Stop using Endosulfan !! ! These images of the damage it causes along with the devastating evidence that proves its toxicity and persistence should be more than enough to manufacture something that is not any of these things. I cannot believe people are getting away with still using this. Stop. Right now.


Fashion: Cotton, Child Labour and Pesticides


Cotton. This is a global material. You’ll find it on every front line of the Fashion World. You’re probably wearing it right now. Check the label.

The cotton industry is built on Fashion’s darkest truths. International demand for this material has ensured two very serious problems in its production:

The use of Child Labour

The use of chemical Pesticides

If you are wearing cotton, check the label again. Who made it? How was it made?

A Brief Introduction to these Issues:

Child Labour abuses a child’s right to play, to learn and to be safe and respected. Their childhood is taken from them to fuel a multi billion dollar industry like cotton. Often their governments are directly involved. Often they are physically abused and maltreated. 

Pesticides are chemicals designed to increase crop yield by destroying any pest (such as insects.) They help produce more crop and bigger sales for farmers. However they can also be toxic for humans and all other creatures causing illness, physical defects or death. They can also ruin the earth’s soil and destroy plants and crops in the surrounding environment. Many have been branded illegal, although some are still used illegally. 

(this young girl has been poisoned by the dangerous pesticide Endosulfan.)

The Environmental Justice Foundation:

The title photo is taken from a London based NGO called the Environmental Justice Foundation. The picture of the young girl above is also from their collection. As well as working for Nektarina, I help them with their campaigns. They run a successful cotton campaign that addresses both child labour and pesticides.

Here is a video about Cotton the ‘White Gold’ and Pesticides:

The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) campaigned to ban the use of Endosulfan, the same chemical that hurt the girl’s hands in the photograph above. They were successful.


But that is one battle in a war against environmental injustice. Many children are still subjected to hard and dangerous working conditions. 

You can read more about these battles in EJF’s reports. Download them free, here: http://www.ejfoundation.org/page93.html

Tomorrow I will write about what you can do to stop child labour and the use of pesticides.

Contact me on jessica@nektarinanonprofit.com

The Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention, meeting in Geneva, decided to list endosulfan under annex III to the Convention on Friday. This makes prior informed consent of importing countries necessary for export of the pesticide. India, an exporter, did not object to listing of the pesticide.
The Hindu : News / National : Endosulfan: CPI demands committee

“It is absolutely unacceptable that despite several scientific studies — undertaken both by Central and State agencies — finding that endosulfan is a deadly chemical, it is still sold and used in our country,” the party Central Secretariat said in a release.

A ban is being discussed now in Geneva.

Meanwhile Dr. Mohammed Asheel of Kerala 92s Health Services, who is attending the conference as an independent observer, has sent a communication to the Kerala Health Minister P. K. Sreemathi mentioning instances of the organisations of the pesticide industry, present at the conference as observers, influencing the Indian delegation to the conference. The Indian delegates are just following their bosses in the pesticide industry, he criticized.

The toxic pesticide was banned in the US last summer.


The Union government looks in no mood to reverse its stand on opposing the ban on endosulfan at a global meet in Geneva next week. This despite appeals from activists, a directive from the National Human Rights Commission and also the Kerala government banning endosulfan after adverse and severe health fallout was reported in the state following exposure to the pesticide.

Historic Ruling Convicts Two of Three Defendants for Poisoning Neighborhood with Pesticides

Endosulfan is a highly controversial pesticide considered acutely toxic and banned by most major governments around the world, glyphosate has been generally regarded as safe by most but has recently come under question due to recent studies (cases 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), but although they are both currently legal in Argentina their application in these neighborhoods and fields was unauthorized.  Both pesticides are recognized as carcinogens.  Tragically the town had to have more than 150 casualties before action was taken, however the case’s ruling has changed the atmosphere of not only Argentina’s legal environment, but was the first and only time that criminal charges have been brought against persons in the agriculture industry in the entire South American continent.  This case creates a new precedent by which all future cases in the region will be compared and both the charges and the consequences brought against future transgressors is only likely to increase rapidly in the years to come.

(via Historic Ruling Convicts Two of Three Defendants for Poisoning Neighborhood with Pesticides - Occupy Monsanto)

Growing Coffee Without Endosulfan: Safer Alternatives to Manage the Coffee Berry Borer

As a persistent organic pollutant under the Stockholm Convention, the hazardous insecticide Endosulfan needs to be phased out globally. A new report and video series show how farmers are using safer alternatives to manage the Coffee Berry Borer – a tiny beetle which can cause serious damage to the coffee beans.

Keep reading

suspicious shrimp


Whether dipped in cocktail sauce at a party, sizzling in butter at a tapas
bar, or topping a salad on a lunch break, shrimp has become the most
popular seafood in the United States. The typical American eats
three-and-a-half pounds of shrimp a year – surpassing even canned tuna, our
long time former favorite.

