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From June 15, 2006                                                                                                        

Mexico Pressed To Respond To Deaths From Pesticides Banned in U.S.
(Beyond Pesticides, June 15, 2006)
According to an article on IndianCountry.com, pesticides banned in the U.S. are being produced in the states and exported to Mexico and other developing countries, resulting in birth defects and deaths in indigenous populations. Members of the Yaqui tribe on the west coast of Mexico are suffering a multitude of harms allegedly as the result of chronic, low-level pesticides exposure. The alleged harms range from babies born with deformities to people dying at young ages from banned pesticides sprayed and stored in their villages by non-Yaqui farmers who lease the land.

Okechukwu Ibeanu, a United Nations (UN) Rapporteur and expert with the UN Human Rights Commission, said he asked the Mexican government to respond to the allegations after receiving testimony from alleged Yaqui victims, and received a response criticized as being “inadequate”. Mr. Ibeanu has been entrusted to analyze the illicit trafficking and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes and to make recommendations to eradicate the problem. Speaking at a conference in Potam Pueblo, Mexico, Mr. Ibeanu said the insufficient regulation and unsound management of chemicals, including pesticides, is adversely impacting human rights and human development.

Andrea Carmen, a member of the Yaqui tribe who is executive director of the International Indian Treaty Council, said Mexico officials failed to appear at the conference and respond to the questions posed by scientists and Yaqui victims. “It was a missed opportunity for Mexico to indicate there is sincerity at rectifying these human rights violations, “ said Ms. Carmen.

The United Nations is now pressing Mexico to intervene and halt the use of banned pesticides. The International Indian Treaty Council recently presented a workshop on pesticide risks to Yaqui in Potam Pueblo. The government of Mexico failed to respond to an invitation to be present and answer questions.

In a response to the UN, Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture said it offered workshops to Yaqui on preventing risks from pesticides. However, Ms. Carmen said she could not locate even one Yaqui who had heard of, or attended, the workshops. Further, Ms. Carmen said Mexico has laws which are not being enforced which would protect Yaquis. These include the provision of protective clothing for pesticide workers and water for bathing after pesticide work. Further, pregnant women and young children are protected from exposure. Non-Yaquis, she said, lease Yaqui land for “chicken feed.” Then, aerial pesticides poison Yaqui villages and peoples’ food and water sources. The birth defects include “jelly babies,” babies born without structural bones. “This is an extremely rare condition, and there are three of these babies in Potam,” she said. Ms. Carmen also says that the problem is not just about the Yaquis. Birth defects and deaths from banned pesticides is a global problem for indigenous peoples in Mexico, Central America, and other developing nations.

More information on the effects of pesticide exposure on Yaqui children can be found in an excerpt from Dr. Elizabeth Guillette’s groundbreaking study on the impacts of pesticides on indigenous Yaqui farm children.