Bringing back our stolen future: Perspective for a Poison-Free Future

By Dr. Romeo Quijano
President, Health and Environmental Alliance Against Toxics
Pesticide Action Network Philippines

Over the past few years, there has been growing worldwide concern on the adverse effects of many synthetic chemicals on the endocrine system of both animalas and humans. Evidence is accumulating that certain chemicals, appropriately called “endocrine disruptors,” interfere with the delicate functions of internal biological messengers called hormones that are essential to the growth, development, and survival of higher life forms, especially humans.

Lowered sperm count and reduced fertility, genital deformities and other congenital abnormalities, immune system dysfunction, altered foetal development, abnormal physical, mental, and psychological development in infants and children, degenerative disorders, cancer and other health problems are increasingly being associated with exposure to a growing list of chemicals, most of which enter the body through the ingestion of food.

Many poisons, particularly pesticides, are used in the production, processing and storage of food. Thus, the safety of food, the basic requirement for the sustenance of life and for the long-term viability of future generations, is seriously being threatened. Indeed, the future is being “stolen.”

But the problem is much more than the poisonous chemicals. We have to recognize that there are the poison-pushers, the transnational agro-chemical companies (TNCs) that aggressively promote and monopolize the basic elements of the food system such as seeds and agro-chemicals inputs.

Then there are the corrupt governments, especially those in the most powerful developed countries, who protect and advance corporate interests using coercive powers of authority to contravene their own people’s mandate to protect people’s interests. Together, these “twin powers” force their way into disadvantaged communities through various agencies like the IMF, World Bank, and the WTO. They impose a “globalized” economy characterized by monopoly control, monocropping and the supremacy of trade and profit concerns—thereby destroying indigenous culture and food systems, creating absolute dependency and powerlessness.

With their combined power and enormous resources, these “twin powers” dictate the market-oriented production system; establish the manner of distribution favoring the rich, construct the knowledge (including science) and information systems that mould consumer beliefs and preferences; and enforce a system of governance that guarantees the attainment of corporate objectives.

It is therefore necessary, to always ensure that the campaign for a poison-free environment is integrated with the people’s struggle for land, food security and other fundamental social, political and economic rights. Campaign strategies must truly be community-based, and must ultimately lead to people’s empowerment.

Freedom from poison cannot be achieved without social emancipation. It is likewise necessary for all concerned sectors to reach out in solidarity to grassroots activists, especially in the farming communities where food is primarily produced. NGO activists must have profound understanding of concrete realities at the grassroots level and have complete trust in people’s ability to liberate themselves. Only a people’s movement effectively striking at the core of the structural causes of the health and environmental assault by endocrine disruptors can bring “our stolen future” back.

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©heal toxics, 2003
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