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A "Third" world conspiracy ?

 
 
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 06:32 am
Quote:
Pepsi, Coke contain pesticides: CSE

August 05, 2003 15:14 IST
Last Updated: August 05, 2003 17:02 IST


Close on the heels of a major health scare on finding pesticides in bottled drinking water, a non-government organisation on Tuesday claimed that the bottled soft drinks owned by two multi national companies -- PepsiCo and Coke -- also failed the same health standards testing positive for pesticides.

"12 major cold drink brands sold in Delhi and around contain a deadly cocktail of pesticide residues," Centre for Science and Environment said in New Delhi.

Officials of both PepsiCo and Coke declined to comment on the tests saying the two companies will be holding a joint press conference later.

According to the tests conducted by the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of CSE, all samples contained residues of four extremely toxic pesticides and insecticides: lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos.

The PML team involved in the tests was Dr H B Mathur, Dr Sapna Johnson and Avinash Kumar.

Three samples each of the 12 brands purchased from markets across the city, analysed in April-August and found to contain pesticides residues are Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Mirinda orange, Mirinda Lemon, Blue Pepsi, 7-Up, Coca Cola, Fanta, Limca, Sprite and Thumbs Up.

Mathur said these pesticides included potent carcinogens which can cause cancers and reduce bone mineral density.

Johnson said the basic inference drawn from the tests is that groundwater used for making soft drinks is infested with pesticides. She said PML tested the cold drink samples for 16 organochlorine pesticides, 12 organophosphorous and four synthetic pyrethroids -- all of which are commonly used in India as insecticides.

CSE chief Sunita Narain said in all the samples, levels of pesticide residues far exceeded the maximum residue limit for pesticides in water used as "food", set down by the European Economic Commission.

Both Pepsi and Coca Cola had almost similar concentrations of pesticide residues.

In all PepsiCo brands, total pesticides on an average were 0.0180 mg/litre, 36 times higher than the EEC limit of total pesticides at 0.0005 mg/l.

In Coca Cola brands they averaged at 0.0150 mg/l, 30 times higher than the EEC limit.

Mirinda Lemon topped the chart among all the tested brand samples with a total pesticide concentration of 0.0352 mg/l.

Coca Cola and PepsiCo brands sold in the United States were also tested and found not to contain pesticides.

Narain, however, said in India, these companies cannot be taken to court since the norms that regulate manufacturing of cold drinks here are a "meaningless maze."



Some questions arise in mind....I am assuming that the above testing has been done according to international standards.

1. Do you think that multinationals do exploit third world countries hoping that no one will find out (which is a reasonable assumption though)

2. What punishment should be doled out to the corporations ?

3. What would you do if this happened in yr country ?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 4,437 • Replies: 35
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 07:56 am
1. yes
2. something similar to the smoking suits?
3. Well, I don't drink soda, so it wouldn't affect me. If I found out that something I consume had pesticides in it, I'd stop eating it. I'd also tell everyone I knew about it and then get online and tell even people I don't know about it.

But, as the article says, Indians would have a duifficult time prosecuting these companies. Can the government do it? Does India really need those corps enough to let it pass?
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 08:11 am
Shocked You seem to be jumping to a lot of conclusions that aren't proven in the story you've quoted here.


Quote:
1. Do you think that multinationals do exploit third world countries hoping that no one will find out (which is a reasonable assumption though)


Is this a reasonable assumption in this case? Nowhere in the article does it say that any of the companies were aware of the pesticides.

Quote:
2. What punishment should be doled out to the corporations ?


Before anyone can start assigning punishment you have to determine who did what here and this article doesn't indicate that anyone did anything intentional nor does it say that any law has been broken anywhere.

Quote:
3. What would you do if this happened in yr country?


I'd get the facts first...
0 Replies
 
the prince
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 08:31 am
fishin,

What I meant by "reasonable assumption" was not that the multinationals explot the third world, but the fact that they will not be found out if they flout the norms, due to red tape/beuraucracy/corruption which plagues the third world nations.

While I agree that "no law" in India has been broken (though I am not sure if this is indeed the case, we surely must be having some kind of guidelines regarding composition of edibles) - isn't there a moral aspect to this ? If the levels are above the threshold laid down by EEC, then they are harmful. Period.

