Tag Archives: actions and protests

Students for Bhopal Targets Dow’s Decision-Makers

By Ryan Bodanyi

Over the past three years, students have made it difficult for Dow’s decision-makers to ignore Bhopal, much as they might like to. In fact our efforts have shown how much power even a few students can have when they bring Bhopal ‘home’ to Dow.

UMBhopal90 Michael Parker Dow CEO
In Mr. Parker’s Neighborhood 

On Bhopal’s 18th anniversary, Dec. 3rd, 2002, students organized their first protest targeting a Dow executive. More than a dozen students from the University of Michigan traveled to Midland, Dow’s headquarters, to protest outside the home of Dow’s then-CEO, Michael Parker. Dow was forewarned of the trip and we expected to find a darkened and empty house. You can imagine our surprise when, quite the contrary, we found that Michael Parker was hosting a full-blown party on the night of the Bhopal Anniversary. Fancy cars lined the streets and the laughter inside could be heard clearly throughout the Parker estate. Was this the way that Dow’s CEO chose to commemorate the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster, for which his company was now liable? It boggled the mind.

Lugging our vigil candles, Bhopal banners, tombstones and posters to the door, we were doubly surprised when he came out himself to meet us. We shouldn’t have been; Parker had long cultivated a reputation as a smooth talker, able to disarm activists with his friendly recital of Dow’s PR talking points. It was a skill he’d used often before, and he may have relished the thought of doing so now, before the television camera crews on his front lawn. Whatever his intentions may have been, things didn’t work out as he’d planned. The laughter and tinkling of glasses from the party behind him made his professions of sympathy sound foolish and hollow, and our rapid-fire questions put him off guard. The liquor we smelled on his breath may also have been a factor; before long, we could tell that he was ready to snap. He did so when a small protestor at his shoulder pointed out that the Polluter Pays principle was the law in India, and that Dow should follow the law. “That’s your OPINION!” he shouted into her face, towering above her. On video, it didn’t look good.

Nine days later, Michael Parker was forced to resign as Dow’s CEO. In its statement, Dow explained that the move had been made for “financial” reasons.

Milwaukee19 James Ringler

Milwaukee3 James Ringler

Outside the home of James Ringler

 

 

 

“That worked so well,” we thought, “let’s try it again!” For the 19th anniversary of the disaster, we decided to deliver samples of contaminated water from Bhopal direct to the doors of Dow Boardmembers across the country. After what had happened last year, they were expecting us. At the time Dow’s Board included a former Senator and Secretary of Commerce, a MacArthur “genius” award-winner, the former President of Princeton University, and the CEOs of several major American corporations. These powerful, influential, and important people had a decision to make: they could attempt to repeat Michael Parker’s failed performance by appearing at the door to talk about Bhopal or – faced with a few students, a sample of Bhopal water, and a just cause – they could flee in fear. Can you guess which option they chose?

Yep, they chose to flee. Students across the country found darkened homes with the shades drawn tight – if any members of the Board were home, it certainly seemed like they were under the bed. In fact, students were only successful in speaking with one of Dow’s 14 Boardmembers – Harold Shapiro, the former President of Princeton University. Conveniently enough, he’d scheduled a public speech for the day before the anniversary – and it was on bioethics. After the talk several Princeton students presented him with his sample of contaminated water from Bhopal. He was not happy.

Feel like getting in on the fun? You, too, can make Dow’s Boardmembers unhappy by reminding them of their ability – and responsibility – to end the killing in Bhopal.

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Satire confirmed dead: a Bhopal.net feature

Regular readers of bhopal.net might be under the impression that the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal generally stands for things like environmental justice, solidarity with abused and downtrodden people, respect for the sanctity of human life and such like. Dow, though touchingly numbered among our most regular readers, appear to see things differently. A few days ago a mock emergency drill at Dow’s New Jersey plant began with an ‘ICJB demonstration’ that suddenly became a “terrorist attack” involving hand guns, hostage taking, cold-blooded murder and a bomb. Ahem.

