By EMILY VITAL
MANILA — Children and advocates held a bike ride against highly hazardous pesticides (HHPs) on Sunday, June 4 at the Quezon City Memorial Circle.
Led by Pesticide Action Network and Agroecology X, the event put a spotlight on the dangers of toxic pesticides on health and the environment. They urged the Philippine government to ban HHPs and support agroecological alternatives, citing the recent pesticide poisoning case of 55 schoolchildren from the province of Maguindanao del Norte.
“Children are more vulnerable to pesticide impacts because of their still developing bodies. They also breathe more air per unit of body weight than adults, so exposure to even small amounts of pesticides via inhalation can cause a lot of harm. Many countries have banned HHPs without affecting agricultural productivity,” said Ilang-Ilang Quijano, PAN Asia Pacific communications officer, in a public forum.
According to the group, HHPs are pesticides that present particularly high levels of acute or chronic hazards to health or environment according to internationally accepted hazard classification systems, their listing in relevant binding international agreements or conventions, or under conditions of use in a country.
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recently adopted the fundamental human right of all children to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, including the important principle of “intergenerational equity,” or the recognition that children have the right to inherit a healthy and sustainable environment.
In the same forum, Alfie Pulumbarit, national coordinator of non-government organization MASIPAG and spokesperson for the alliance RESIST Agrochemical TNCs, said that Filipino children’s health and well-being are compromised by lack of effective regulation, not just on HHPs but on other hazardous technologies such as genetically modified Golden Rice.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court issued a writ of kalikasan vs the commercialisation of Golden Rice, with petitioners hoping that a Temporary Environmental Protection Order will also be granted.
“We have received reports that children are being experimentally fed Golden Rice, which was approved without adequate safety testing. The hunger and malnutrition faced by millions of Filipino children cannot be solved by these ‘techno-fixes’ being peddled by agrochemical transnational corporations with dubious claims and huge potential for harm,” said Pulumbarit.
Meanwhile, Cecile Rapiz, a farmer leader from Bulacan, shared her experience in using synthetic pesticides. “We thought that by using chemical inputs, we would get higher yield. That was true at first, but in the end, the soil became too acidic, and yields went down. I also noticed my immune system getting weaker, and a lot of farmers getting sick,” Rapiz shared.
This prompted her and fellow farmers to shift to organic pesticides and fertilizers. “Children and youth are also more actively involved in production, helping the community produce organic fertilizers,” she said.
Cathy Estavillo, Secretary Generalof AMIHAN and vice chairperson for external affairs of the Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), stressed that women and their children are among those most severely affected by pesticides use and climate change. “Chemical inputs are made from fossil fuels and drive climate change. It is estimated that industrial agriculture is responsible for around one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.
Estavillo also announced that the APC, together with other groups, is co-organizing the Global People’s Caravan for Food, Land, and Climate Justice, an awareness-raising and mobilisation campaign of rural communities and advocates around common demands to end hunger, dispossession, and environmental destruction. Demands of rural peoples will be brought to the COP28 climate talks this year and the UN Summit of the Future in 2024.
“What right do big corporations and rich governments have to determine our future? It is the voices of rural peoples who feed the world that must be heard. We are the ones who most acutely feel the impacts of capitalist greed. We hold them accountable for environmental destruction and call for climate justice now for the sake of our children’s future,” Estavillo said.
Following the bike ride was the Agroecology Fair, which featured local produce of various organizations as well as educational materials, art workshop and collective cooking of indigenous Manobo recipes. (Photos courtesy of Agroecology X and PANAP)