What kind of facts should be look for ?
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 08:43 am
Re: A "Third" world conspiracy ?
Gautam wrote:
1. Do you think that multinationals do exploit third world countries hoping that no one will find out (which is a reasonable assumption though)

No I don't. This kind of thing can happen anywhere in the world. Why not in India, which is the worlds second-largest country after all? Moreover, to the best of my knowledge, food processing standards in multinational companies are usually much higher than those followed in local, third world factories. (Gautam, you know better than I whether this is true. If I'm wrong, I'm willing to learn!) Assuming one of the "E"s in "EEC Standards" stands for "European", this would be consistent with the fact that Coca Cola and Pepsi fell short of it.

Gautam wrote:
2. What punishment should be doled out to the corporations?

They should pay damages for whatever harm they have caused for the health of their customers -- if any. I think it's important to remember that many food safety standards have their limits set according to what modern diagnostics can measure, not to what causes too much harm to consumers according to some reasonable definition of "too much". I don't know what harm, if any, has been caused because Coke and Pepsi exceeded these limits, so I can't give a final answer to your question.

Gautam wrote:
3. What would you do if this happened in yr country ?

If public opinion doesn't react, I'd ignore it. If it does, I'd buy Coke and Pepsi! Food scares in Germany (BSE, Nitrofen, and so forth) typically exceed any level that can be justified by rational health concerns. The result is much lower prices at just a little higher risk.

-- Thomas
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 09:25 am
Gautam wrote:
What I meant by "reasonable assumption" was not that the multinationals explot the third world, but the fact that they will not be found out if they flout the norms, due to red tape/beuraucracy/corruption which plagues the third world nations.


One problem with being a multi-national corp is that there aren't any "norms". We also don't know if any "norms" were flouted at all here and if so, by whom.

Quote:
While I agree that "no law" in India has been broken (though I am not sure if this is indeed the case, we surely must be having some kind of guidelines regarding composition of edibles) - isn't there a moral aspect to this? If the levels are above the threshold laid down by EEC, then they are harmful. Period.


Does the ECC now have some sort of lock on what is or isn't harmful? I'd agree that they probbaly have a lot of valid scientific evidence in this particular case but just because the ECC says something that doens't have any weight on whether or not another country that isn't a part of the ECC has the same standards. The companies have to operate under the standards of the country they are in not some other country's standards.

Quote:
What kind of facts should be look for ?


A good starting point would be whether or not testing for these types of chemicals is required. It would also be important to narrow down where they came in. The study indicates that they think they pesticides came in through the water supply. Who provides these companies with water? Is that water supply tested? Was the supplier required to test for the pesticides? Did they? Were results of those tests made known to the company? If so, who within the company knew about it? What did they do with that information?

There is nothing in the story indicating that any of the comanpies involved were aware of the pesticides prior to this study or that any law has been broken anywhere. I'd agree that there is a problem but jumping to the conclusion that there is some sort of criminal negligence is entirely unsupported so far..
0 Replies
 
steissd
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 09:32 am
We must take into consideration the following fact: the popular brands of American drinks are not being exported to another countires. It would be unwise to work in such way, since more than 90 percent of any drink is mere water, that can be obtained anywhere. They are being manufactured on the site from the concentrates, while using local water supply. In my country, Coca-Cola is manufactured and bottled by the local subcontractor Tempo Ltd. Therefore, if Indian water is contaminated with pesticides, what have Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to do with it? They surely did not contaminate it, and they have no other water to use in India besides the one that is available there.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 09:39 am
Gautam wrote:
While I agree that "no law" in India has been broken (though I am not sure if this is indeed the case, we surely must be having some kind of guidelines regarding composition of edibles) - isn't there a moral aspect to this ? If the levels are above the threshold laid down by EEC, then they are harmful. Period.

I believe there is no moral aspect beyond the requirement that producers should not misrepresent the content of what they are selling. I'll make up an exaggerated example. Suppose I want sell you mud water from the pond down the street, and both of us know it's mud water that will give you a 10% chance of catching Cholera. In this case, I think I should be free to sell it to you, and you should be free to buy it from me -- or to tell me to go to hell.
0 Replies
 
the prince
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 09:42 am
Fair enuff points.

The problem is indeed that there are no "norms" as such atleast in India which dictate the "permissible" levels of pesticides in colas. The regulations are so poor that even if countries do something wrong, there is no check on them. Under the law, if there are pesticides in soft drinks, there is nothing wrong because we have no law which mandates the quantity of pesticides in water. We have no law which mandates the quality of water that is used in the manufacture of soft drinks.

