Saturday, March 20, 2010


If any industry is detested by people, it is the pesticide industry, which turns out thousands of tons of deadly chemicals, sold as insecticides, pesticides and weedicides, used by most farmers for reducing losses due to infestation with various vectors. While farmer is happy getting more income for his crops, consumer is weighed down by the health damage caused by the chemical residues when such foods are consumed. Environmentalists are concerned about the pollution potential of these chemicals when applied indiscriminately to the land, water and the air and the resulting adverse consequences. That people are not going to sit helplessly watching this unfolding drama of slow poisoning of communities after communities by the irresponsible practices of business organizations is borne out by the collective action taken by the affected communities through litigation in some states in the US.

"A coalition of communities in six Midwestern states filed a federal lawsuit Monday seeking to force the manufacturer of a widely-used herbicide to pay for its removal from drinking water. Atrazine, a weed-killer sprayed primarily on cornfields, can run off into rivers and streams that supply municipal water systems. As the Huffington Post Investigative Fund reported in a series of articles last fall, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency failed to notify the public that atrazine had been found at levels above the federal safety limit in drinking water in at least four states. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois by 16 cities in Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and Iowa. The communities allege that Swiss corporation Syngenta AG and its Delaware counterpart Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. reaped billions of dollars from the sale of atrazine while local taxpayers were left with the financial burden of filtering the chemical from drinking water".

The attitude of the pesticide industry that "profits we take and pains you will bear" cannot be allowed to be the rule because industrial operations are supposed to be undertaken after assessing rationally the "risk-benefit" balance. Probably the industry seems to be taking umbrage under the logic that it is the user who has to take care and the problem arises because of failure to follow safety protocols by the farmers to prevent contamination of the environment. It will be interesting to follow this trial that may be harbinger for future class action suits by similarly affected populations against heavy polluters.


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