Driving this surge in the consumption of shrimp is a method of intensive
production that began expanding in the 1970s. Rather than being caught at
sea, large quantities of shrimp are grown in man-made ponds containing a
mix of ocean and fresh water along the coasts of Southeast Asia and South
or Central America. Unfortunately, this industrial-scale shrimp production,
often with hefty doses of antibiotics and pesticides, creates a series of
food safety concerns.

The negative effects of eating industrially produced shrimp may include
neurological damage from ingesting chemicals such as endosulfans, an
allergic response to penicillin residues or infection by an
antibiotic-resistant pathogen such as E. coli.

*What is Shrimp Farming?*

Shrimp farming itself is not new – in Asia, it‚ been practiced since at
least the 15th century. But those earlier traditional farms used low
densities of shrimp that sometimes coexisted with other species, such as
milkfish. By working in balance with the ecosystem, farmers sustained small
crops of shrimp indefinitely. Only recently has shrimp production become a
large-scale industrial operation.

In the 1970s and 80s, intensive shrimp production became big business.
Shrimp farmers, with the backing of corporate investors and international
development banks, began building new ponds and stocking them with more and
more shrimp to produce bulk quantities for export. People with no
experience in the field were lured by generous loans and the promise of a
quick profit to start their own ponds. While traditional shrimp farms yield
up to 445 pounds per acre, these concentrated shrimp operations may produce
as much as 89,000 pounds per acre. In 2007, Thailand alone exported about
$1. billion worth of shrimp to the United States. In total, the United
States imported a staggering $3. billion dollars worth of shrimp that year.

Although it is possible to build sustainable shrimp farms in land-based
facilities completely closed off from the environment and equipped to
recycle their water, such operations are still an anomaly in the industry,
in large part because they require more start-up capital and do not
generate immediate profit. The ponds do, but not without a price: polluted
water and, often, shrimp infected with disease and parasites. Indeed, many
shrimp producers in Asia and South or Central America use hefty doses of
antibiotics, disinfectants and pesticides, many of which are illegal for
use in the United States. Most consumers are not aware that there may be
traces of this chemical cocktail in the shrimp they eat.

*Who Grows It? Who Eats It?*

The United States and Japan import more shrimp than any other country, and
Europeans also consume a fair amount. In 2006, more than 90 percent, about
868,265 tons, of the U.S. shrimp supply was imported. Thailand is the
leading ex-porter of shrimp to the United States, followed by Ecuador,
Indonesia, China, Mexico and Vietnam.

Industrial shrimp production has harmed the environment of these countries.
Coastal mangroves, which provide habitat for a variety of marine species,
are frequently chopped down to make way for shrimp ponds. These shrimp
facilities pollute the surrounding land and water and deplete the
freshwater supply. Then, after an average of seven years, the ponds become
so polluted with shrimp waste and chemicals that shrimp producers move on
to build new ponds, leaving behind abandoned wastelands.

U.S. consumers often have no way of knowing where the shrimp they purchase
was produced. Under the federal Country of Origin Labeling Law, also known
as COOL, labels on fresh seafood are required to tell consumers where the
fish was farmed or wild-caught. Unfortunately, nearly 50 percent of the
shrimp found in grocery stores have no label because they have been
processed , boiled, breaded or added to a seafood medley , and thus are
exempt from labeling requirements. Stores that carry only a small amount of
seafood are also exempt from COOL, as are restaurants. Even if a label isnt
apparent, consumers still can ask about the origin of their seafood.
Crowded Shrimp are Sick Shrimp

With millions of shrimp crammed together in ponds, diseases can run
rampant, in some cases severely enough to kill off entire ponds and even a
country‚ entire shrimp industry. On average, an intensive shrimp operation
only lasts for seven years before the level of pollution and pathogens
within the pond reaches a point where shrimp can no longer survive.

In 1988, Taiwan, Province of China, Province of China, then the top
producer of industrial shrimp, lost 75 percent of its harvest to a virus
called Monodon bacu-lovirus. The industry has never recovered, and Taiwan,
Province of China is no longer considered a significant producer of shrimp.
China then became the top producer, until it was hit with disease caused by
hypodermal and hematopoietic virus. In 1999, Ecuador lost half of its crop
to Taura syndrome and white spot syndrome virus. The shrimp industries of
Indonesia, India, Honduras and Mexico also faced significant disease
outbreaks in the 1990s.

Even before a country‚ industry collapses, shrimp producers face constant
battles with disease in their ponds. The World Bank estimates that about $3
billion worth of shrimp is lost each year to disease. According to one
survey, 96 percent of shrimp producers interviewed in Northwest Mexico
combated disease in 2001.

