A Killer Bargain

Just happened to catch this on Finnish TV.



Yet cotton only covers 4-6 % of the fields in India, the consumption of pesticides on cotton is more than 50 % of all used pesticides in India.The illiterate farmers are spraying extensively – up to 30 times a year (4-5 times more that recommended) - without any use of protection equipment or safety measures.

Numerous of the pesticides used in India are by far banned in the Western world. Many of the international manufactores of pesticides is aware of the fact, that the Indian market is luctrative, and without the same restrictions as in their homelandsAs one, the Danish multinational pesticide company, Cheminova has their own factory in the town of Panoli in Gujarat.

Out of eleven known product manufactored at the Cheminova plant, seven of them are totally banned or not released in the EU.

Neighbouring villagers complain about what they see as an illegal pollution from Cheminova, and they also claim that their serious rash on their bodies comes from the gasses released by the many chemical factories in the area.


Many of the poor and illetarate farmers ends their lives at a charity hospital in the town of Bikaner or at special hospices for the poor. Doctors are currently investigating thousands of data from living and dead farmers, trying to establish knowlegde on the possible links between the extensive use of pesticides and the explosion af cancer in the so-called Cotton Belts of Inida.The uncontrolled and eccesive use of pesticides does not only affect the farmers health and safety. Where ever the authorities or ngo´s are testing they´ll find residues of pesticides.

In milk, flour and bottled drinking water, high amounts of pesticides has been found thorughout the country. Even in Coca Cola and Pepsi, the scientist have found residues of some of the most hazardous chemicals.

Cotton in Sanganer.
The cotton ends in the acid baths in a number of primitive factories outside the famous tourist hub, Jaipur in the state of Rajesthan.

But the buyers from the large European outlets and chains does not controle how the cotton is being bleached and dyed before it ends as beautiful hand printed tablecovers, bed linnen and cushion covers.

Officially the exporters claim, that there mainly is being used vegetable dyes, and that everything is being done in a well organized and environmental friendly way.

But reality in the town of Sanganer is completely different. Dalit (formerly known as the untouchables) workers standing barelegged in acid- and chlorine baths day in and day out, bleaching and dyeing the cotton on it´s long journey towards the European markets. In the town of Sanganer some 1.000 primitive factories are established.

Dyestuff, chemicals and and chlorine are released directly and untreted into the irrigation canals in Sanganer. The area is caractirized by it´s 100 % biological dead fauna, and the smell of chlorine and chemicals in the area is intense.To make solid proof the chain of production, the filmcrew baught a bautifull hand printed bed linnen at the “Indiska”-shop in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Film
The documentary follows the bed linnen back to the exact factory where it was produced under extremely hazardous conditions. Far awy from where it was supposed to be made, and far, far away from the Code of Conduct and environmental and ethical standards that the Swedish “Indiska”-chain of some 70 shops throughout Scandinavia has guarantied their customers.

Cotton in Panipat.
In the industrial town of Panipat – some 100 km north of New Delhi - large Swedish, Danish and European supermarkets are supplying the European customers with cheap home furnishing textiles as sofa covers, towels and bathroom rugs.

The workers are underpaid, migrant dalit´s from some of India poorest states like West Bengal and Bihar. At the factories there are no unions, the daily work can be as many as 24 hours a day – seven days a week.
The workers are mostly un-protected and chemicals are stored illegally. One of the factories appearing in the documentary does not even have an official permit from the Indian authorities to run. At the factory some 40-50-child workers are working on a regular basis.

Workers also claims that they are being beaten at the factory Companies like JYSK (DK), Dansk Supermarket Group (DK) and ICA (S) are among the customers. The sales manager of the factory also claims that European companies like Ahold (NL), Morison’s (GB) and Superquinn (IR) are among the regular buyers visiting the factory.On their websites the consumers can read, that many of the above mentioned companies has a high ethical profile, where the consumers are assured that all textiles/materials manufactured for the companies are done in an ethical, environmental and social right way. Disguised like potential buyers from a fictive chain of shops, the film crew reveals some of the harsh conditions at the factories and documents how the production in fact is being done.

Sold to:
Al Jazeera
CBC SRC – Canada
MTV – Finland
RUV – Iceland
MICO/NHK – Japan
SVT – Sweden
Newsreel – USA
TV2 - Norway

"A Killer Bargain"
Distributed by TV2 World A/S.