Perhaps it’s just more evidence that Stavropoulos et al have recently turned a rather sickly shade of yellow. At the stunt in New Jersey, the ‘Bhopal protestors’ – actually several burly members of a local SWAT team – first marched up and down denouncing Warren Anderson – which frankly would have been more effective done outside his Florida bolt-mansion – then took Dow’s security men hostage, naively demanded to see Warren, planted a bomb and killed somebody because they served up cold coffee. At the end of this fantasy sequence comes the moment of deep wish fulfillment for Dow: the three ‘Bhopal protestors’ are shot stone cold dead. Ok, we expect all this infantile make-believe made Dow feel a bit better about December 3, but for an equation of Bhopal and terrorism grounded in reality all Dow had to do was go through their downloaded back issues of bhopal.net until they reached here. Or perhaps here. Or even here.

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If, however, it’s that Dow is clumsily attempting to tarnish the ICJB’s good name, then this snugly fits a developing pattern of behaviour – though this time involving not only Dow but the entire US chemical industry.

Dow, of course, are a leading figure in the American Chemistry Council (formerly the Chemical Manufacturer’s Association), that lovable meeting of toxic souls that includes DuPont, Monsanto, Bayer, and BASF. The ACC likes to spend its time figuring out ways to undermine legislative proposals aimed at protecting the public from the chemical industry’s excesses. Take the late 1980’s, when the chemical industry was still suffering a crisis of public confidence thanks to Carbide’s multiple homicides in Bhopal. Its wayward son had given the poor old CMA a lot to fret about: “pressure from many sectors, government and private continue to mount for improvement in: indoor air pollution abatement; non-point source pollution control; hazards communications; testing and reporting on effects of toxic substances: and municipal waste management. These and Superfund activities are currently the focus of regulatory activities, and steadily increasing enforcement actions. There is also a clear trend within EPA to levy significant fines, many in excess of a million dollars, for infractions of existing environmental laws and regulations.” (Source: CMA document 083753, The Chemical Industry Archives)

Levying fines for the breaking of environmental laws? Good God, clearly something had to be done about it. Mercifully, two responsible corporate citizens coughed up their chief executives and between their hands they held a Big Idea. You guessed it: Dow’s suggestively named Paul Orrefice and Carbide’s Robert Kennedy – no doubt keen to make amends with his peers for the frightful faux pas that is Bhopal – prefigured Armageddon Inc by twelve years when they united to sell ‘Responsible Care’ to a sceptical CMA membership. At a CMA Public Perception Committee (PPC) meeting on March 8th, 1988, Robert Kennedy colourfully described the proposed Responsible Care programme as, “a chance to get in under an umbrella”. Kennedy then went out of his way to reassure the same meeting that “(Responsible Care) codes define management features expected of the member companies RATHER THAN QUANTITATIVE RESULTS STANDARDS.” That’s public perception speak for ‘it only has to sound good’.

In recent times the ACC seems intent on oustripping the efforts of its previous diabolical incarnation who, thanks again to what happened to Bhopal, were unable to stop legislation in the US such as extensions to the Superfund laws and ‘community right to know’. Today the ACC appears to believe that it can use the spectre of 21st century ‘terrorism’ to obscure the concrete 20th century terrorism of Bhopal by way of a “proposed ‘Environmental Patriot Act’, under which the core public disclosure principle of environmental regulation may now become a casualty of the drive to make us safe from terrorism.” Not only that, the ACC has also been fighting Federal security legislation that would force them to take action to address their genuine vulnerability to terrorist acts, and the potential health catastrophes that could result.

Let’s try to put some of these pieces together for a second. Dow chooses to represent a protest for justice in Bhopal – where the terror has never ended – as terrorism. Thus the terrorised is painted as the terrorist.

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If this gross inversion of reality isn’t perverse enough, the stunt is performed in order to demonstrate that Dow can police the risk of actual terrorism voluntarily, without the need for legislation. At the same time Dow, as a core member of the $250 billion chemical industry lobby, actively manipulates the public fear of terrorism in order to do away with ‘right to know’ legislation that came about as a result of Bhopal.

