EU-Court Reins in Syngenta: the Beginning of the End for Paraquat.

Zurich, 12.07.2007 - In a ground-breaking decision yesterday the EU’s Court of First Instance revoked the EU-approval for the Syngenta herbicide paraquat. The court ruled that the approval procedure in 2003 did not sufficiently consider the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s and the herbicide’s other effects on human and animal health. Berne Declaration (BD), which has long cautioned against the use of paraquat because of health risks associated with it, feels vindicated by the court’s decision and calls on Syngenta to take paraquat off the market around the world.

The verdict shows that paraquat would never have made it to market if the authority had not turned a blind eye to its health risks. Syngenta’s own skewed vision, on the other hand, is legendary: in a recent report about accidents, suicides, and environmental effects the Basel-based agrochemical corporation (like the EU-Commission before it), refers to a French study that claims accidents can be avoided if protective gear is correctly used. However, the report suppresses the French study’s conclusion that back-pack sprayers are particularly dangerous and should not be used. If this finding were actually implemented global sales of paraquat would drop immediately. The Commission and Syngenta also conveniently overlooked the links between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.

In communications to analysts and the public, Syngenta has always downplayed the importance of the European paraquat market. While this may be true in terms of revenue, the company is clearly aware that the EU-decision is bound to trigger negative reactions around the world, and will greatly increase the likelihood of paraquat-bans or restrictions in other countries, and of users abandoning the brand.

The Berne Declaration urges Syngenta to take their product off the market everywhere after this defeat. Countless studies prove that paraquat poisons countless farm workers every year, mostly in developing countries. A company that continues to market – and often aggressively so – a product that it knows to be harmful makes itself responsible for the countless victims.

The court ruling (not available in English – but in many other European languages)