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Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Charity calls for global regulation of tobacco industry
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¬†A Brazillian tobacco farmer who claims he has been made permanently ill as a result of his work, is suing Souza Cruz, a subsidiary of the multi-national company British American Tobacco (BAT). Josť Wanderlei da Silva, 32, who grew tobacco under contract to Souza Cruz until 2000, believes the pesticides he was sold by the company have left him permanently unable to work. He now suffers from a condition similar to chronic fatigue syndrome. Souza Cruz denies responsibility saying that Josť was an independent contractor, not an employee. Josť's story is told in a new report from Christian Aid: Hooked on Tobacco, which raises serious concerns about the health and safety of farmers working for Souza Cruz in southern Brazil. The report also shows that farmers in Brazil believe they receive an unfair price for their crops. It accuses BAT of failing to live up to its own standards of corporate social responsibility. "Josť's story raises important concerns about the health and safety of BAT's contract tobacco farmers in Brazil," said Andrew Pendleton, author of the report. "Many farmers say they suffer a catalogue of similar illnesses which seem to be related to the tobacco-growing season." The agency is calling for an independent scientific study to establish the extent of the damage to their health. Christian Aid's report is published as a result of a two-year investigation into the relationship between BAT's subsidiary, Souza Cruz, and the tobacco farmers it contracts. As well as concerns about ill-health from pesticide use, the report illustrates how farmers become hooked by credit on the company's prescriptive system of growing tobacco. The report investigates concerns from farmers that: ∑ Souza Cruz profits from selling pesticides to farmers, but fails to guarantee appropriate standards of safe use on their farms. ∑ Souza Cruz underwrites the cost of loans to farmers by claiming Brazilian government credit in their name, sometimes without the farmer's knowledge. ∑ Souza Cruz contracts farmers to grow exclusively for the company, but then pays what many farmers believe is a poor price for their tobacco. ∑ Many farmers cannot afford to employ extra labour at harvest time and have to enlist the help of the whole family, which risks their children coming into contact with pesticides. "BAT makes ambitious claims about its responsible behaviour but, through its Brazilian subsidiary, is not meeting those standards," said Andrew Pendleton. The agency is calling for global corporations to be held legally accountable at a global level for their own actions and those of their subsidiaries.
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