September 29, 2019 - Caroline

RPP #5: Research Puzzle Proposal

I am proposing to research agribusiness because I want to find out what explains the corporate circumvention of regulations that enables the production and sale of “banned pesticides” to help my readers better understand whether or not the business decisions behind the use of agrochemicals is for the public good. Although my focus will eventually be on the intersection of agriculture and business, the overarching puzzle that I am looking to unpack is the concept of “regulating complexity”—specifically the challenges of regulating global businesses across borders.

International companies, especially multinational ones with a home country, are continuing to grow and consolidate their power in various global markets. For example, major agricultural input companies Bayer and Monsanto recently agreed to a $66 billion merger,[1] thus increasing their overall share of the global pesticides market to roughly 27 percent.[2]  With increased power, however, comes more obstacles to regulating them on both the national and international level. There is an ongoing debate on whether regulation should be aimed at MNCs as the operationalizing bodies of production chains or the actual global supply chains themselves beyond and within the state.[3] By nature, the law is territorial so its validity is defined by the geographic borders of the states who create it, but it has also become something that these corporations factor into decisions about production locations so that they can have more agency or control in their operations.[4] Similar to Backer’s points, existing scholarship focuses on the external regulatory bodies of MNCs, but others like Ojogbo are starting to look at internal regulations or ways to “promote moral behavior from inside the corporations.”[5] What both schools rarely discuss, however, is the process that explains how these companies circumvent international regulations to continue producing and selling hazardous products. By shifting focus away from the “singular object” and towards the whole “system,” [6] I am looking to explore the economic, legal, or even linguistic methods of circumvention used by MNCs along the commodity chain.

I mention looking at a linguistic puzzle within the topic because usually in the conversation surrounding the sale of these agrochemicals (at least from what I heard firsthand from agronomists and farmers in Costa Rica), the action of selling is stated as being done by the whole country, rather than a specific company i.e. “The United States and the EU are selling us pesticides they have already banned” versus “Bayer-Monsanto reps are selling us  pesticides banned in their own countries.” A lack of uniformity in the structure of international law [7] plays a huge role in how both state and non-state actors regulate industries. Language (whether it is on company websites, labels, or international treaties) is a tool MNCs use to avoid protocol or create their own (more beneficial) interpretations of it. Despite their role in facilitating public use of these harmful chemicals, these companies are also the most vocal about corporate governance compliance, transparency, and sustainable development in various official documents and reports.[8] Another example is in Articles 9 and 10 of the Stockholm Agreement where information exchange and public awareness and education are covered by stating that health and safety information “should not be regarded as confidential” and that parties should encourage industries to promote information to the public.[9] Industries are not always compliant, as seen in Cuzco, Peru in 1999 when Bayer was found responsible for the poisoning of  42 children and the deaths of 24 after their school breakfasts were made with the “banned” pesticide methyl parathion instead of a milk substitute.[10] This happened because Bayer failed to provide adequate instructions on the bags. The bags’ minimal instructions in Spanish and pictures of healthy vegetables were meaningless for illiterate locals whose native language was Quechua.[11] The need for clear, culturally relevant, and easily accessible information for the public cannot be more stressed, especially considering that a similar incidence occurred again in Cuzco in 2011.[12]

Instances like those aforementioned are only two of many across the globe. Pesticide-related illnesses and deaths (both accidental and self-inflicted) are a major public health concern especially in developing countries due to factors like high illiteracy and unsafe labor practices.[13] Those often affected are vulnerable groups like farmers and their families, women, and children. As more problems arise in agribusiness concerning pesticide use, the public needs to understand both its successes and shortcomings to pressure corporations who do have the regulatory and economic power to make changes from within, while also making more efforts to adhere to the framework already in place.

Some possible research questions are:

  • What explains how MNCs circumvent international regulations on agrochemicals?
  • Why is it difficult to regulate MNCs in the agrochemical sector?
  • What explains the inaccessibility of information for the public from MNCs concerning pesticides in Peru?
  • What explains the lack of coordination between the German government and German MNCs (like Bayer) on pesticide regulations and use?

 

 

 

Bibliography

Backer, Larry Catá. “Regulating Multinational Corporations: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities.” Brown Journal of World Affairs 22, no. 1 (Fall/Winter 2015): 153–173. Accessed September 29, 2019. http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http:// search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=114516786&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

“Bayer’s Annual Report 2018.” Bayer. Accessed September 29, 2019. file:///C:/Users/cspow/Downloads/bayer_ar18_entire%20(1).pdf

“Bayer Faces Skyrocketing US Lawsuits over Glyphosate.” DW.COM. July 30, 2019. Accessed September 29, 2019. https://www.dw.com/en/bayer-faces-skyrocketing-us-lawsuits-over-glyphosate/a-49797934.

“GRI Content Index of the Global Reporting Initiative with the 10 Principles of the U.N. Global Compact,” Bayer, 2018, accessed September 29, 2019, http://www.annualreport2018.bayer.com/further-information/gri-and-un-global-compact-.

Krieger, Robert. Hayes’ Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology. Saint Louis, US: Elsevier Science & Technology, 2010. Accessed September 29, 2019. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/aul/detail.action?docID=625355.

