Dole discontinues Paraquat use and puts additional pressure on Syngenta

Zurich, 12.10.2007 - As reported earlier this week, Dole, the world's largest producer and marketer of fruit, vegetables, and cut flowers will no longer use Paraquat. Even as growing numbers of major producers are voluntarily phasing out the highly toxic pesticide, Syngenta is obstinately fighting to have paraquat re-approved in Europe. This move may temporarily steady its share price but has no chance of success in the long run and will further damage the image of the Swiss agrochemical corporation.

Dole, a US-company, joins a long list of major corporations and former paraquat users that are voluntarily phasing out the controversial product. Chiquita for instance did so years ago. Numerous companies are discontinuing the use of paraquat under criteria defined by the Fairtrade Labeling Organization, the Forest Stewardship Council and the Rainforest Alliance on Paraquat. Since Paraquat was banned in Europe food producers have become wary of being associated with the poisonous pesticide and the countless victims it has caused. Dole announced it would discontinue the use of Paraquat for most products immediately. For pineapples from Costa Rica, however, the phase-out is planned by mid-2008. This is particularly significant since pineapple farming has been a rapidly growing market for Paraquat in recent years. After Dole’s decision to get out competitors such as Del Monte may feel increased pressure to do likewise.

Although many large companies are concluding that continued use of Paraquat is irresponsible, Syngenta announced yesterday that it would seek to have Paraquat re-approved in Europe. This is clearly a rearguard action intended to squeeze a few extra Euros out of an antiquated pesticide that has been banned in Switzerland for 17 years. The evidence that led the European court to ban Paraquat last June will be just as valid 2 to 4 years from now when Syngenta’s request for re-approval will be examined. The most important evidence is provided by a study from Guatemala, which shows that users are exposed to levels of toxicity that exceed the permissible maximum even if they use Paraquat correctly. Other recent studies have once again confirmed the correlation between Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.

«Thousands of farmers and farm workers in countries of the South are paying with their health for Syngenta’s refusal to take Paraquat off the market. No amount of sales revenue can justify such inhuman corporate policies», says François Meienberg, agriculture expert from the Berne Declaration (BD).