White spot syndrome virus is currently the leading disease that reduces
shrimp yields. White spots appear on shrimp flesh and their bodies steadily
decompose in as few as 10 days. White spot is usually accompanied by
vibriosis, which is caused by Vibrio bacteria. These bacteria exist
naturally in coastal waters and infect shrimp when they become stressed by
problems like poor water quality, another disease or crowding. A
devastating outbreak of the white spot syndrome virus struck the shrimp
farms of southern Iran in 2005. The previous year, Iran exported $2.
million worth of shrimp to the United States. The year after the outbreak,
it exported only $178,547, and by 2007 the country was not exporting any
shrimp to the United States. Vibrio bacteria are especially problematic: if
humans eat the infected shrimp, they can become sick with gastroenteritis
(caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus), cholera (caused by Vibrio cholerae) or
suffer from fatal septic shock (caused by Vibrio vulnificus).
Shrimp on Drugs

In an attempt to stave off disease, shrimp in many foreign farms are given
daily doses of antibiotics, either mixed in with feed pellets, dumped
directly into pond water or both.

Oxytetracycline and ciprofloxacin, both of which are used to treat human
infections, are two of the most common drugs in shrimp farming. The use of
chloramphenicol, penicillin and other antibiotics pose serious health risks
, such as susceptibility to antibiotic-resistant bacteria , to consumers if
residues of the drugs remain in the shrimp.

(For a complete list of most commonly used antibiotics, see Appendix B)

It is illegal to use antibiotics in U.S. shrimp farms, but because most of
the shrimp eaten in the United States is produced elsewhere, this law does
little to protect most consumers. In a 2003 survey of Thai shrimp
producers, 74 percent reported using antibiotics on their shrimp. To make
matters worse, producers knew little about applying the drugs, leading to
serious overuse. Many tried using antibiotics to treat viruses – without
knowing that antibiotics dont kill viruses.

*Bacteria Fight Back *

A population of bacteria repeatedly exposed to an antibiotic can develop
antibiotic resistance, the ability to survive even in the presence of the
drug. This means that a person infected with bacteria resistant to
penicillin, for example, could take the drug indefinitely without getting

According to the National Institutes of Health, tuberculosis, gonorrhea,
malaria and childhood ear infections have all become more difficult to
treat than they were a few decades ago because of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic-resistant E. coli infections, which cause diarrhea and urinary
tract infections, have grown increasingly common around the world.

How does it happen? When first administered, an antibiotic drug kills a
significant portion of the bacteria population. However, some of the
individual microorganisms may survive. They rapidly reproduce, increasing
the number of organisms that can resist the antibiotic. This process
continues for as long as the bacteria are exposed to the drug. The weaker
organisms get killed off, and only the strong survive. The more frequently
a drug is administered, the greater the percentage of the bacteria in the
shrimp facility that will be antibiotic-resistant.

Additionally, bacteria have the habit of trading pieces of their genetic
material, called plasmids, with each other. Thus, if a bacterium has the
ability to resist a specific drug, it can pass that trait along to other
microorganisms, increasing the speed and ease with which a population
develops antibiotic resistance.

To make matters worse, a trait that helps bacteria resist one antibiotic
may allow it to be resistant to other types, as well. One study found that
bacteria exposed to oxolinic acid also became resistant to flumequine and

*Resistance in the Pond…*

The daily feeding of antibiotics to shrimp encourages antibiotic resistance
in the ponds. On average, shrimp eat only 20 percent of their feed. That
means the other 80 percent, including the antibiotics it contains, end up
in the water and on the muddy pond bottom. Many antibiotics are not
biodegradable and persist in the surrounding environment, where they fight
against bacteria that continue to develop resistance. Studies of shrimp
ponds in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Mexico have found
relatively high levels of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics,
especially Vibrio bacteria.

*…and at the Dinner Table: Bacteria Gourmet *

Any time you handle or eat raw or undercooked shrimp, you run the risk of
getting food poisoning. However, when the shrimp you eat were grownwith
large quantities of antibiotics, you take on the additional risk of getting
food poisoning from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which by definition is
much more difficult to treat.

The three major Vibrio bacteria that cause illness in humans are V.
parahaemolyticus, V. vulnificus and V. cholerae. V. parahaemolyticus is the
most common cause of food poisoning from seafood in the United States. It
causes typical gastroenteritis: diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting,
headache and fever that last an average of two and a half days. Most cases
do not require hospitalization.

In healthy people, V. vulnificus has the same effect. However, for those
with chronic illness (such as liver damage, diabe-tes, asthma or cancer),
V. vulnificus can cause septic shock, resulting in death in about half of
the cases. Disturbingly, in a 1996 study of frozen shrimp imported into
Denmark from mostly tropical countries, 7 percent were contaminated with V.

V. cholerae is the bacteria that causes cholera, an intestinal illness that
can be mild or severe. The latter is characterized by watery diarrhea,
vomiting and leg cramps, which can lead to dehydration and shock. Without
treatment, death can occur within hours. (See “Cholera in Ecuador”)

Salmonella bacteria are also found in shrimp. Even though shrimp accounted
for only 22 to 24 percent of seafood imports between 2003 and 2006, it
amounted to almost 40 percent of the imports refused because of Salmonella
contamination. One third of human cases of Salmonella infection worldwide
are resistant to five or more antibiotics.