To boil it down to its pernicious essence: the criminals guilty for what happened in Bhopal, who continue to escape punishment by evading the law, demand the liberty of policing themselves. By associating the Bhopal justice campaign with terrorism, Dow aims to help keep away new legislation and help get rid of existing legislation, both of which have been designed to prevent another Bhopal.

Now, the jet black ironies contained in this scheme clearly suggest that we are in the presence of devious ‘minds’ at work. And if you’re not wholly convinced by the above, consider the following evidence.

The ‘precautionary principle’ is an environmental policy that requires that new chemicals should not be allowed into the market place unless they are first proven safe. The ICJB strongly believes in the precautionary principle. Bureaucrats in the EU recently proposed legislation that would enshrine the precautionary principle in the statute books. The new EU chemicals policy – called REACH, for Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals – would require the chemical industry to provide basic health and environmental data for the tens of thousands of chemicals currently on the market that have never been properly evaluated. These chemicals have been accumulating in the environment and, a number of recent studies have shown, in human body tissue and even breast milk – one slow, vast, global Bhopal in the making.

Naturally, the chemical industry abhors the precautionary principle. So much so that they’ve mobilised on a massive scale to try to see off its implementation in Europe. The affair has brought a number of high profile friends of the industry out of the woodwork. That the current US administration is among them will surprise nobody. And we are not entirely staggered to announce that – furtively, inevitably – Dow are one of the principal agents named as being behind a multi-agency effort by the US EPA, State Dept., Commerce Dept. and others to weaken the EU chemical policy reforms.

Wait just a second, the US Environmental Protection Agency? That’s correct. As this DOC1 shows, and as the report’s author Joe Di Gangi commented, “the US government essentially operated as a branch office of the chemical industry.” And that includes the agency with an explicit responsibility to protect everybody’s environment.

Environmental protectors protecting the polluters? Proven criminals policing themselves? The terrorised as terrorists? Whither satire in the world Dow would have us live in?

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Then again it isn’t just the US chemical industry/government on the offensive. The European chemical lobby has also been howling in pain. Fighting his way to the front, Hovione chemicals boss Guy Villax found a splendid way to highlight the dreadful danger posed to the public by the precautionary principle. Bewailing the already terrible strictures forced upon the chemical industry, Villax suggested that production would inevitably have to move to the far east. “Sadly,” he whined, “these business opportunities seem to lead some people that appear to have neither the technical competencies, nor the ethics, nor the civic development to be involved in advanced technology industries. The consequences are dead people and deformed babies.”

Hazardous technology run by untrained staff, unethical management, few local mechanisms for protecting those in danger, resulting in preventable deaths and multi-generational effects? Villax has to be talking about Bhopal. So there you have it, the chemical lobby’s diseased logic in a nutshell: ‘try to protect the public from slow Bhopals and know what you’ll get? Something, er, a lot like Bhopal…’

Quelle surprise, the campaign has proved outstandingly successful. According to Greenpeace, “heavy chemical industry lobbying and scaremongering have weakened the regulations almost beyond recognition.” In finally publishing the proposed legislation the EU ventures that “estimated direct costs to the chemical industry have fallen 82% compared to the previous draft proposal” – before scuttling back into its corner. And these are just the proposals.

Of course, it’s one thing mithering the bureaucrats of the old world into submissive compliance, but what do you do about the tree huggers back home? An internal ACC memo – ironically, leaked – provides some enlightening answers. It’s perfectly simple: you spend buckets of money creating fradulent front groups to oppose the advocates of the Precautionary Principle, and you set upon those advocates an organisation of ex-CIA and FBI agents, the “attack dog of the public relations industry”, to conduct “selective intelligence gathering … about the plans, motivations and allies of opposition activists… Focus on the PP ‘movement leadership’ in the U.S., and in particular, California.” The Washington based Nichols-Dezenhall crisis communications firm is notorious for such dirty methods as sifting through personal refuse. You can read the contents of the entire grisly memo here.

So here we have the proof, if it were ever needed, that the chemical industry’s membership embraces fraud and dirty tricks to deal with its critics. How far it will go to deal with its victims, whose lives stand as an implicit denunciation of its actions, we are now beginning to understand.

