Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg

Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg
Justitia, Old Bridge of Heidelberg © Gernot Keller, 2007
Blinkered Justice articles also appear on CrimeTalk and Government In The Lab

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

London 2012: Condoning corporate crime

Bhopal-Union Carbide memorial (c) Luca Frediani 
I was disgusted to read this story in The Independent the other day. Dow Chemical Company (Dow), the majority shareholder of Union Carbide who are allegedly culpable for the deaths of 25,000 people in Bhopal in 1984, have been awarded "exclusive marketing rights" to the Olympic stadium. 

Whilst they bought the company in 2001, litigation is outstanding in India over the paltry payments made to the victims, and they have since failed to decontaminate the site properly. According to Amnesty, 100,000 people continue to suffer from health problems. There has never been a proper, full investigation into what caused the leak in Bhopal, and nobody has been brought to justice for the deaths, injuries and other harms associated with the leak. 

Furthermore, Dow Agrosciences, a Dow subsidiary, have been blacklisted by the Indian government for bribing government officials in their quest to register three pesticides. This appears to relate to Dow's involvement in the GM food industry and something called the Codex Alimentarius Commission (yes?!). Robert Verkerk produced the following analysis on Ethical Consumer, snippets of which follow:
The Codex Alimentarius Commission is heavily influenced by some of the most powerful industries on the planet, including the food, agricultural, biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Codex’s stated purpose is to ensure that global trade is facilitated and trade barriers are removed, while also ensuring that consumers are adequately protected.
It is therefore no great surprise that Codex has seen fit to ‘green light’ many GM foods, food additives, pesticide residues, synthetic hormones and other intrinsically unhealthy food components. It also has substantially dumbed down organic standards, making them more accessible to large agricultural players. Consumer interests are often seemingly low on Codex’s list of priorities...
 ...With its huge scope and influence, there is one thing that Codex Alimentarius does not do, and that is look at the bigger picture.  It does not begin to address the issue of how we will ensure that present and future generations are able to eat within the limits of the planet's resources.  Food safety and food security, in this context, are worlds apart.
 A report completed in 2008 following four years of research, carried out by over 400 world experts in agriculture, found that many of the risks associated with modern biotechnology are “as yet unknown”. It also specifically highlighted the problems relating to the proprietary nature of biotech products, and the potential for patented GM crops to “undermine local practices that enhance food security and economic sustainability”...
...The Codex Commission stands accused of being unduly influenced by corporate interests, represented by trade bodies with observer status.  A peek behind the scenes indicates that this does deserve further scrutiny.
 The International Life Sciences Institute (ISLI) is one such organisation.  Its members, which are solely companies, include the Big Daddies of biotech, biofuels, and pharma:  Cargill, Monsanto, Bayer, Dow Chemical, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline.  Food manufacturers include Mars, Kraft, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, NestlĂ©, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Tate & Lyle. 
 The ISLI's 2009 Annual Report states that 68% of its revenue for that year came from its members.  Only 5% of this went to research, whilst a total of 81% was spent on General & Administrative, Meetings and Other Programme Expenses.  Yet it has vigorously denied being a lobby group...
 ...The work of Codex Alimentarius is presented as being based on independent, objective science.  Collaboration between the ISLI and one of Codex's most important scientific advisory bodies throws up some serious questions about just how objective this science is.  That the ISLI's members indirectly funded this piece of work points towards an extremely cosy relationship.
 In 2007 ISLI India hosted a conference on risk assessment that was attended by key Codex figures.  Further collaboration between the ISLI and the FAO is apparent on the ISLI India website, notably a conference on “Next Generation Technologies for Healthy Foods”, in which they were in “technical collaboration”...
 ...At the Lancaster University Codex conference in March 2010, Ezzeddine Boutrif was quizzed by Dr. Erik Millstone, Professor of Science and Technology Policy at the University of Sussex, about alleged systematic bias of Codex towards corporate interests.  Boutrif acknowledged that there had been problems in the past but said that things had changed “dramatically” in the past 7 to 10 years...
...Boutrif also acknowledged that Codex Alimentarius was not orientated to the public and that more could be done to address this.  Perhaps we can anticipate a time that Codex will come out of the shadows, and make more of an effort to communicate with the people it claims to protect: consumers.
Dow Chemical works, Kings Lynn (c) Ben Harris
One other final piece of information worth knowing is that the U.S. Environment & Protection Agency (USEPA) levied a $2.5 million fine on Dow for breaches of environmental regulations. These relate to violations at Dow's Midland facility, following inspections between 2005-2007.

Quite apart from the fact that Dow were aware of the dreadful legacy that they were buying into, they are aggressively pursuing their own GM agenda and continuing to pollute the environment. Lord Coe and Locog are responsible for granting Dow's contract after what Locog termed an "open and competitive process." This week, Lord Coe has failed to satisfy MPs at a Select Committee meeting that Dow meets the ethical vision for London 2012. He is due to attend another Select Committee meeting next week.  The sooner we act, the more pressure there will be on the the Select Committee to scrutinise this decision in more detail. 

Lorraine Close from www.bhopal.org has set up an online petition here that is attracting plenty of signatures. If nothing else, your signature will raise awareness of Bhopal and its victims, and raise the profile of Dow and it's "crimes". 

The Olympics are supposed to be a celebration of what we, as humans, can aspire to and achieve. As the  host of the Olympics, the UK has a responsibility to promote the Olympic ideals. As an UK national, I do not want to be tainted by Dow's crimes. I hope that you don't too. If so, please take action, sign the e-petition and pass on to whoever you can.  


  1. Further to the above article, the Editor of CrimeTalk has sent me the following link to Pearce and Tombs' criminological reassessment of the Bhopal tragedy:


  2. Thanks for the post.
    It was really helpful to solve my confusion.

    Occupational Medicine