S. enteriditis causes salmonella gastroenteritis. The initial symptoms
include diarrhea, cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache and fever. After three
to four weeks, the infection may cause chronic arthritis. Scientists have
suggested that antibiotic-resistant Salmonella from fish or shrimp
facilities in Asia likely caused several outbreaks of salmonella infections
in Europe and the United States in 2000 and 2004.

Another type of Salmonella, S. typhi, are the bacteria that cause typhoid
fever, a potentially fatal illness involving high fever, abdominal pain,
rash and an altered level of consciousness. Outbreaks of typhoid that are
resistant to the antibiotics chloramphenicol, ampicillin and trimethoprim
have occurred in South and Southeast Asia. In fact, there is such a high
level of resistance to chloramphenicol among S. typhi that the drug is no
longer considered useful in treating the disease.

*Illegal Residues *

In addition to the dangers of antibiotic resistance, there is the risk of
consuming shrimp that still have antibiotic residues in their flesh. The
U.S. government is aware that shrimp facilities in other countries use
antibiotics but still does little to prevent contaminated product from
entering the U.S. marketplace. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does
test some imported shrimp for residues of chloramphenicol, nitrofurans,
quinolones and oxytetracycline – but not enough of it. In 2006, only 1.34
percent of seafood shipments were given a sensory examination and only .59
percent received a more thorough laboratory inspection. If any residue is
detected during inspection, the importing company chooses whether to send
the shipment back to the country of origin or destroy it. Between 2003 and
2006, the number of countries with refusals of entry for seafood with
veterinary drug residues went from four to more than 10. Shrimp has
accounted for anywhere between 15 (in 2006) to 84 percent (in 2003) of the
seafood shipments refused because of veterinary drug residues. Because the
percentage of seafood shipments collected for any type of inspection is so
low, and the budget for inspecting foreign seafood processing facilities
has been cut to zero, it is highly likely that contaminated shrimp are
reaching U.S. consumers.

The issue of antibiotics in imported shrimp made headlines in Europe and
subsequently in Japan, Canada and the United States when, in late 2001 and
into 2002, European Union food authorities detected unacceptable levels of
chloramphenicol and nitrofuran antibiotics in imported shrimp from China,
Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and India. These antibiotics are banned for
use in food animals in the United States and Europe because nitrofurans are
potentially carcinogenic, and chloramphenicol can cause aplastic anemia.

In 2007, increased monitoring of imported seafood from China led FDA to
issue an import alert concerning farmed shrimp and several other types of
seafood. Between October 2006 and May 2007, the agency tested 89 samples of
seafood imported from China and found that 25 percent contained drug
residues. These residues included nitrofurans in shrimp; malachite green (a
pesticide) in dace, eel and catfish; gentian violet (an antifungal) in eel
and catfish; and flouroqui-nolones (an antibiotic) in catfish. FDA stated
that clear scientific evidence indicates that the use of these drugs and
chemicals in aquaculture can lead to an increased antimicrobial resistance
in human pathogens and that prolonged expo-sure to some of these chemicals
has been shown to have carcinogenic effects.

Chloramphenicol is a drug of last resort to treat typhoid fever and
meningitis in humans. It is generally not used when less toxic drugs are
available. Unfortunately, the drug also is used in industrial shrimp
production. Although many countries restrict the direct application of
chloramphenicol, it is still often applied illegally or indirectly by
mixing it with the shrimp feed. According to analysis of FDA data Food &
Water Watch obtained by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request, 39
shipments of shrimp failed import inspections due to the presence of
chloramphenicol between 2003 and 2006.

The drug is used sparingly in human medicine because it can cause aplastic
anemia, a condition in which bone marrow stops producing red and white
blood cells and platelets, which are essential for carrying oxygen and for
a healthy immune system. Aplastic anemia is often irreversible and fatal,
and onset may occur three weeks to 12 months after exposure.
Chloramphenicol is only partially deactivated by cooking. In one study,
shrimp cooked for 30 minutes at 212º F still retained 71 percent of the
antibiotic. Even less chloramphenicol was destroyed when the shrimp was
cooked for a shorter, more typical length of time.

*Allergies: Not Just Sneezes*

Even common drugs that are generally considered safe can be deadly for
those with serious allergies. In fact, 2 to 5 percent of hospitalizations
are caused by allergic reactions to antibiotics. Most concerning is the use
of penicillin-like drugs in aquaculture. Penicillins cause more fatal
allergic reactions than any other group of antibiotics. The common allergic
response to a penicillin-like drug is a skin rash and facial swelling.
However, 2 to 4 percent of people with penicillin allergies will go into
anaphylactic shock and can die without immediate medical treatment. When a
person goes into anaphylactic shock, their air passage constricts and their
blood pressure drops, causing them to pass out.