In Bhopal, what happened, and what is happening still, is far from unique; but it remains the single most visible and dramatic indictment of a rapacious industry that desires to place itself above the law at all our expense. Dow, not simply the carrier of Carbide’s liabilities but also the de facto leader of the chemical industry, couldn’t be more desperate to be rid of an abiding stigma that till today keeps its activities in check. So desperate that it will plant absurd yet entirely malicious ideas in the public mind in the hope they’ll eventually bear twisted fruit.

“We’ve turned the corner with the events of 9/11”, chirped Dow’s New Jersey Security leader Michael Stephenson after the ‘Bhopal terrorists’ had been shot. “We had hostages and a vehicle bomb. And the irony of it is it happened on the day they got Saddam Hussein.” I think you and I are seeing a different kind of irony altogether, Mike.

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A typical gathering of members of the ICJB… as conceived by Dow
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What a gathering of Bhopal protestors actually looks like
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Genuine terrorism of the corporate kind

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Dow under global siege on December 3rd

More than 65 events in 16 countries marked the first Global day of Action Against Corporate Crime in commemoration of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster. Members of unions, students, grassroots organisations, politicians, NGOs, individuals and Bhopal survivors were amongst the people taking part yesterday. Directors of Dow and regional headquarters have been confronted by protestors offering evidence of ongoing crimes in Bhopal.

Students across the US delivered samples of contaminated water from Bhopal to the homes of eleven of Dow’s fourteen Board members, including the CEO, William Stavropoulos. At Princeton University Dow director Harold Shapiro was given contaminated water from Bhopal communities. “We feel that this was a clear admission of liability on the part of Dow-Carbide,” said Sujata Ray, a member of Students for Bhopal. “Now that Dow-Carbide has accepted a sample of this contamination, thanks to Mr. Shapiro, we hope that the company will act swiftly to clean up its remaining pollution in Bhopal. Until it does so, we intend to continue and intensify our organizing here at Princeton and across the country.”

In Mumbai over 100 students, volunteers and activists lay down on the pavement on Marine Drive to recreate the horror of Bhopal. Chalk outlines were drawn around the ‘bodies’ on Marine Drive and banners displayed saying ‘Remember Bhopal’ and ‘Dow – you have the blood of Bhopal on your hands.’ “Bhopal has become the icon for corporate negligence resulting in death and destruction, representing the thousand Bhopal-like disasters that take place all across India,” said Vinod Shetty, an eminent lawyer and ICJB activist.

In Switzerland, ICJB member Greenpeace delivered a replica of the memorial statue that stands outside the factory in Bhopal to Dow’s European headquarters in Horgen. In Copenhagen, Greenpeace activists also drew the outline of corpses on the ground in front of the Dow offices while others protested in front of the American Embassy. Greenpeace also announced a campaign to invite people around the world send a toxic message in a bottle to Dow.

In the Scottish parliament, Scottish Socialist Party MP Frances Curran presented a Bhopal motion (S2M-668 Frances Curran: Bhopal Anniversary) reiterating each of the survivors’ demands to Dow. In London, members of the Global Women’s Strike and the ICJB used a sound system to broadcast facts about Dow and Bhopal to the Houses of Parliament. “War profiteers Dow-Carbide sold huge amounts of pesticides that cause death by asphyxiation to Iraq, nine months after Halabja,” said the ICJB’s Tim Edwards, “the gassing of Halabja was used by the US and Britain as one reason to mobilise a war against Iraq. Yet the gassing of Bhopal, a much larger city than Halabja, has left Dow-Carbide carrying on business as usual. They must be brought to justice.”

In Bhopal, survivors have been exhilarated by events. “This year with help from supporters worldwide we have succeeded in pressuring the Indian government to move on the extradition of Warren Anderson and have mobilized international opinion against Union Carbide’s new owner Dow Chemical at an unprecedented scale. As we enter the 20th year of our struggle for justice, there are protests against Dow Chemical all over India and the world,” said Rashida Bee of the Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS). BGPMSKS, a trade union of gas-affected stationery workers in Bhopal is also the co-convenor of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. “We are confident that we will be able to force Dow Chemical and the Indian government to address pending liabilities in Bhopal.”

