One of our key partners, Pants to Poverty, spearheaded a campaign to ban endosulfan, a particularly nasty and unnecessary pesticide. Bringing together international celebrities, textile workers and farmers, consumers and organisations like Pesticide Action Network and Organic Exchange, the group set its targets on the Bayer Group and the Indian Government. Both profit from endosulfan’s production in the developing world, though it is banned in 62 countries (including the EU).
As all Zameen farmers are pesticide-free and have seen their own health improving, they were very interested when we told them about the campaign and wanted to know how they could contribute. I talked about the campaign actions taking place around the world and together we drafted a letter to a broadsheet in the UK. I also agreed to visit them in the field to spread the word amongst more farmers. I went to Amravati in Maharashtra, bringing together a group of 75 farmers to take part in their own ‘bad pants amnesty’ at the same time as others taking place across the world on 7 July 2009.
Farmers get together to post their pants to Bayer
Sandip Kuthe, a farmer who features in Zameen’s case study on pesticide free farming practices, had suffered terrible burns when spraying his cotton after his backpack split open. Sandip is also something of a star, acting in local plays. I explained that Pants to Poverty wanted to commission a farmer teaser to add to their collection of video virals for their Panteater campaign and he jumped at the chance – quite literally jumped out of his seat! The Panteater is a mythical beast which evolved from eating ‘bad pants’ grown with pesticides (the average pair of non-organic pants contains 10ml of pesticides). I shot the film with him and another farmer, Ashish Mahalle, with Sandip adding fantastic adlibs! I think it’s great that he used his own artistic expression to hit back at the big boys who have scarred him with chemical burns.
The best bit is that the farmer won! Bayer announced the following week that it would phase out endosulfan over the next 18 months. Great result, but now all our attentions are focused on the Indian Government, which uses its weight to prevent a global ban, whilst also being a manufacturer of endosulfan! The fight continues…