To prevent anaphylaxis, individuals with penicillin allergies will seek out
alternative medications. However, there is no warning label to inform
consumers that their shrimp could contain penicillin residues. It raises
the question: could some patients hospitalized for what a doctor might
assume to be a shellfish allergy actually be reacting to antibiotic
residues? This is an area that merits further investigation.
Pesticides: Poisons on Your Plate

In addition to antibiotics, shrimp producers often use large quantities of
chemicals to kill fish, mollusks, fungi, plants, in-sects and parasites in
their ponds. Some of these chemicals can remain in the shrimp, which is
then served to consumers, potentially causing human health impacts. A
sampling of the chemicals is described in the following pages.

The cumulative effects of pesticide consumption, including cancer and
neurological damage, develop slowly. Pesticides accumulate over a lifetime
and may cause problems long after the first exposure. However, outside of a
laboratory setting, it is often difficult to trace the origin of cancer to
one specific carcinogen.

All but one of the pesticides used globally in shrimp production are banned
for use in U.S. shrimp farms. Only a diluted form of formaldehyde, called
formalin, is approved for U.S. shrimp farms. Formalin is also a potential

FDA is capable of testing imported shrimp for residues of 360 different
pesticides and can refuse shipments of shrimp that are over the legal
limit. With such limited seafood inspections, it is likely that shrimp
contaminated with the following illegal pesticides are entering the U.S.


Organophosphates are a group of pesticides widely used in shrimp farms.
These chemicals can be toxic to the neurological system.

Exposure to an organophosphate, such as carbaryl, can cause a reaction
called cholinesterase inhibition. Immediate symptoms include nausea,
vomiting and blurred vision. The air passage can constrict and the victim
can go into a coma. Exposure to small amounts of the chemical over a long
period of time can cause headaches, memory loss, muscle weakness, cramps
and loss of appetite.

*Malachite Green*

Malachite green is often used to kill fungus on shrimp eggs. This chemical
is popular among shrimp producers because it is cheap, effective and widely
available. However, it is also a potential carcinogen that has been found
to cause tumors in laboratory mice and rats. Once it has been used,
malachite green will stay in the flesh of shrimp for a very long time ,
more than 200 days in water that is 50º F.


Rotenone is used to kill off fish living in the pond before it is stocked
with young shrimp. If inhaled, it can cause respiratory paralysis. It has
also been found to cause characteristics of Parkinson‚ disease in
laboratory rats.

*Organotin compounds*

Prior to stocking a shrimp pond, organotin compounds are used to kill
mollusks. These compounds are endocrine disruptors: they interfere with the
activity of hormones, often by mimicking a hormone such as estrogen.
Research suggests that these chemicals have caused decreased fertility in
humans. Another study suggests that organotin exposure could alter hormonal
function to predispose people to chronic obesity.

*Uncharted Waters*

Unfortunately, there is a lack of concrete data about the quantity and
frequency of use for each chemical in shrimp facilities. In studies,
producers have only characterized their use of different substances in
vague terms no more informative than “a lot” or “not too much.” Another
largely unanswered question is how these chemicals might interact with one
another to create new compounds. Although scientists do not always fully
understand the nuanced activity of each chemical, as many as 13 products
are regularly dumped into a typical shrimp pond. Appropriate testing has
not been done to determine how much pesticide residue is left on shrimp
that enter the marketplace. Scientific research has not caught up with the
increase in production and consumption around the world.
Filthy Transport: Shrimp with a Side of Cockroach

Food safety is further compromised during transport to the United States if
shrimp are not kept adequately cold or in sealed containers. Fresh and
frozen shrimp have been turned back at the border by FDA inspectors for
being decomposed, infected with Salmonella or “filthy.” A shipment of
shrimp is classified as filthy once inspectors find a specific amount of
filth- a classification that includes dirt, insect fragments, rodent hair
and other foreign material- after inspecting six different 2- to 3-pound
samples of shrimp. (See Chart 1) Shrimp accounted for only 22 to 25 percent
of seafood imports between 2003 and 2006, but 26 to 35 percent of refusals
for filth were in shrimp shipments.
Production Problems: Environmental And Social Consequences

In addition to endangering consumer health, industrial shrimp production is
environmentally destructive and has caused dislocation of people from
coastal areas, as well as job losses. Building a shrimp farm might bring in
$8,000 a hectare (2. acres), but it will destroy natural resources that
have been estimated by the World Resources Institute to be worth $35,000 a

*Mangrove Ecosystem Destruction*

The construction of shrimp ponds is considered the world‚ largest cause of
coastal mangrove destruction. Prized for their ability to absorb the force
of storms, provide habitat for countless plant and animal species, prevent
erosion and filter pollutants, mangrove forests are among the most
important ecosystems on earth. By producing staggering amounts of food,
fuel, medicines and building materials, mangroves provide sustenance for
millions of people around the world. Shrimp facilities are also built in
ecologically important salt flats and marshes, but intensive production
almost always requires large-scale removal of coastal mangrove forests.
Over the last 50 years or more, anywhere from five to 80 percent of
mangrove areas in various countries have been lost. A report released by
the United Nations Environment Program uses pictures of coastal areas taken
from outer space to reveal the rapid increase of shrimp farms in Honduras,
Ecuador, Thailand, and India/Bangladesh and the corresponding destruction
of mangroves. Many environmentalists say that it‚ a serious problem in
Mexico, as well.