A huge huge thanks and big Bhopali hugs to all those who have taken part in the Global day of action. Please keep checking the GDA updates page for more news and details of the international actions as they come in.

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DOW FACES FIRST NATIONWIDE STUDENT PROTESTS SINCE VIETNAM ON ANNIVERSARY OF BHOPAL DISASTER

Students from 26 colleges, universities and high schools organized nationwide protests against Dow Chemical yesterday, Dec. 3rd, as a part of the first-annual Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime. Dow Chemical, which was key manufacturer of chemical warfare agents Napalm and Agent Orange, faced such widespread protests for the first time since the Vietnam War due to its February 2001 acquisition of Union Carbide — the perpetrator of the Bhopal disaster. The protests, organized by Students for Bhopal , Association for India’s Development (AID) chapters, and the Environmental Justice Program of the Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) , called on Dow to accept its moral and legal responsibility for the world’s worst industrial disaster.

On December 3rd, 1984, a toxic cloud of gas from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, enveloped the surrounding city, leaving thousands dead. More than 20,000 have died till date and more than 120,000 people still suffer from severe health problems as a result of their exposure. Chemicals and heavy metals that Union Carbide abandoned at the site—including mercury, trichloroethene, chloroform, and lead—have contaminated the water supply for 20,000 Bhopal residents. Despite acquiring Union Carbide, Dow Chemical has refused to address Carbide’s pending liabilities in Bhopal, that include medical and economic rehabilitation of victims, clean up of toxic wastes and contaminated groundwater, and provision of safe drinking water. Union Carbide is a proclaimed fugitive from justice for its failure to appear in Indian courts to face trial for manslaughter.

Students across the country delivered samples of contaminated water from Bhopal to the homes of eleven of Dow’s fourteen Board members, including the CEO, William Stavropoulos. Although many of the deliveries were either refused or ignored, Dr. Harold T. Shapiro, the President Emeritus of Princeton University and an 18-year member of Dow Chemical’s Board of Directors, accepted a sample of the contaminated water following an open talk to the Princeton community on bioethics. Dr. Shapiro also accepted the testimonial of a Bhopal victim.

“The contamination that Dow-Carbide left behind in Bhopal is their responsibility, and it belongs in their hands,” said Sujata Ray, a member of the Princeton AID chapter that presented the water. “We’re pleased that Dr. Shapiro, when faced with the consequences of his company’s inaction in Bhopal, accepted a sample of the contamination on behalf of Dow-Carbide. Unfortunately the behavior of the other Board members typifies that of Dow-Carbide, which continues to deny and evade their legal and moral responsibilities in Bhopal.”

“Clearly, the water contamination in Bhopal is an issue that needs to be brought ‘home’ to Dow-Carbide,” declared Jaimini Parekh, an SSC member who organized a “return-to-sender” action against Board member Jackie Barton. “Dow-Carbide has seemed content to condemn the survivors of Bhopal to wallow in the contamination that it left behind. The fact that Dow-Carbide has not acted to stop the ongoing contamination of tens of thousands—for which it is responsible—is inhumane, unjust, and immoral.”

Several rallies were held outside of Dow-Carbide offices and facilities, including those in Dallas, Texas and Smithfield, Rhode Island. As during the Vietnam War, students also protested against college affiliations with Dow-Carbide, including recruitment, investment, and financial contributions.

“Students are outraged,” said Ryan Bodanyi, an organizer with Students for Bhopal. “They don’t want their colleges and universities accepting money from a corporation that maintains its profit margins by poisoning people and blithely standing aside as they die. Dow-Carbide’s callous disregard for the value of human life hasn’t changed much since the Vietnam War, and students aren’t going to be any more forgiving now than they were then. Dow-Carbide should expect these protests to continue and intensify.”