Mulle, Emmanuel Dalle and Violette Ruppanner. “Exploring the Global Food Supply Chain: Markets, Companies, Systems,” 3D. May 2010. Accessed September 29, 2019. http://www.felixpena.com.ar/contenido/negociaciones/anexos/2010-06-exploringtheglobalfoodsupplychain.pdf.

Ojogbo, Samuel E. “Regulating MNCs and International Norms: Challenges in Focusing on a Human Rights Approach in Emerging Markets and Possible Alternatives.” Legal Issues Journal, no. 2 (2017): 115–142. Accessed September 29, 2019. https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/uklwetrew5&i=266.

“School Meal Tainted by Pesticides Kills Peru Kids.” NBC/MSNBS.com. Last modified September 22, 2011. Accessed September 29, 2019. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/ 44621845/ns/world_news-americas/t/school-meal-tainted-pesticides-kills-peru-kids/.

Sissell, Kara. “Groups Say Bayer Responsible for Pesticide Deaths in Peru.” Chemical Week; Englewood 163, no. 41 (November 7, 2001): 17. Accessed September 28, 2019. https://search.proquest.com/docview/222510497/abstract/48AB7DF698E04BE5PQ/1.

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, UN Environment Programme, May 23, 2001, 11-12. Accessed September 28, 2019, file:///C:/Users/cspow/Zotero/storage /N9DVNEQZ/UNEP-POPS-COP-CONVTEXT-FULL.English.pdf

Varinsky, Dana. “Bayer-Monsanto Merger Gets a Green Light, but Farmers Are Worried” Business Insider. May 29, 2018. Accessed September 29, 2019. https://www.businessinsider.com/bayer-monsanto-merger-has-farmers-worried-2018-4.

 

Endnotes

[1] Dana Varinsky. “Bayer-Monsanto Merger Gets a Green Light, but Farmers Are Worried,” Business Insider,  May 29, 2018, accessed September 29, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/bayer-monsanto-merger-has-farmers-worried-2018-4.

[2] Emmanuel Dalle Mulle and Violette Ruppanner. “Exploring the Global Food Supply Chain: Markets, Companies, Systems,” 3D. May 2010, 4, accessed September 29, 2019. http://www.felixpena.com.ar/contenido/negociaciones /anexos/2010-06-exploringtheglobalfoodsupplychain.pdf.

[3] Larry Catá Backer, “Regulating Multinational Corporations: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities,” Brown Journal of World Affairs 22, no. 1 (Fall/Winter 2015): 155, accessed September 29, 2019, http://proxyau.wrlc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=114516786&site=ehost-live&scope=site.

[4] Ibid., 156.

[5] Samuel E. Ojogbo, “Regulating MNCs and International Norms: Challenges in Focusing on a Human Rights Approach in Emerging Markets and Possible Alternatives,” Legal Issues Journal, no. 2 (2017): 116, accessed September 29, 2019, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.journals/uklwetrew5&i=266.

[6] Backer, “Regulating Multinational Corporations,” 167.

[7] Ibid., 165.

[8] “Bayer’s Annual Report 2018,” accessed September 29, 2019, file:///C:/Users/cspow/Downloads/bayer_ar18_entire%20(1).pdf; “GRI Content Index of the Global Reporting Initiative with the 10 Principles of the U.N. Global Compact,” 2018, accessed September 29, 2019, http://www.annualreport2018.bayer.com/further-information/gri-and-un-global-compact-.

[9] Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, UN Environment Programme, May 23, 2001, 11-12. Accessed September 28, 2019, file:///C:/Users/cspow/Zotero/storage/N9DVNEQZ/UNEP-POPS-COP-CONVTEXT-FULL.English.pdf

[10] Kara Sissell, “Groups Say Bayer Responsible for Pesticide Deaths in Peru,” Chemical Week; Englewood 163, no. 41 (November 7, 2001): 17, accessed September 28, 2019, https://search.proquest.com/docview/222510497/abstract/48AB7DF698E04BE5PQ/1.

[11] Ibid., 17.

[12] “School Meal Tainted by Pesticides Kills Peru Kids,” NBC/MSNBC.com, last modified September 22, 2011, accessed September 29, 2019, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/44621845/ns/world_news-americas/t/school-meal-tainted-pesticides-kills-peru-kids/.

[13] Robert Krieger, “Ch. 61: Surveillance of Pesticide-Related Illnesses and Injury in Humans,” Hayes’ Handbook of Pesticide Toxicology (Saint Louis, US, Elsevier Science & Technology, 2010): 1313-1315, accessed September 29, 2019, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/aul/detail.action?docID=625355.

 

Research / SISOlson / SISOlson19

Comments

  • Caroline — overall you do a very good job here of establishing the puzzle and discussing some of the conceptual frameworks that inform that puzzle (and that you will further investigate as part of the research process). Your discussion of primary sources that illustrate the broad puzzle is good, but you should also work on collecting primary sources that provide you with concrete instances of the phenomenon that you want to explain (building your equivalent of Edelstein’s list of military occupations) as you continue your work. As you think about this idea of circumvention you might also investigate the literatures/theories that focus on concepts like “norm evasion” or on “rules” and “rule following” in international affairs. Keep reading and researching–I look forward to seeing how the project develops!

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