However, if we compare against the EEC standards, the pesticides found in the colas in India are 30-40 times the limit. Now assuming that EEC did some amount of research in determining the acceptable standards, by any strech of imagination, 30-40 times is a pretty high number, and is sure to be harmful.

While local water supply could be blamed, is it not the company's responsibility to "test" their raw material ? If the local water supply was laced with arsenic, and a cola was made out of it, and people died, who should be responsible ? The end product is sold by Pepsi/Coke, anything contained in it is their responsiblity. Is it not ?

The companies in question have not yet come out with a response, so we do not know what is happening. Stay tuned, I will keep you informed of the saga.

But the point which I was also trying to make here, is that the lack of regulation in third world countries make it very easy for multinational companies to do whatever they want, without the fear of reprisals.

Meanwhile, another test from the PCB (Pollution Control Board) found this.

Quote:

PCB too finds carcinogens in Coke plant sludge

August 06, 2003 14:46 IST
Last Updated: August 06, 2003 14:51 IST


Confirming reports of carcinogenic heavy metal presence in the waste material thrown up by the Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board on Wednesday said its sample analysis showed presence of cadmium in much higher concentration than permissible levels.

Releasing the results, PCB chairman Paul Thachil said the sample was found to contain 201.8 mg of cadmium per kg of dry weight, against the tolerable limit of 50 mg.

The factory had been asked to stop supplying the sludge as fertiliser to farmers in the locality and keep it in seepage proof condition, Thachil told a press meet in Thiruvanthapuram.

The presence of lead at 319.0 mg per kg was, however, lower than the tolerable limit of 500 mg per kg, Thachil said.

The samples were tested earlier this week at PCB's Central laboratory at Kochi.

The Hindustan Coca-Cola factory has, of late, been in the eye of a storm, with BBC recently reporting that the sludge thrown up by the plant contained heavy concentration of cadmium and lead.

A local campaign was also on, alleging that the factory caused depletion of ground water in the arid region.

A routine test conducted by PCB in January this year could not detect the presence of heavy metals at hazardous levels in the waste material of the plant, Thachil said.

A detailed inquiry would be held to ascertain how this 'serious deviation' took place within a few months.

He said it was not within the PCB's powers to probe whether the soft drink itself contained hazardous material. It was for the health department to probe this, he said.

The concentration of cadmium at below detection limit of 2 MG per litre and lead at 0.1 mg per litre in the effluent was within the tolerance limit, Thachil said.

"The results indicate that the concentration of cadmium in the sludge is high and hence the sludge may have to be classified as hazardous waste," he said.

The board had asked the company not to use the sludge as manure, even within the plant premises and the company had complied with the instruction, he said.

0 Replies
 
the prince
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 09:51 am
Thomas wrote:
I believe there is no moral aspect beyond the requirement that producers should not misrepresent the content of what they are selling. I'll make up an exaggerated example. Suppose I want sell you mud water from the pond down the street, and both of us know it's mud water that will give you a 10% chance of catching Cholera. In this case, I think I should be free to sell it to you, and you should be free to buy it from me -- or to tell me to go to hell.


The key words in yr post are "both of us know".

In this case, what we know is pesticides are harmful, cause cancer
What we dont know that colas contain these pesticides.
And they are not telling us either.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 10:01 am
steissd wrote:
Therefore, if Indian water is contaminated with pesticides,

Apparently it is. Here is an article from mid-day, a Mumbai newspaper. In a nutshell, it says people in Mumbai are having the same problem with just plain, bottled water. Based on that, I'd say the story is closer to "Indian farmers pollute their country's water supply" than to "First world multinationals exploit third world consumers". But I can see why the latter story might be more likely to grab the attention of idealistic First-worlders.

Just saw your response to me, Gautam. Given that Coca Cola isn't telling how much pesticides their drinks contain, what level of quality are Indian consumers likely to expect? On the face of it, "Our Cola is about as safe as our bottled water" seems like a reasonable expectation to me, and the Cola manufacturers don't appear to have betrayed that expectation.
0 Replies
 
fishin
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 10:08 am
Gautam wrote:
The problem is indeed that there are no "norms" as such atleast in India which dictate the "permissible" levels of pesticides in colas. The regulations are so poor that even if countries do something wrong, there is no check on them. Under the law, if there are pesticides in soft drinks, there is nothing wrong because we have no law which mandates the quantity of pesticides in water. We have no law which mandates the quality of water that is used in the manufacture of soft drinks.

