Industry & Environment | Centre for Science and Environment

Industry & Environment


What China is doing to Goa

I wrote last fortnight about how mining in Goa for iron ore was ripping its forests and devastating its people. I wrote of the violence and protests I saw in its villages, where miners were pitted against people angry at the loss of their cultivable lands and their water bodies. I had asked then: what are we doing? I ask this again.

Divert, deny, dismiss and damn

What a line of attack! PepsiCo, in its advertisements to deny that it had pesticides in its drinks, said that there were more pesticides in tea, eggs, rice and apples. Coca-Cola, in its defence, has similarly argued that as everything in India is contaminated, its drinks are safe. They say this is being done to target them, because they are big brands and us multinationals. On the other hand, the pesticide industry, in its public response, wants the focus not to be on pesticides but on heavy metals and other contaminants.

Strong colas and weak governments

When we released our study on pesticides in soft drinks, our objective was clear: we needed action on regulations, which had been stymied because of corporate pressure. What we hadn’t anticipated was the response of the cola majors. Three years have lapsed since we published our first report on pesticides in colas. The response then had been immediate and vituperative. “There are no pesticides in our drinks and the Centre for Science and Environment cannot test our products” was the line taken by the cola majors.

No free lunches in India

It seems that the people who matter in this country have a simple enough formula for life and liberty. We should open up the market, create opportunity for the organised industry, mix and stir, and then the work will be done. They will tell you that this will mean taking risks. It is another matter that they will not define who and what is at risk. If you object, you will be told that you are archaic, or worse still a communist, who wants to perpetuate poverty in the country.

Want to be fried?

I first learnt about slapp when we released a study about pesticides in colas. PepsiCo had filed a defamation case against us in the Delhi High Court and our lawyer, fresh out of law school in Bangalore, jumped as he read through the company’s petition saying this was a classic slapp case. We were bemused, knowing nothing about such legal intricacies. slapp, he explained, was an acronym in the us for ‘strategic lawsuits against public participation’.

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