*Wild Fish Populations Decline*

According to a 2006 study in Science, all commercial fish and seafood
populations will be depleted by 2048.

Unfortunately, industrial shrimp production only exacerbates the pressure
on wild fish stocks. About 70 percent of commercially valuable fish and
shellfish in Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico,56 and 33 percent in Southeast
Asia are dependent on mangrove ecosystems. Studies conducted in Mexico have
shown that for every acre of mangrove forest destroyed, approximately 675
pounds of commercial fish are lost. Cutting down forests to create shrimp
ponds trades the long-term availability of wild fish for short-lived
industrial development.
Additionally, diseases in shrimp facilities can threaten wild shrimp and
other sea life. Pond water is regularly discharged into the ocean, allowing
diseases to spread to wild shrimp populations. In the Philippines, Thailand
and Mexico, wild shrimp catches have declined while shrimp-facility output
has increased.
Feeding shrimp is also wasteful and inefficient. Shrimp feed is made of
fishmeal produced from wild-caught fish. In some cases, producing just one
pound of industrially farmed shrimp can require 2.8 pounds of wild fish in

*Water Pollution *

Industrial shrimp operations discharge polluted water and waste products
directly onto surrounding lands and into nearby waterways without any
treatment. One study estimates that 155 square miles of shrimp ponds in
Thailand produce more phosphorous waste than three million people. A
spokesman for the Committee for the Defense and Development of Gulf of
Fonseca Flora and Fauna in Honduras says that the nutrients from shrimp
feed and waste have led to a decline in local water quality.

Sadly, shrimp operations not only pollute the water, they can destroy
natural mechanisms for eliminating waste in the environment, as well.
Mangrove forests serve as filters to clean the polluted waters from homes,
factories and shrimp farms.

For years, community leaders near shrimp facilities have been reporting
that residents, especially children, complain about unexplained and unusual
symptoms, including sore throats, burning eyes and skin rashes.
Unfortunately, no long-term studies have been done to determine the precise
causes of these symptoms and how they might be related to shrimp production.

*Water Depletion*

Up to 40 percent of pond water is exchanged with fresh water every day in
some shrimp farms in order to remove pollution and to maintain the
necessary levels of salinity. Water that was once available to the local
communities is pumped instead into shrimp operations.

Sometimes so much groundwater is extracted that not only is the water
supply depleted directly, but as more and more water is pumped out of the
ground, saltwater seeps in to replace it, causing salt contamination of the
land and fresh water. Surrounding lands become salty, making the production
of other agricultural crops virtually impossible. In the worst cases,
extreme depletion of aquifers has caused the land to sink, turning the
ground level of buildings in Taiwan, Province of China into the basement.

*Communities Torn Apart*

Industrial shrimp production robs local communities of basic access to
food, water and meaningful livelihoods. When mangroves are clear-cut,
residents can no longer gather crabs, clams, oysters, fish and other
seafood that once lived there. Access to traditional fishing areas in the
sea is cut off by the physical placement of the shrimp facilities. Saúl
Montufar, a spokesman for the Committee for the Defense and Development of
Gulf of Fonseca Flora and Fauna says: “There has been marginalization and
expulsion of fishing families in the shrimp farming areas, a loss of access
to traditional fishing sites and a decline in the fish catch.” Fisherwomen
around Guayaquil, Ecuador could once pull up several hundred shellfish in a
morning, but now they’re lucky if they find $3 worth of clams in a day.
According to one of the women, “This isn’t for profit. It’s for survival.
With this we can buy basic medicines for our children, but it‚ just the
bare necessities.”

Many of the shrimp farms in Asia have been established in areas that did
not previously have clear property distinctions. These coastal areas were
legally claimed by the state but were inhabited by communities that, in
some cases, had existed there for centuries. The prospect of building
shrimp farms gave the land economic value that it had never been thought to
possess, leading governments to sell it to investors. They then moved in to
expropriate and enclose the land and some-times violently dispossess the
communities. This is not restricted to Asian shrimp farms. Leder Gungara,
the director of an Ecuadorian environmental group says: ‚In the beginning
the industry was very hostile Everybody had a handgun. Because of that we
were very much afraid and the local people, as well, were very afraid of
standing up to the shrimp farmers, because they did carry weapons and many
of us have been beaten up, unjustly jailed, treated unfairly by the

Sadly, local areas rarely see any of the profits from shrimp farms.
According to Leder, there are no schools, hospitals, or roads in the
communities where shrimp farms are built. All of the profits leave Ecuador
in the hands of foreign investors.

