Legal Opinion: Syngenta ignores Human Rights

Basel, 09.12.2011 - Syngenta ignores fundamental human rights by selling its Paraquat herbicide in developing countries. Both a legal opinion, as well as the Permanent People’s Tribunal held in India, which examined the practices of agrochemical corporations, have come to this conclusion. On the day before Human Rights Day, the Berne Declaration is using advertisements and an event to draw attention to the many victims of Syngenta’s highly-toxic best-seller.

“Fifty Years of Paraquat – Fifty Years of Human Rights Violations: We mourn the countless pesticide victims and urge Syngenta to immediately halt the poisoning of farmers and plantation workers!” Under a large banner bearing this appeal at the Schifflände, Basel residents can declare their solidarity today with the victims of the agrochemical corporation based on the other side of the Rhine. In the evening a large card of condolence will be given to the firm.

A legal opinion, carried out at the request of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Berne Declaration, details if and how Syngenta violates the human rights to health and life with the sale of Paraquat. The basis for the controversial judgement was the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, adopted unanimously in June this year by the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The verdict is clear: Particularly in countries where regulations for the protection of pesticide handlers are not enforced, and where access to adequate protective clothing is unrealistic for the majority, Syngenta does not exercise its obligation to respect human rights.

The only effective countermeasure would be to renounce the sale of the highly-toxic pesticide. Furthermore, Syngenta has not yet fulfilled its responsibility to provide compensation to victims. “The failure of the Basel-based corporation to carry out a due diligence review, and to draw the necessary conclusions from it, has led to thousands upon thousands of poisonings and deaths of farmers and plantation workers,” said François Meienberg of the Berne Declaration.

The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT), which went to Bangalore (India) to examine the human rights violations of agrochemical corporations, came to the same conclusion three days ago. Syngenta was in the dock here too, for Paraquat among other things. “The PPT’s condemnation of Syngenta is a victory for Paraquat victims, and a first step towards obtaining justice for them,” said Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, who will take part in today’s event in Basel.