embryo-fetal development and the increased incidence of childhood cancer, which is particularly high in Southern Europe. Currently, we are all victims of chronic exposure to low doses to a large number of chemicals. What some science arrogantly appears to continue to want to ignore is that any living system is an extremely complex system. There is too much superficiality in the way these poisons are allowed to be widespread in the environment, basing risk assessments about the impact on on life forms on a mechanistic concept, which is totally inadequate and scientifically outdated. Added to this, in the toxicological assessments made by regulatory agencies we are still at the point where only the active principle is considered, not the commercial formulation, not the set of molecules, not the combined action of different products. And as if that was not enough, all assessment are still substantially based on the data provided by the manufacturers, ignoring independent scientific studies. ”
Pinuccia Montanari, Councilor for the Environment at Rome Municipality
“The wrong culture of monoculture and toxic substances in agriculture helps to create a model that does not guarantee us any future. We need to change direction towards real sustainability. In the countryside near Rome it is really possible to practice organic farming and the City of Rome is planning a series of actions to promote and foster change and especially to strengthen and protect the environment and local territorial identities. A different model of agriculture would also help to combat organized crime, which is a serious issue of this sector in Italy. In addition, each administration should have an environment-health observatory where evaluations are made in the perspective of independent science. It is necessary that at the institutional level we give voice to those who sometimes heroically in the world of science are seeking to open a dialogue from new viewpoint, which has the protection of human health at heart”.
Daniele Diaco, president of the Environmental Commission Roma Capitale
“The administration of Rome Capitol is seeking to bring forward a reform on the issues of environment, biodiversity and ecology. We want to give a strong signal about pesticides and are working together on regulations, in collaboration with the Environment Dept of Rome Municipality, as well as with our colleagues at the Italian Parliament. Similarly we are promoting circular economies and farm-to-table food systems, starting with local schools”.
MirkoBusto, M5S MEP Environment Commission
“The people with whom farmers today have the closest relationship are the pesticide sellers. And those are basically the same who train farmers. On a broader scale we think that much of the research in Universities is funded by big multinational groups. This system is colonizing and has colonized people’s culture over the years. From a person who has had intimate knowledge of nature processes for millennia, the farmer has become, in the last 70 years since the Green Revolution, a mere agroburocrate carrying out protocol procedures set by agribusiness”.
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