NGO News Desk :: The pesticide manufacturing industry and its front organizations are back at their old game – of trying to smother anyone who would have the temerity to say anything against pesticides. In an advertisement published today in a leading national daily, the Mumbai-based Centre for Environment and Agrochemicals has made several scurrilous and baseless insinuations and statements against Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and its director general Sunita Narain.
The Centre for Environment and Agrochemicals, which claims to be a non-profit working for farmers, has known links to the pesticide industry – its chairperson is Rajju Shroff, who heads United Phosphorus Ltd, the largest manufacturer of pesticides in India. Shroff and the organizations he is associated with have been at the forefront of the dirty campaign to muzzle independent research and science in the country.
Responding to this new attack, Narain said: “CSE has remained steadfast in its opposition to the rampant and unregulated use of deadly pesticides in the country, which has earned it the ire of the industry and its allied bodies. We have been regularly targeted, threatened and attacked by the pesticide lobby. Accusations of a personal and vile nature have been hurled at me, but we have not retreated. Responding to an advertisement like this is way beneath our dignity, but our campaign against pesticides is far too important for us – which is why we would like to put our point of view across.”
It is interesting to note here that CSE has recently written to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and the Union ministry of agriculture, bringing to their notice the fact that despite the recommendations of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Pesticides (which was set up after a CSE study exposed the presence of pesticide residues in soft drinks), procedures on pesticides continue to be compromised on health. A CSE review reveals that the JPC’s recommendations on laws and procedures are being completely ignored (see http://cseindia.org/userfiles/paper_pesticide.pdf).
This advertisement, says CSE, is another tool in the method adapted by this industry to deal with dissent – file cases in courts, do whatever it requires to muzzle independent science. The advertisement addresses Sitting Judges of the Hon’ble High Court and uses their photographs to draw attention to itself. It is another matter that the use of such photographs is clearly against press ethics.
In the case of CSE, the advertisement makes wild allegations – though not new or novel. The same organization that has published this advertisement has been virulent in its attack against CSE and has used every means possible to defame and hurt our reputation. We believe that this is another variation of what is called ‘SLAPP’ in the US – ‘strategic lawsuits against public participation’. Corporates and companies use SLAPP to intimidate and gag individuals, professionals and institutions by threatening them with long, tedious court cases.
The matter in the High Court is clearly important, and has high stakes for the industry. This is why it is resorting to such tricks. But clearly, the issue also has high stakes for all of us – our health is on the line here.