Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

19 January 2012

Toxic Pesticides: Syngenta's Paraquat and Atrazine

“The campaign ‘Stop Paraquat’, conducted by non-governmental organizations, trade unions and scientists around the world, calls to end the production and ban the use of this highly toxic harmful herbicide”, manufactured and distributed by the Swiss company Syngenta.  Although banned in Switzerland since 31 December 1989 and in the European Union since 2007, this toxic herbicide is still being marketed by Syngenta to over 100 countries, usually under the brand name “Gramoxone”.  It is regularly used on banana, coffee, palm oil, rubber, fruit, and pineapple plantations and also on maize and rice fields.

Acute health effects of paraquat include eye injury, nosebleed, skin irritation and burns, nausea, vomiting, pain, breathing difficulties.  Exposure to very low doses over a longer period of time produces chronic health problems such as damage to the lungs, nervous system or brain, and may also cause potential birth defects and increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

This request comes from the Berne Declaration and Permanent People's Tribunal:  Vote for Syngenta as the Worst Company - just click on "VOTE NOW" in the attached link.

Syngenta also produces atrazine, a toxic herbicide which has been banned in Switzerland and in the European Union in 2004 , but still used widely in the United States with 76 million pounds of it applied each year, mostly on cornfields.  Atrazine is found in 94% of the drinking water in the United States.  It is a known endocrine disruptor and carcinogen, and is connected to low sperm levels in men.  Syngenta has intimated scientists, pressured regulators and paid economists to produce faulty studies in its efforts to keep atrazine on the market in the United States.  (Refer to this site on atrazine.)

In 2010, Syngenta’s sales totaled approximately US$ 11.6 billion.  The company employs over 26,000 people in 90 countries.  It is one of the six agrochemical companies that was found guilty of human rights violations by the Permanent People’s Tribunal in December 2011.  Switzerland must be held accountable for the activities and products of Syngenta and “adequately regulate, monitor and discipline” the company in order to ensure respect for human rights, including the right to health. 

Consult the “Berne Declaration” website for more information on the campaign to ban paraquat and facts about this very toxic pesticide.  The Berne Declaration is a Swiss non-governmental organization with more than 20,000 members.  It has been promoting more equitable, sustainable and democratic North-South relations since 1968 by carrying out research and conducting campaigns to raise public awareness of issues such as agriculture and health.

by Meris Michaels

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