A classic PR battle

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You may not have noticed, but a classic PR battle is being waged between the agrichemical industry and anti-paraquat campaigners.

Round One went to the anti-paraquat campaigners, when they succeeded in getting the Malaysian government to ban the dangerous pesticide.

The industry lobby fought back in Round Two and, using the  immense resources at their disposal, succeeded in getting the ban “temporarily lifted” for “further study”.

But the ‘umpire’ was far from neutral. Why did the government cave in to the industry lobby over the interests of pesticide sprayers, many of them women who are exposed to these hazadous substance? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Actually, lots of millions at stake.

The use of pesticides ties in with the Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s emphasis on agrobusiness-driven agriculture, which focuses on lucrative cash crops. Such cash crops not only benefit large corporations but they invariably involve the extensive use of pesticides. It is the estate workers and plantation workers – rather than the fat-cat plantation bosses and their agrichemical counterparts – who are the most vulnerable to pesticide use.

This is an article I wrote for IPS last October:

PENANG, Oct 18 (IPS) – The Malaysian government has stunned activists by ‘‘temporarily lifting” a ban on the toxic weed-killer paraquat so that ‘‘an extensive study” can be carried out.

The move, this month, follows an intensive lobbying campaign by the Swiss agrochemical giant, Syngenta, which markets the herbicide under the brand name Gramoxone, and other industry groups. Full article: Return of paraquat – Activists aghast.

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