*Shocking Labor Rights Violations*

A report released in April 2008 by the Solidarity Center adds another
reason to oppose imported industrially produced shrimp: labor abuses. Based
on interviews with workers in Bangladesh and Thailand, the report describes
hideous condtions , a dangerous and unhealthy environment, abusive
employers, long hours, low pay, informal work and the vulnerability of
migrant workers. This occurs at the shrimp processing factories in response
to pressure put on factories by both producers and importers and the demand
for affordable shrimp products. In interviews conducted by partners of the
Solidarity Center, Thai shrimp processing workers complained of forced
overtime, hazardous working conditions, non-payment of wages if production
quotas were missed, regular exposure to harsh chemicals and lack of medical
care. Interviewers heard shocking stories from workers at Ranya Paew, where
Thai police and immigration authorities raided a shrimp processing factory
in September 2006. They found squalid conditions and long hours, in
addition to physical, emotional and sexual intimidation and abuse. Some
workers said that if they attempted to escape the factory, take sick leave,
or even if they made a mistake on the factory line, they might be beaten,
sexually molested or publicly tortured. The Solidarity Center noted that
small subcontractors operate many of the processing facilities in both
Thailand and Bangladesh. The short term or “contract” employees working
through subcontractors are not covered by labor laws or noted in official
statistics. The Solidarity Center also reported unsafe conditions with long
workdays, low pay and a lack of health care in Bangladesh. In addition, it
calls attention to the industry‚ dependence on child labor and exploitation
of women workers.

The report identified nine U.S. supermarkets that sell shrimp processed in
Thai factories with substandard working conditions: Costco, Cub Foods,
Giant, Giant Eagle, Harris Teeter, IGA, Tops Markets, Trader Joe‚ and

In addition to the ethical implications of substandard labor conditions,
research has linked health and safety problems to food safety risks, as
well. Reports have shown that many factory workers who might be infected
with bacterial and fungal infections are not provided with gloves when they
handle shrimp.
Responsible Purchasing: How to Decode Shrimp Labels

Increasingly conscious consumers are searching for shrimp with fewer
negative impacts on their health, the environment and indigenous
communities. In response to this demand, certification schemes have been
developed to label farmed shrimp as “eco-friendly,” and companies such as
Wal-Mart and the parent company of Red Lobster have announced plans to
partake in environmentally responsible sourcing of shrimp. The large number
and variety of labels can be confusing for consumers, leaving them to
wonder about each label‚ meaning and credibility. Unfortunately, most
industrial shrimp production is really the antithesis of sustainable
production, and many of these la-beling schemes serve mainly as attempts to
‚greenwash” the industry.

The ideal accredited label would not be run by private industry and would
have clear objectives, transparent standards and independent oversight. It
is essential that the certifier be an independent body, separate from the
standard-setting body, in order to avoid conflicts of interest. The United
States Department of Agriculture, administrator of the National Organic
Program, is set to develop standards for organic production of farm-raised
seafood in the near future. Confusingly, some imported seafood products
already are labeled as organic by certifiers who grant that label based on
their own standards. Consumers should be wary of any “organic” seafood they
find in the United States, because it is not yet USDA certified. California
and Georgia laws prohibit organic labels on seafood until USDA sets a
standard. In the meantime, use the following guide for information on
existing labels:

*Global Aquaculture Alliance‚ Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) from the
Aquaculture Certification Council*

Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) is a powerful industry consortium that
developed a set of standards known as Best Aquaculture Practices and uses
the Missouri-based Aquaculture Certification Council as its exclusive
certifying body. Their process combines annual site inspections and
discharge sampling, but allows for the use of antibiotics and chemicals.
Although GAA‚ standards are more measurable than others, they have received
criticism from several organizations, including Mangrove Action Project and
Environmental Justice Foundation, for purportedly using flawed standards
that fail to adequately protect mangrove ecosystems. In addition, the
adaptation of ACC standards has forced many small family shrimp farmers,
who lack the funds to pay for certification fees and upgrades, out of the
market, leaving more space for the big players.*Most recently. the
Solidarity Center has criticized the BAP program for alleged inadequacies
in terms of labor standards and workers rights: “Overly simplistic, with
little grasp of the complexity of the industry, the standards treat labor
issues almost as an afterthought.” Wal-Mart and Darden Restaurants (the
parent com-pany of Red Lobster) are set to use BAP-certification for all
imported farm-raised shrimp. GAA does not claim on its website that
BAP-certified shrimp are organic.


