Since 2008, a commemoration has been held on December 3. This date was established in 60 countries by the 400 member organizations of the Pesticide Action Network PAN, in memory of more than 31,000 people who died as a result of the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India.
Memorial to the victims, and murals alluding to the disaster, near the plant in Bhopal 35 years after the Bhopal disaster, nearly 20,000 tonnes of toxic waste still lie outdoors at the site of the chemical plant whose explosion caused the worst industrial accident in history.
The multinational corporation, Union Carbide, owned a factory in the city of Bhopal, in the State of Madhya Pradesh, where a pesticide was manufactured, using Methyl Isocyanate. That night, a tragedy occurred when 30 tons of the toxic gas leaked.
These emissions occurred not only because of the lack of maintenance in the facilities but also because of the cost-cutting procedures used in the manufacturing process, which allowed the multinational to make greater profits by reducing the costs of both labor and the manufacturing process.
On this occasion, the product’s fumes spread into a densely populated area, where more than 3,000 people died almost immediately. Some 8,000 more died in the first three days and at least another 20,000 in the last three decades − with people succoumbing as a result of poisoning. Some 150,000 more people suffered serious consequences from chronic poisoning.
After a lengthy trial, Union Carbide was sentenced to pay $470 million for damages. Of these millions, the Indian State kept a large part of the money, with the rest barely able to cover medical expenses. This trial, which finished in 1999, sentenced eight (8) of the directors of the former Union Carbide, now Dow Company, to two (2) years in prison and to the payment of $10,600 U.S., equivalent to 8,900 euros at the time, which in Indian currency was equivalent to 600,000 rupees.
It is in remembrance of this tragedy that today the world commemorates “No Pesticides Use Day”; our day in Colombia also commemorates the tragedy that occurred on November 25, 1964, in Chiquinquirá-Boyacá, where the population consumed bread contaminated with Methyl Parathion (the so-called folidol). In an accident during its transportation between Bogotá and Boyacá, two (2) cubic centimeters of this product spilled into the flour used to make bread. There, the organophosphate insecticide poison and the flour traveled together, without the spill being noticed. When baking the poisoned dough, a gas was produced, Paraoxone, which is formed when the heat rises in the oven to more than 38°C. On this occasion, about 350 people were poisoned, mostly children who were attending public events at their educational institutions that morning.
A still unknown number of people died, since the transport to the roads left from a place near the bakery, people bought the bread to take to their peasant homes and most likely people in these remote places consumed the product, with no one knowing what was causing their death. If the accident failed to kill and injure an even greater number, it was thanks to the wise and opportune intervention of the medical toxicologist Córdoba and the help he got from Mr. Duperly, who put his personal plane at the service of this dramatic event. Córdoba was able to deal with the emergency by transporting the specific and necessary antidote Atropine, which the Department of Antioquia possessed and which the Department of Boyacá requested.
Around the same time in Taucamarca, Peru, 24 peasant children died from poisoning after consuming products packaged in containers where organophosphate pesticides were stored (El Tiempo 1967). An accident occurred in a rural school, causing a terrible disaster and the loss of life of 24 peasant children, representing the future not only of Peru but also of humanity.
The commemorations of these tragedies are a warning to the national and international community, so that with truthful and serious arguments, no irresponsible acts are carried out, such as spraying poisons from the air that contaminate natural sites and protected areas. It is necessary then that we seek to guarantee “National Ecological” security, where the “Natural Goods,” wrongly called Natural Resources, are the collective property of Humanity, such as clean water and air, as well as living soil, without forgetting also to continue the fight for the seeds of life to be free; to achieve a framework within the “Rights of Nature,” which have always occupied and will occupy the central place of our debates.
Today in Colombia we must focus on pesticides, on rural children, adolescents and youth, and on the management of ecosystems. That leads us to put a priority on protecting rural children, whose schools and educational institutions are located in or near crops that are sprayed while the children attend their classes; 80 percent of these educational facilities lack glass in their windows. This is a problem that the whole country should bear in mind and seek a solution for.
There are many cases of poisoning due to this situation in all rural areas of the country, apart from the consequences which, because they are long-lasting processes, cause differences in the cognitive capacity of rural and urban children.This also exacerbates the great gap between the countryside and the city, which points to the differences that rural inhabitants suffer in a country like ours simply because they are peasants.
In the last 20 years in Colombia, the use of pesticides in tons and imports have increased by 360 percent, while in the last 45 years the use of soil for sowing has increased by only 29 percent . This problem concerns all human beings.
 I have knowingly decided to call it Natural Goods, and not Natural Resources, since in Capitalism a Resource is something to be spent. Both in the discourse and in the language one must be coherent, that is to say, one must have a critical thought and not use the words of the system. (Concept developed by Lilliam Eugenia Gómez Álvarez)