ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

2 January 2003


In the current GMWATCH (no. 5) we note how the biotech industry's vehement resistance to all liability legislation over GMOs is put into context by the handling of the Bhopal disaster by gene giant, Dow Chemical. Now, in the latest twist in the story...

1.Dow sues penniless Bhopal survivors
2.Tell Dow to clean up Bhopal
3.from GMWATCH no. 5

NB the second item offers a way of expressing your disgust at the behaviour of this corporate giant.


1.How low can Dow go? Dow sues penniless Bhopal survivors

In a stunning example of corporate insensibility, Dow Chemical, the world's largest chemical company, and new owners of Union Carbide is to sue survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. While the site of the disaster lies covered in toxic waste and survivors struggle with continuing ill health and deadly pollution from the site, Dow has decided to add to their woes with an Indian lawsuit.

Yes that's right - the very people Dow should be helping are now facing a lawsuit from one of the world most powerful corporations. Why are they acting in such an amazingly perverse manner? On December 2nd a peaceful march of 200 women survivors from Bhopal delivered toxic waste from the abandoned Carbide factory back to Dow's Indian headquarters in Bombay with the demand that Dow take responsibility for the disaster and clean up the site. Dow obviously has other ideas because they are suing survivors for about US$10,000 for "loss of work". That's US$10,000 compensation demanded for a two hour peaceful protest where only one Dow employee briefly ventured out of the Mumbai corporate business park to meet the women protestors.

Satyu, a Bhopal activist and one of the protestors charged by Dow highlighted how ridiculous this "loss of work" claim is: "Thousands of us lost their lives, many more have not been able to do our jobs for the last 18 years and 150,000 people in Bhopal are still suffering ill health because of the Union Carbide gas tragedy in 1984. Even today people die and children are born with gas related diseases. It is outrageous that Dow is charging us US$10,000 and tries to shut us down from seeking justice from them".

The damages demanded by Dow will amount to about 10 years income for the survivors charged but is less than one days sales revenue for Dow. Also Dow is seeking to silence protest by demanding that survivors be banned from holding protests within 100m of Dow offices in India.

Dow has just appointed a new CEO, William Stravopoulos, who engineered the Dow merger with Union Carbide in 2001. If this lawsuit is how he intends to deal with the ongoing Bhopal disaster then it will be a huge public relations own goal. Dow proudly proclaims it slogan as "living improved daily". How does that fit with the suing of poor protestors who have a real grievance with the company?


2.Tell Dow to clean up Bhopal

It is now 18 years since the Union Carbide disaster at Bhopal, India on 3rd December 1984. Most people think the disaster ended in 1984 but sadly the gas leak was just the start of the story. 18 years later, residents of Bhopal are still suffering injury, not just from the disaster but the continued legacy of contamination. Virtually nothing has been done to clean up the site and water used by people for everyday needs is still contaminated.

With the merger of Dow Chemicals and Union Carbide, Dow not only bought the company's assets but also its liability for the Bhopal disaster and legacy of contamination which is continuing today. Write to the new Dow CEO to demand Dow shows real corporate responsibility and cleans up the toxic mess in Bhopal.

Do the right thing - ask them to take responsibility for Bhopal!

To take action go to:


3.from GMWATCH no. 5

Dow Chemicals is involved in the development of GM crops and the agrochemicals on which they are dependent, and is a member of biotech industry lobby group BIO. If Dow still hasn't faced up to its disasters from the chemical age...

Dow are also the people who made napalm a household word. It was one of the US companies that produced the defoliant Agent Orange and covered up information about dioxin contamination in Vietnam.

From the Dow website:
"At Dow, protecting people and the environment is part of everything we do and every decision we make." - from the Dow Environment Health & Safety Policy

On biotech Dow says:
" We are participating in the dialogue and working to understand and address people's honest concerns about such topics as labeling and biodiversity."
That's somewhat hard to relate to Dow‚s funding of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the industry front group that co-founded AgBioWorld which is notorious for its smear campaigns against scientists and others with "concerns about such topics as labeling and biodiversity."

[For more on Dow see the COMPANY NEWS section of GMWATCH 5. On Dow and AgBioWorld see]

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