Kim Christiansen
kimc [at] tv2 [dot] dk
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+45 65212223




"See this film. A Killer Bargain is powerful, disturbing, and instructive. Consumers need to understand: we are complicit in poisoning the people who make what we buy. Understand, and act."

Joshua Cohen, Stanford University

“This is a searing human rights documentary unveiling corporations profiting from Indian textile production through the massive use of pesticides, which kill indigenous workers and destroy their environment. A Killer Bargain illuminates thoroughly and convincingly the dark side of globalization, one in which desperately needed jobs in the Third World cause the shortening of lives of many working poor.”

Micheline Ishay, Director of the International Human Rights Program, University of Denver

“A cautionary tale of how cash crops like cotton have turned Third World countries into a toxic hell. A rallying cry for a new economic system where comparative advantage based on exploiting workers and the environment is replaced by a respect for human rights, workers rights and environmental protection.”

Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director, Oakland Institute and co-author of Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation?


On April 21, 2007, Tom Heinemann was awarded the first ever "Outstanding Investigative Journalism" award by the Danish Association of Investigative Journalism (FUJ)

The Killer Bargain referred to by this hard-hitting documentary’s title is the availability of cheap consumer goods, imported by Western companies, whose prices don’t reflect the actual human and environmental costs associated with their production in the developing world. Consumers remain largely unaware of the conditions under which the goods they buy are produced; this film makes those connections shockingly clear. While some retailers and manufacturers refuse to talk to the filmmakers, workers, doctors and scientists testify eloquently to the tremendous human costs of globalization.

The film takes as a case study the production of textiles in northern India, from the growing of cotton, through the dying of cloth to its final sale as towels and sheets in European and American stores. A Danish company, Cheminova, produces much of the pesticide used in the Punjab; while it saves crops from insects, however, these pesticides are known to cause cancer and have long been banned throughout the West. There are exponentially more pesticides found in the blood of Punjab farmers than in any other population in the world. Whereas in 1998 there was only one cancer clinic in the Punjab’s “Cotton Belt”, there were six by 2004. Representatives of Cheminova and Aarhus University, the largest stockholder in the company, have refused to review the filmmakers’ documentation. The WHO has lobbied for decreasing the use of chemicals and for introducing protective measures. One Indian doctor denounces the purveyors of these pesticides as “merchants of death, marketers of murder.”

The film next moves to Panipat a leading textile producing center, where many retail chains buy their products. The filmmakers were able to gain access to the factory of GS Exports only by posing as an imaginary Scandinavian company, “Beautiful House.” There they find open tanks of fuming chlorine gas, banned in Europe for twenty years and used as a poison gas in World War I, a “weapon of mass destruction.” GS Exports pays its workers less than $60 a month, including overtime; if they join a union, they are fired. Approximately 50 of the employees are children, and the workers are housed in sub-human conditions. Dansk Supermarked wouldn’t speak to the filmmakers but claims that, as a result of their investigations, they have suspended their contract with the factory. ICA, another large Scandanavian retailer, after watching the footage, claimed it would investigate immediately.

JYSK is the largest textile chain in Denmark, outstripping McDonald’s in growth. They buy from Kapoor Industries, a modern plant which discharges its waste water into ponds, polluting the surrounding farmland. The viewer watches as company security stops the filmmakers from shooting, and Kapoor’s executive director threatens them with beating, personally confiscating their tape. In its statement of corporate ethics, JYSK claims to be improving the environment but refuses to confront the filmmakers’ evidence to the contrary.

An economist explains that, often, the availability of cheap consumer goods is due to fact that they were produced by underpaid workers in environmentally destructive plants. Some Indian textile suppliers use environmentally friendly techniques but, because their products cost marginally more, many western retailers shun their products for cheaper goods. Corporations, even those with stated commitments to buy from suppliers that respect their workers’ rights and the environment, cannot be trusted to enforce these principles if their enforcement would result is a cost increase.

A Killer Bargain, like Black Gold, makes it clear that it is up to consumers to hold companies accountable for the conditions under which their products are produced - even if that means a slightly higher cost. An Indian economist points out that globalization may create work in the developing world, but often at the price of shortening workers’ lives. An Indian doctor adds that we in the West should realize that the clothes we wear are often made at the expense of someone else’s life. The film ends with a quote from Gandhi: “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for one man’s greed.”
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