Naturland, based in Germany, began certifying shrimp as organic in 2001.
They too have received criticism for their certification process. The
Swedish Society for Nature Conservation conducted field studies in
Indonesia and reported that certified shrimp bearing Naturland labels was
coming from farms that not only used chemicals and antibiotics, but also
failed to live up to either environmental criteria or Indonesian law. In
2007, the National Coordinating Association for the Defense of the Mangrove
Ecosystem, an Ecuadorian environmental group, released a report on the
destructive and illegal practices taking place on the six shrimp ponds
certified by Naturland in Ecuador. According to the group, the ponds lack
permits, agreements, management plans and environmental licenses. Moreover,
their certification sets a precedent for the shrimp industry to continue to
damage mangrove forests, contaminate water and land and displace ancestral
communities. The group asks how Naturland can give a stamp of approval when
the destruction and contamination that the ponds are responsible for is
plainly visible. Adding to Naturland‚ lack of credibility is the fact that
it has its own certification body.

In writing, but apparently not always in practice, the label does prohibit
the use of all chemicals and genetically modified fish or feed, encourage
the protection of adjacent ecosystems, and seek to avoid conflict with
others who use aquatic resources. Although Naturland-certified shrimp
products are not found in many U.S. grocery stores, they are available at
Wild Oats, which was recently purchased by Whole Foods. Blue Horizon
Organic Seafood Co. is the prominent Naturland-certified brand in the
United States. Naturland claims that its certified shrimp are organic.

*GLOBALGAP Shrimp Standard*

GLOBALGAP (formerly know as EUREPGAP), a private sector body that sets
voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around
the globe, has come under fire over its standards. Its goal is to establish
one standard for Good Agricultural Practice with different product
applications. Because GLOBALGAP is a business-to-business
(producer-to-retailer) label, it is not directly visible to consumers.
Wal-Mart, McDonald‚ Corp. and Wegmans Food Market Inc. are members of
GLOBALGAP. American farmers who are eager to sell to the European market
are also getting involved. In April 2008, GLOBALGAP launched a Shrimp
Standard, which it announced as being based on demand for sustainable
sources and focusing on food safety, animal welfare, environmental and
social sustainability. When the standards were proposed, World Wildlife
Federation questioned their credibility, saying that they would not reduce
or eliminate the key negative environmental and social impacts of shrimp
farming. WWF‚ comments on the draft standards faulted them for not being
measurable and for being managed by GLOBALGAP instead of an independent and
credible third party. The comments also said that the standards would not
be finalized based on consensus from multiple stakeholders. These standards
do not ban chemicals and drugs, but call for “Judicious use of antibiotics,
which is defined as the use of an antibiotic to maximize its therapeutic
effectiveness while at the same time minimizing the selection for
antibiotic resistant bacteria.” The standards do not include a limitation
on the amount of fishmeal or fish oil that can be used in feed. The
checklist for compliance with GLOBALGAP standards allows checkpoints to be
rated as minimum musts, maximum musts and recommendations. It is only a
minor must that shrimp operations have action plans and precautions in
place to prevent and monitor salt accumulation and minimize the direct
impact on soil, ground water and natural water flows. What‚ more, it is
only recommended that farms take efforts to optimize energy use and
minimize waste. In addition, certain standards are based on national
standards or requirements of the “competent authority.” For instance,
nitrate and phosphate levels in drain waters are based on national
standards (of the country in which the operation is located); water
abstraction and discharge must meet requirements set by the competent
authority; and operations only have to have an environmental or biological
parameter as a guideline for surrounding water if it is required by
authorities. In other words, operations are required only to meet national
or international laws for these standards, but not to go beyond the status
quo to achieve sustainability.

*Quality Certification Services*

Quality Certification Services is a private certification company that
offers organic certification to farms, processors, handling operations and
aquaculture facilities. Despite USDA‚ not yet ruling on organic aquaculture
standards, QCS has pushed ahead with organic labeling for shrimp farms.
Although the company avoids using USDA‚ seal for certified organic
products, the fact that other products it certifies are USDA-accredited as
organic can be very misleading for consumers. QCS bases aquaculture
standards on applicable portions of USDA organic livestock standards with
three additional rules: the origin of aquatic animals must be consistent
with a recommendation of the National Organic Standards Board, fish meal
standards must be consistent with NOSB task force recommendations, and
phosphates must be prohibited. The recommendations made by the NOSB have
not been finalized or adopted at this point and are likely to be modified
before USDA implements a program for certifying organic aquaculture. The
fish feed standards that QCS follows could lead to a depletion of wild fish
stocks by allowing farmed fish to be fed fishmeal with too high a
percentage of wild-caught fish.

QCS has certified five shrimp companies and is working on several more
certifications. Three of the five companies operate shrimp farms outside
the United States.

The current model of foreign industrial shrimp production – often heavily
reliant on antibiotics, pesticides, and crowded conditions – is
unsustainable and unhealthy in most cases, even when private eco-labels
might suggest otherwise. Policymakers must ensure that the U.S. shrimp
supply is safe and that consumers have the necessary information to choose
between domestic or imported and between wild-caught or industrially farmed
seafood. Consumers should insist that policy makers provide them with
information to make informed decisions and ask questions in grocery stores
and restaurants about the origins of their shrimp.