Berne Declaration welcomes the Swiss federal government’s support for the proscription of paraquat

Zurich, , 02.12.2002 - The Swiss government says it will support efforts to add paraquat to Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention to protect developing countries from the harmful consequences of this highly toxic pesticide, produced by the Syngenta corporation.

Berne Declaration and other NGO’s from around the world welcome the Swiss government’s determination to support future efforts to include paraquat in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention*. The Rotterdam Convention stipulates that certain harmful chemicals and pesticides may not be exported without the express approval of the importing country. The protection offered by the convention is crucial for farmers and farm workers in countries of the south who are often in no position to use highly toxic pesticides like paraquat without putting themselves at risk.

It was not previously known since when and why the controversial pesticide paraquat had been banned in Switzerland. The government’s answer to a motion by MP Joseph Zisyadis clarified this point: due to its high toxicity – especially if misused - paraquat was no longer approved for use in Switzerland since December 31, 1989. After Finland and Sweden Switzerland was one of the first countries to ban the product. Other countries - among them Austria, Denmark, Slovenia, and, only recently, Malaysia – have since followed suit. Companies such as Chiquita have also stopped using the product.

Paraquat is one of the best-selling products of Syngenta, a Basel-based agri-chemical corporation. A coalition of NGO’s from across the globe** has been pressuring Syngenta since April 2002 to stop production of this highly toxic pesticide which has claimed far too many victims already. “If even Switzerland bans paraquat because of its extreme toxicity it is high time for Syngenta to take the product off the market” says François Meienberg of Berne Declaration. But Syngenta buries its head in the sand and desperately holds on to its product. With the new production facility in China the company even intend to increase sales to Third World countries.

* RotterdamConvention on the prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade. Ratified by Switzerland January 10, 2002.

** Erklärung von Bern/Berne Declaration (Switzerland); Banafair e.V. (Germany); Bio Suisse (Switzerland); Central American Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances (Costa Rica), Fédération genevoise de coopération (Schweiz); Foro Emaus (Costa Rica); Swedish Society for Nature Conservation; Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific (Malaysia); Pesticide Action Network Germany; Pesticide Action Network Latin America (RAP-AL); Pesticide Action Network North America (USA); Pesticide Action Network UK; Red de Accion sobre Plaguicidas y Alternativas en México (RAPAM)