However, if we compare against the EEC standards, the pesticides found in the colas in India are 30-40 times the limit. Now assuming that EEC did some amount of research in determining the acceptable standards, by any strech of imagination, 30-40 times is a pretty high number, and is sure to be harmful.


All true enough. I've never understood why the 3rd world countries don't just take standards established elsewhere and make their laws match. They don't have to do the science themselves. Is there a reason India can't adopt the ECC standards for their own? There should be no need to reinvent the wheel.

Quote:
While local water supply could be blamed, is it not the company's responsibility to "test" their raw material? If the local water supply was laced with arsenic, and a cola was made out of it, and people died, who should be responsible? The end product is sold by Pepsi/Coke, anything contained in it is their responsiblity. Is it not?


Do you test the water that comes into your house? If it was found to have arsenic in it and people died from drinking it who would be at fault? If you are on a municiple water supply you'd probably assume that the supplier is at fault woudn't you?

Now if the company pumps their own water out of the ground and tests it IAW the standards of the country they are in and the water doesn't meet those standards then sure, the company should be held responsible. But if someone else provides them with the water and certifies that the water has been tested and meets all requirements who gets the blame?

If the science has been done and more stringent standards are set in other countries the government of India knows that. Aren't they liable for their failure to adopt and implement those standards?
0 Replies
 
the prince
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 10:13 am
As Arnie says "I'll be back" Smile
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 10:18 am
Gautam wrote:
Now assuming that EEC did some amount of research in determining the acceptable standards, by any strech of imagination, 30-40 times is a pretty high number, and is sure to be harmful.

In general, this is not a realistic assumption to make. Research of this kind is expensive, even unethical when performed on humans. Therefore it's quite common for the European Community to set limits by the standard of "We don't like this stuff; if we can detect it at all, it's too much". I don't know what the rule for this particular limit was though.

Moreover, the sad reality is that the dominant nutritional problem in India is hunger, not insecticide poisoning. Given that, it may well be worthwile for Indians to trade off some amount of water safety for higher farm productivity.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 10:21 am
Corporations (national or multinational) usually tend to maximize profits. It is the duty of societies to put normative barriers to what corporations -and average citizens- can do.

If you're allowed to dump pollutants into a river (be them industrial or home garbage), the blame goes to everyone: both the polluter and the society that let him/her get away with it.

If norms exist but are not enforced, then you have a political problem. An authority who is either too lax, because it was to befriend everyone; too weak, because it yields to external pressure (and multinational corporations are big time lobbyists) or too corrupt is not capable of protecting the people.
0 Replies
 
steissd
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 01:07 pm
To FBaezer: I hardly can imagine Coca-Cola or Pepsico being interested in polluting water sources of India. I should rather blame ignorant farmers that do not follow the safety instructions while using pesticides. Of course, the laws are to be enforced, and such farmers should be fined and the money acquired through fines used for building up a system of technologic appliances and enforcement offices that will act toward reduction of pollution. But what do all these things have to do with the transnational corporations?
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 01:09 pm
Steissd,

Multinational companies dump toxic waste into rivers all the time. It's not that they are interested in doing it so much as they are a part of the society they are working in and if the society allows such dumping they rarely hold themselves to higher standards.
0 Replies
 
steissd
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 01:15 pm
Blaming the transnational corporations in all the problems existing in the world resembles searching the lost item not around the place where it was allegedly lost, but under the lantern. Everyone knows such names as "Union Carbide", "Dow Chemical" or "PepsiCo", and no one makes any effort to reveal anonymous ignorant Third World farmers that exaggerate with usage of pesticides.
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 01:24 pm
I don't say they are INTERESTED in polluting. They don't go and say: "Hey, let's pollute". They usually comply to the rules, if it's not too expensive. If it is, they try to go around them, as everywhere else.

Do you really think Bophal would have happened in, say, Germany? And that tragedy wasn't produced by farmers, but by Union Carbide.

The problem with third world countries is that often the rules are not as strict as in rich countries, and that it is easier -if it's needed- to go around them.

I'm not saying, either, that poor peasants are guiltless. They may often even be less innocent of naïve that they want us to believe.

What I say is that it is a problem of a specific social tissue.
0 Replies
 
Craven de Kere
 
  1  
Reply Wed 6 Aug, 2003 01:26 pm
steissd,

I don't blame multinational corporations for all the problems in the world. Fbaezer was spot on in that the blame for *polluting rivers* (please take careful note that I am not speaking of all the problems of the world) rests both with those doing the polluting and the society that allows it.
0 Replies
 
 

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