“We’re not going to allow Dow-Carbide to get away with murder,” declared Nishant Jain, one of the leaders of AID’s Austin chapter. “Enron’s crimes may have cost people their retirement portfolios, but Dow-Carbide’s crimes in Bhopal have cost tens of thousands of people their health and their lives. People are fed up with corporate violations of our labor, environmental, and human rights, which is why so many people have united to take action on the anniversary of Bhopal, a particularly heinous corporate crime.”

Thousands of people from sixteen countries participated in the Global Day of Action in solidarity against Dow-Carbide and other corporate criminals. Events and actions took place in 16 cities across India, including Bhopal, as well as in the Netherlands, UK, USA, Lebanon, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Philippines, China, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, Bangladesh, Canada, and Italy.

CONTACT: Ryan Bodanyi, Students for Bhopal, (401) 829-6192
CONTACT: Nishant Jain, Association for India’s Development, (512) 422-7169
CONTACT: Jaimini Parekh, Sierra Student Coalition, (626) 355-9612
CONTACT: Sujata Ray, Association for India’s Development, (609) 279-0952

Students participated at:
Brown University
CalTech
University of California (Berkeley)
University of Chicago
University of Colorado (Boulder)
Flintridge Preparatory School (Sierra Madre, CA)
Georgia State
Georgia Tech
Highland Park High School (Dallas, TX)
University of Illinois (Urbana-Champlain)
Johns Hopkins University
Lake Forest College
Loyola University
University of Maryland (College Park)
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
MIT
Penn State (University Park)
Portland State University
Princeton
Occidental College
Reed College
Rhode Island School of Design
Sewanee College
University of Texas (Austin)
Wheaton College

Students delivered samples of Bhopal’s contaminated water to Dow Board members Arnold Allemang (Midland, MI), Jackie Barton (San Marino, CA), Anthony Carbone (Midland, MI), Willie Davis (Playa Del Rey, CA), Barbara Franklin (Washington, DC), Keith McKennon (Portland, OR), J. Pedro Reinhard (Midland, MI), James Ringler (Lake Forest, IL), Harold Shapiro (Princeton, NJ), William Stavropoulos (Midland, MI), and Paul Stern (Potomac, MD).

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1 Students for Bhopal, the student arm of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal (ICJB), is a national coalition of student groups dedicated to raising awareness about the disaster, advocating for the people of Bhopal, and increasing the pressure against Dow-Carbide to accept its moral and legal responsibilities in Bhopal. More information is available at www.studentsforbhopal.org and www.bhopal.net.

2 The Association for India’s Development (AID) is a voluntary non-profit organization committed to promoting sustainable, equitable and just development in India, by working with grassroots organizations and movements in India. More information is available at http://studentorgs.utexas.edu/aidaustin/bhopal/index.html

3 The Environmental Justice Program (EJP) of the Sierra Student Coalition (the student-run arm of the Sierra Club) is a national community of youth working for environmental justice. The EJP is devoted to advancing the principles of environmental justice in our society, and believes that all human beings deserve a healthy, sustainable, livable, and beautiful environment that provides security for our families and communities. More information is available at www.ssc.org/subdomains/departments/ej.

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United against Dow: Horgen, Copenhagen, London, Mumbai and Bhopal.

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Dec 3rd is ‘No Pesticides Day’: PAN calls for Paraquat ban

STOP Paraquat! On the occasion of global “No Pesticides Use Day” this December 3, the international Pesticide Action Network (PAN) calls for the global ban and phase out of the production and use of paraquat, one of the most dangerous and controversial herbicides in the world.

The international Pesticide Action-Network launched December 3 as the global “No Pesticides Use Day“ in commemoration of the world’s worst chemical disaster in 1984. Every year on December 3 campaigns are initiated in many countries to remind of the hazardous effects of pesticides on human health and environment.

This year, PAN AP and several partners are undertaking activities on December 3 to commemorate the Bhopal tragedy,and these are in solidarity with the BHOPAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST CORPORATE CRIME.

