Poisoned farmers: exposing the myth of pesticide protection

Originally published by Le Monde 16th of February. Farm workers are not protected from pesticides.Their exposure has been linked to serious and deadly illnesses, including Parkinson’s disease and blood cancers.Recommended equipment, expensive, untested and rarely worn as it is, does not provide effective protection.Without this presumed protection, dangerous pesticides would be banned.French whistleblowing scientists have raised the alarm for more than a decade. They remain unheard. 

Scientists preparing Jean-Baptiste Lefoulon before measuring his exposure to pesticides in the field. Photo: © Ed Alcock/MYOP for Le Monde. Jean-Baptiste Lefoulon is standing in boxer shorts in the middle of his farmyard.

Billions of euros, millions of faulty masks, and no answers

Romanian firefighters unload a first batch of 30 ventilators from rescEU – the common European reserve of medical equipment set up earlier this year to help countries affected by the coronavirus pandemic, at the Hospital in Bulovka. EC – Audiovisual Service, photographer  Michal Cizek

If truth is the first casualty in war, transparency was lost first in the fight against Covid-19, closely followed by lack of control and oversight. In the very first contract for protection equipment paid for by the EU budget, the Commission in April signed a contract with the German company Asanus Medizintechnic GmbH worth 29 million euros for 10 million masks. When the first batch arrived in May tests in four member states showed the masks did not comply with the contract. They were non-homogenous, only partially passed the filter test, and fell below the norm for a fit-for-purpose test.

Unclear exit from G4S by two Danish business people

In 2004, two Danish businessmen, Lars Nørby Johansen and Jørgen Philip-Sørensen, were the main forces behind the establishment of the world’s largest security company, G4S. Just a year later, both disappeared from the company in a vague way. G4S still praises itself for its Danish roots, but around the world, the giant is nowadays better known for mismanagement – murder, torture, surveillance and other human rights violations, which are traditionally not associated with Denmark, the Danish business community, or the region Scandinavia. G4S’s shabby human rights record recently led to the divestment of crucial Danish and Norwegian G4S shareholders. G4S is still listed on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange, which begs the question: how Danish is G4S really?

Who executed the sick people in a school – and why?

“I observed a group of about 12 soldiers arriving on foot along the road. I could not identify to which party they belonged. They were wearing either camouflage uniforms or one colored khaki uniform. Some wore hats or caps but I can not give more specific description. They took position lying behind the wall along the road and facing the school.

Et skrantende Falck skabte sikrings-giganten G4S – hvorefter danskerne forsvandt og firmaet blev et monster

To danske erhvervsfolk, Lars Nørby Johansen og Jørgen Philip-Sørensen, var hovedkræfterne bag den storstilede oprettelse af verdens største sikringsfirma, G4S, i 2004. Men blot et år efter forsvandt begge fra selskabet på meget uklar vis. G4S roser stadig sig selv for sine danske rødder, men rundt om i verden er giganten i dag anklaget for drab, tortur, overvågning og andre overtrædelse af menneskerettigheder, som man ikke forbinder med Danmark og dansk erhvervsliv, og som har fået danske og norske investorer til at trække sig. Oprettelsen af G4S skete efter et ultra-hæsblæsende forløb med de to meget forskellige mænd i spidsen.

Lars Nørby Johansen opfattes i Danmark som en af bannerførerne for moderne ledelse, corporate governance, og har givet navn til et udvalg om virksomhedsledelse, Nørby-udvalget, der kom med sine anbefalinger i 2001. Han stod i spidsen for Falck i en lang række af opkøb og aktie-udvekslinger frem til etableringen af G4S, og han blev på det tidspunkt vurderet som en af de allermest indflydelsesrige erhvervsfolk i Danmark.

The perfect crime: Low risks, high returns, minimal sanctions

October 2019 on the Polish–Ukrainian border at Korczowa: An X-ray scan of a refrigerator truck reveals over 600 litres of a strange substance in its tanks. Firefighter pumped out illegal pesticides proved to have a highly toxic effect on water environment. Their net worth exceeded 50 000 Euro. The driver was sentenced a 700€ fine plus  loss of the truck. Photo: National Revenue Administration.

What can be done to stop illegal pesticides

Keep records

OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) has adopted 105 recommendation to its 37 member countries on how to counter the illegal trade of pesticides. The recommendations call for records to keep track on trade, manufacturing, inspections and sale and more. Ask the Chinese

The Chinese Institute for the Control of Agrochemicals, Ministry of Agriculture (ICAMA) can be asked for documentation of exported pesticides, known as the ICAMA 1-pager document. Make the transporter responsible

Delivering companies should be demanded to know what they transport. Know Your Customer (KYC) is a strategy asked for by the producers’ association CropLife International.

Take aways

The European market for pesticides (plant protection products) is worth € 11b per year and equals 350 000 tons. 48 300 tons (13,8 percent) are believed to be illegal, counterfeited or substandard products. The hazards are unknown as authorities only test food sample with residues from single known and registered products, not the cocktail effect of different pesticides. Annual inspections coordinated by EU agency Europol has since 2015 discovered and seized 0,94 percent of the believed to be 48 300 tons spread each year. In six investigated countries all in all 17 seizures of illegal pesticides have been brought to court for the last five year, leading so far to one (1) conviction to jail and one major fine.

Chlorpyrifos banned by the EU

Updated 6th of December 2019 at 17.59

The Member States voted today yes to ban chlorpyrifos from the market. Prohibited
by a vote. Chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl, two pesticides harmful to the
brains of fetuses and young children, are now undesirable in the European Union
(EU). During a meeting of the the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food
and Feed (SCOPAFF) on Friday 6 December, the Member State representatives voted
against the renewal of the authorisation for both insecticides, which was due
to expire on 31 January 2020. According to two sources, the ban on chlorpyrifos-methyl, which was uncertain, got 68.34% of the votes (in such committees, a qualified majority requires 55% of the Member States representing at least 65% of the EU population).

Producers fight back to prevent pesticides ban: ”EU bows for pressure from NGOs and media”

Spain and other citrus-producing countries in EU seems to vote against a ban of chlorpyrifos-methyl on the meeting this week. Oranges from Spain is some of the fruits in EU, where there is a really high risk they are contaminated with chlorpyrifos. These oranges are harvested in the Spanish province, Valencia. EFE/Rubén Francés

The death warrant of a pesticide rarely takes the form of a European regulation. However, later this week the European Commission will ask the Member States to ban chlorpyrifos and chlorpyrifos-methyl, two insecticides causing damages to the brains of foetuses and young children.