[GRRN] FYI - Pesticide Disaster in Paraguay

Chandramouli, Saraswati (SARASWATI.CHANDRAMOULI@cpmx.saic.com)
Mon, 28 Jun 1999 13:32:47 -0700

June 21, 1999

An international trade union federation has called upon a
U.S.-based seed company to assume responsibility for the environmental and
public health disaster created in Paraguay by its local subsidiary.
International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel,
Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) is
demanding that Delta & Pine Land, the world's largest cottonseed producer,
remove pesticide-contaminated cotton seed that its subsidiary dumped near a
rural community in Paraguay. Delta & Pine Land is in the process of being
acquired by the Monsanto Company through a share swap to be completed later
this year.
Last November, 30,000 sacks of expired cottonseed, weighing
approximately 660 tons, were dumped near a small village 120 kilometers
from the capital Asuncisn. The seeds were treated with high concentrations
of toxic pesticides, including the organophosphates acephate and
chlorpyrifos. The label on the seed sacks states that the acephate compound
(trade name: Orthene 80 Seed Protectant) "contains material which may cause
cancer, mutagenic or reproductive effects based on laboratory animal data.
Risk of cancer depends on duration and level of exposure." The sacks were
spread over one-and-a-half hectares and were covered with only a thin layer
of soil. The disposal site is on private land in the center of a rural
population of three thousand and less than 170 meters from a primary school
with 262 pupils.
Symptoms of pesticide poisoning such as vertigo, nausea,
headaches, neurological disorders, memory loss, insomnia and skin rashes,
appeared immediately in the surrounding population and worsened after the
first rains.
On December 28, a local resident died. His official death
certificate states that he was treated by the attending physician for
"acute poisoning due to pollution caused by toxins of the Delta & Pine Land
seed deposited on the property of Julio Chavez." According to his widow, he
fell ill on December 26 and by the next day could no longer get out of bed.
Mr. Ruiz, a father of five, was thirty years old at the time of his death.
Medical testing of the residents has produced irrefutable
evidence of acute pesticide poisoning. The Ministries of Agriculture and of
Public Health have acknowledged the results of the tests but have not taken
action. The IUF has met with the Minister of Health and the president of
Paraguay, and has helped to organize demonstrations and support for the
victims of the contamination. Still, the government refuses to act.
In August, the case will be the subject of an inquiry in
Asuncisn organized by the Ethical Tribunal against Impunity in Paraguay
with the support of the Latin American Regional Secretariat of the IUF.
The IUF is demanding:
* Immediate action to remove the toxic seed and decontaminate the
* Immediate and comprehensive medical treatment for the victims;
* A program of long-term medical and environmental surveillance,
including regular monitoring of water supplies;
* Adequate compensation for the victims, their families and the wider
* Full and public disclosure of the circumstances surrounding the

The thirty thousand sacks of seeds buried in the area were
part of a larger shipment of 84,000 bags of Delta & Pine Land cotton seeds
authorized for importation by the Paraguayan Ministry of Agriculture and
Livestock in 1997. There is no information about the location of the
remaining seed. The IUF is trying to determine if the seeds were already
past their expiry date at the time of export from the United States and
whether they were exported rather than destroyed in the U.S. where costly
disposal procedures would have been required.
The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel,
Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) is an
international trade union federation composed of 329 trade unions in 118
countries with an affiliated membership of 2.6 million members. It is based
in Geneva, Switzerland.
Source: IUF press release, June 15, 1999.
Contact: International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel,
Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF), Rampe
du Pont-Rouge, 8, CH-1213 Petit-Lancy, Switzerland; phone (41-22) 793 22
33; fax (41-22) 793 22 38; email iuf@iuf.org; <mailto:iuf@iuf.org;> web
site http://www.iuf.org <http://www.iuf.org> .
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
49 Powell St., Suite 500, San Francisco, CA 94102 USA
Phone: (415) 981-1771
Fax: (415) 981-1991
Email: panna@panna.org <mailto:panna@panna.org>
Web: www.panna.org <http://www.panna.org>

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