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Joint PAN Press Release
December 2, 2003

STOP Paraquat!
On the occasion of global “No Pesticides Use Day” this December 3, the international Pesticide Action Network (PAN) calls for the global ban and phase out of the production and use of paraquat, one of the most dangerous and controversial herbicides in the world.

The non-selective herbicide paraquat is sold by Syngenta and other producers in more than 100 countries. Gramoxone(TN), manufactured by Syngenta, is the most common trade name for paraquat. Paraquat is extensively used on bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, palm oil, pineapple, rubber and sugar cane, both on plantations and by small-scale farmers.

Paraquat has been heavily criticized for the adverse impacts on workers since the 1960s. Globally, workers and farmers, who are regularly exposed to paraquat experience serious problems with their health. Paraquat is an extremely hazardous substance: it has been known to damage the lungs, heart, kidneys, adrenal glands, central nervous system, liver, muscles and spleen, causing multi-organ failure. The herbicide causes severe acute and long-term health problems such as severe dermatitis, second degree burns, nosebleeds, rapid heart rate, kidney failure, and respiratory failure. Some chronic effects have also been identified: an association with developmental and reproductive effects, as well as links to skin cancer and there is mounting evidence linking it to Parkinson’s disease. The high toxicity and lack of antidote leads to serious ill health, and even death, from exposure.

Studies have also indicated that paraquat has lethal effects on hares and birds, and is embryotoxic and teratogenic to frogs. It poses a risk to non-target terrestrial and aquatic plants, and readily binds to soil particles and hence accumulates in soils.

Due to these facts the notorious occupational poison paraquat has been on the PAN international list of “Dirty Dozen“ pesticides since 1985.

Conditions of use and realities in developing countries of the South—high temperature and humidity, lack of protective clothing, leaking knapsack sprayers, illiteracy, lack of facilities for washing, or medical treatment, and repeated exposure—compounds the concern that safe use of paraquat is not possible in these countries, in spite of ‘safety’ claims by the industry.

Because of its high toxicity, paraquat is already either banned, severely restricted or restricted in fourteen countries, including five EU member states and the United States of America.

“Last year Malaysia was the first Asian country to ban and phase out the use of paraquat. To prioritise global protection of human health and the environment, a world wide ban of the toxic herbicide paraquat has to follow now“, asserts Sarojeni V. Rengam, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific.

Unfortunately, the EU decided in October 2003 not to ban Paraquat. The European Commission is aware of the dangers of Paraquat, but nevertheless had approved its use, ignoring growing number of member states who openly rejected an EU-wide approval of paraquat, postponing a vote at the last four committee meetings. PAN has emphasised that this controversial decision was made in the European context, and therefore cannot have any implication for other regions, especially developing countries.

On November 24, 2003, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe, PAN Asia and the Pacific and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, sent an official ‘Open Letter’ of protest to the European Commission, calling on the Standing Committee to take urgent action following the inclusion of paraquat to the Annex 1 of the Pesticides Authorization Directive 91/414. The Commission’s authorisation of 3 October 2003 is being used to challenge regulatory decisions taken to protect human health in other countries, and to demand registration even when local conditions will pose significant risks to pesticide users.

Due to the serious health and ecological threats from paraquat use, on the occasion of the global “No Pesticide Use Day”, December 3, the international Pesticide Action Network (PAN) demands that:

 Syngenta, the main producer of paraquat, stops the production of paraquat
 Syngenta takes full responsibility and assumes liability for the severe health effects on communities resulting from paraquat use
 The authorities in all countries ban the use of paraquat
 Paraquat be replaced with safer and more sustainable pest control methods

Note:

• For the international PAN Position Paper on paraquat please see: http://www.panap.net

It is also available here: DOC1

• To view the joint Open Letter to the European Commission see: http://www.panap.net

December 3 – Reminder of the pesticide catastrophe 1984 in Bhopal
The international Pesticide Action-Network launched December 3 as the global “No Pesticides Use Day“ in commemoration of the world’s worst chemical disaster in 1984. That day in Bhopal (India) a pesticide factory exploded, releasing a toxic gas that caused more than 500,000 injured and 20,000 deaths in the years since. Every year on December 3 campaigns are initiated in many countries to remind of the hazardous effects of pesticides on human health and environment.

