Onderstaand artikel is gepubliceerd door: AFX Global Ethics Monitor, 17-6-2003      

Syngenta questioned on "no child labour" label

Rachel Oliver

HONG KONG (AFX-GEM) - Swiss seed producer Syngenta has been asked to explain a "no child labour" label printed on seed sacks which contain cotton seeds farmed in Andhra Pradesh, India, where it has acknowledged that child labour by its sub-contractors does exist.

In an internal note obtained by AFX Global Ethics Monitor, a European investment company based in London and Paris which rates companies on their social responsibility standards said it had raised its concerns with Syngenta over the label and is awaiting a response from the company.

It also asked Syngenta to explain whether its health and safety policy covers the practices of its partners and sub-contractors.

Syngenta met with local NGOs in Andhra Pradesh on Monday to discuss the use of child labour in the fields that farm its cotton seeds. Dr Davuluri Venkateswarlu, the researcher of a report on child labour by the India Committee of the Netherlands, who was present at the meeting, said the company would not be drawn on the issue of the sack labels.

"We raised the question but the answer they gave on the labels was not clear. There are two seeds, foundation seeds which are given to farmers for multiplication, and then those seeds go back to the company and on to the market for commercial cultivation. They have printed "no child labour" labels on the foundation seeds which are grown in the farmers fields, not in the fields of the company," he said.

In a statement written on behalf of Michael Stopford, Syngenta's head of global public affairs and government relations, the company confirmed that the labels are intended as a means of instructing its sub-contractors not to use children in the farming process.

"We contract with seed producers, who work with farmers to produce the seed. Our contracts with these seed producers state very clearly: "Do not employ child labor. Contract will be terminated if child labor is used." The markings of the seed bags that go to the contractors and growers also state 'Do not use child labor'" the statement said.

Syngenta has not yet responded to questions on whether those seed sacks carrying the label reach the marketplace.

According to Venkateswarlu, Syngenta seeds farmed in Andhra Pradesh are not exported internationally, but mostly distributed within India and around South East Asia. He is planning to travel to some Indian markets where the seed sacks are sold over the next few days, to establish whether the label-carrying sacks are reaching the marketplace.

"We can independently verify this. That will be clear in the next few days," he said.



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