Below is a public letter from funders about the recently announced partnership between the UNFAO and CropLife International. FAO wrote responses to letters with similar concerns from civil society and academics. While we appreciate the FAO's reiteration of its commitment to sustainable agriculture and food systems and specifically agroecology in those letters, we remain concerned about this CropLife partnership and echo the call from civil society leaders who have requested a meeting to discuss further the issues raised.

December 15, 2020

Director-General Qu Dongyu
UN Food and Agriculture Organization
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
00153 Rome, Italy

Re: CropLife International Partnership

Dear Director-General Qu Dongyu,

The 47 foundations, philanthropists, and donor networks listed below join with the more than 350 civil society organizations and farmer and food producer networks along with 286 academics, researchers, and scientists in raising profound concerns about the FAO’s announcement to formalize a strategic partnership with CropLife International, the global trade association for the agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology industry.

Collectively, we move $170 million every year—and many times that through our networks—to community groups and Indigenous Nations, advocacy organizations, research institutions, and food producer networks around the world.

The mandate of CropLife International—to work on behalf of its pesticide industry members to promote their products around the world, including lobbying against regulations promoting safety and accountability—is at direct odds with the work of our grantee partners. Indeed, many of our partners have been targeted by members of CropLife[1]Members of CropLife International, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF were found to have committed “gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children’s rights”in the 2011 Permanent People’s Tribunal session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations – see indictment and verdict here., have expended resources to fight against the group’s lobbying efforts[2]For example, CropLife International lobbied against efforts to prevent the EU from exporting pesticides banned there to be used in other countries., or have been in protracted legal battles for restitution from pollution and corporate malfeasance by CropLife members[3]For example, the 36-year long campaign for justice for victims of one of the world’s worst industrial accidents at Union Carbide’s facility in Bhopal, India. (Union Carbide was purchased by Dow Chemical). See this article for instance.. We believe CropLife’s core mandate is also in direct conflict with the FAO’s goal to achieve food security for all, which includes ensuring sustainable lifestyles for food producers.

As others have noted, the FAO has also made specific commitments to minimize the harms of chemical pesticides, including joining with civil society in a call for an eventual ban on those pesticides most hazardous to human health and the environment, known as HHPs[4]Overview of HHPs and FAO actions can be found here.. FAO’s proposed alliance with CropLife calls to question this commitment: An independent review of CropLife International members found that five—BASF, Bayer CropScience, Corteva Agriscience, FMC, and Syngenta—derive at least one third of their global income from HHPs.

At a time when the evidence has never been clearer about the threats pesticides pose to public health, biodiversity, and climate, it is particularly concerning that the agency would choose to align itself with a pesticide industry trade group. From the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services to global assessments like the 2019 paper in Biological Conservation, it is abundantly clear that pesticides produced by CropLife members have decimated insect populations, wreaked havoc on human health, and destabilized fragile ecosystems. Furthermore, we’ve seen the increasing failure of pesticides to work; pest resistance is at an all-time high in many farming communities. All of which raises questions about why an agency tasked with ensuring global food security would engage in this partnership.

As funders who support a range of sustainable agriculture, food, rural livelihood, and biodiversity conservation efforts around the world, we are especially disturbed by CropLife’s track record in targeting markets in Africa, Latin America, and Asia to exploit weaker regulatory regimes in those regions. As an agency committed to equity, the FAO should be, too.

This alliance with CropLife also undermines the FAO’s reputation for independence from industry and its important support for agroecology. As the FAO has stated, agroecology plays an “important role in building resilience and adapting to climate change,” noting agroecology “can support food production and food security and nutrition while restoring the ecosystem services and biodiversity that are essential for sustainable agriculture.”

CropLife’s mission is to secure the profitability of their corporate members—not safeguard public health, ensure rural livelihoods, or protect the environment and the rights of Indigenous People. In contrast, at this critical moment in global history, we need an FAO steadfast in its dedication to just that: fostering food security while protecting human health, equitable rural development, and safeguarding ecosystems.

We share with your agency an unwavering commitment to work for a world with bountiful biodiversity, a stable climate, free from hunger, where Indigenous People, farmers, farmworkers, and agricultural communities enjoy landscapes unburdened by toxins and are supported in rural development strategies that foster thriving communities and nourishing relationships with the land. The hazardous pesticides CropLife International is responsible for promoting has no place in our vision—nor should it in yours.

We echo the call from our civil society partners in urging your reexamination of this profoundly misguided alliance with CropLife. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Melanie Adcock, CS Fund
Sofia Arroyo, EDGE Funders Alliance
Nikhil Aziz, American Jewish World Service
Sarah Bell, The 11th Hour Project
Suzanne Benally, Swift Foundation
Joan Briggs, Threshold Foundation
Karl Burkart, One Earth
Sallie Calhoun, Globetrotter Foundation
Andre Carothers, Furthur Foundation
Angie Chen, The Libra Foundation
Andre Degenszajn, Ibirapitanga Institute
Jason Franklin, Ktisis Capital
Benno Friedman, Cloud Mountain Foundation
Kathryn Gilje, Ceres Trust
Jane Gray, Canary Fund
Jennifer Hartman, The Casey and Family Foundation
Hans R. Herren, Millennium Institute
Lisa Holmes, The Martha and Hunter Grubb Foundation
Chung-Wha Hong, Grassroots International
Liz Hosken, The Gaia Foundation
Lourdes Inga, International Funders for Indigenous Peoples
Bia'ni Madsa' Juárez López, Cultural Survival
Anna Lappé, Panta Rhea Foundation
Solome Lemma, Thousand Currents
Hanna Matinpuro, Siemenpuu Foundation
Philip McManus, Appleton Foundation
Lindley Mease, CLIMA Fund
Ansje Miller, Health and Environmental Funders Network
Sara Moncada, The Cultural Conservancy
Daniel Moss, Agroecology Fund
Shorey Myers, Jenifer Altman Foundation
Melissa Nelson, The Cultural Conservancy
Maggie Nyce, The 11th Hour Project
Jennifer O'Connor, Guidelight Strategies
Sebastian Pole, Earthsong Foundation
Susan Pritzker
Lendri Purcell, Jonas Philanthropies
Anne Rammi, Be The Earth Foundation
Robert Reed, Farming the Future
Samantha Roddick, The Roddick Foundation
Abigail Rome
Molly Ross, Swift Wings Foundation
Lisl Schoepflin, Panta Rhea Foundation
Bob Scowcroft, Nell Newman Foundation
Salote Soqo, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Marnie Thompson, Fund for Democratic Communities
Karin van Boxtel, Both ENDS
Anna Van Der Hurd, The A Team Foundation
Thalia Venerable, Lydia B. Stokes Foundation

References

References
1 Members of CropLife International, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF were found to have committed “gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children’s rights”in the 2011 Permanent People’s Tribunal session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations – see indictment and verdict here.
2 For example, CropLife International lobbied against efforts to prevent the EU from exporting pesticides banned there to be used in other countries.
3 For example, the 36-year long campaign for justice for victims of one of the world’s worst industrial accidents at Union Carbide’s facility in Bhopal, India. (Union Carbide was purchased by Dow Chemical). See this article for instance.
4 Overview of HHPs and FAO actions can be found here.