This year, PAN AP and several partners are undertaking activities on December 3 to commemorate the Bhopal tragedy,and these are in solidarity with the BHOPAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST CORPORATE CRIME also taking palce on December 3, 2003, to Take Action Against Corporate Crime on the 19th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. For more information visit: https://www.bhopal.net or Email: globalaction@bhopal.net

For more information, contact:

PAN Africa : Abou Thiam, panafrica@pan-africa.sn, tel: 00221-825-49-14

PAN Asia – Pacific (www.panap.net ): Sarojeni Rengam, panap@panap.net, tel: 0060-4-657-0271

PAN Germany (www.pan-germany.org): Carina Weber, presse@pan-germany.org, tel: 0049-40-3991910-0

PAN Latin America – RAPAL (www.rap-al.org): Maria-Elena Rozas, rapal@rapal.cl, tel: 0056-2-3416742

PAN North America (www.panna.org): Monica Moore, panna@igc.org, tel: 001-415-981-1771

PAN UK (www.pan-uk.org): Barbara Dinham, admin@pan-uk.org, tel: 0044-207-274-88-95

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36 years on, outraged students again unite against Dow

Reviving memories of the fierce Vietnam War protests at universities in the 1960’s, students at 20 colleges across the United States are once again organizing against Dow, this time united in their demand that Dow accept its moral and legal responsibilities in Bhopal. They’ve banded together to form Students for Bhopal, a national network that is planning campaigns against Dow until it accepts all the demands of the Bhopal survivors. “Students here are like students elsewhere,” said Janine Jacques, one of the student campaigners at Brown University. “When we heard about what was happening in Bhopal, we were outraged. We decided that we had to act.”

The student protests of 1967-8 afflict Dow’s reputation even now. Today’s students are also busy driving Dow’s expensively crafted image as an environmental steward and warm-hearted corporate citizen to the wall. Such as students at Brown, who aren’t buying it; they dressed up as the “Dow Grim Reaper” this past Halloween and set out to “kill” their fellow students on the college green. “We feel that Halloween is the perfect time to highlight the unholy alliance that Dow and Death seem to have made,” declared Mika Nagasaki, a sophomore at Brown. “Dow maximizes its profits by contributing to the deaths of thousands of people throughout the world, and Death is only too happy to collect these victims before their time. Dow’s legacy of contamination and death must come to an end; by refusing to take action in Bhopal, Dow is condemning thousands more to an untimely end.”

Students at other colleges were also making the connection between Dow and Death this past Halloween. Students at the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland–College Park, the University of California–Berkeley, and Wheaton also participated in the Halloween Day of Action. Over 30 colleges are expected to participate in the December 3rd Global Day of Action Against Corporate Crime.

Students for Bhopal has been organizing a series of campaigns against Dow Chemical, many of which parallel the student campaigns that plagued Dow during the Vietnam War. During the late ’60s and early ’70s, thousands of students forced Dow off of their college campuses-sometimes violently-because of its production of Agent Orange and Napalm for the US military. Dow’s steadfast refusal to take any responsibility for Bhopal is leading many students to question whether the company’s behavior has ever changed. Many are deciding that they don’t want their Universities associated with Dow, financially or otherwise.

“Is it possible to ethically invest in a corporation that refuses to remediate the impacts of its own pollution, to the detriment of thousands of lives? I don’t think so,” said Clayton Perry, one of the Bhopal organizers at Occidental College in California. “Nor is it really fair that Dow donates millions of dollars every year to colleges and universities across the country, while refusing to spend a cent in Bhopal. We don’t want our colleges accepting Dow’s blood money.”

“Many students have never heard of Bhopal,” said Ryan Bodanyi, the Student Coordinator for ICJB. “But once they do they become outraged, and they want to become involved. It’s amazing how quickly the student campaign is spreading; if Dow continues to dawdle and delay I think that they’ll have a huge fight on their hands before too long.”

To find out more about Students for Bhopal, visit www.studentsforbhopal.org

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