Syngenta Herbicide found to be major cause of poisoning in West Africa

13.12.2010 Another strike against Syngenta blockbuster paraquat: a new study out of Burkina Faso shows that the Syngenta herbicide Gramoxone (active substance paraquat) causes more poisonings than any other pesticide. Alarmed by these findings Burkina Faso has requested that this paraquat formulation be added to the annex of the Rotterdam Convention.

On December 12, the secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention published a request by the government of Burkina Faso to include the severely hazardous pesticide formulation paraquat (20%) in the annex of the Rotterdam Convention. Such a move would have far-reaching consequences for the export of this Syngenta bestseller to developing countries. Importing countries would have to give their prior informed consent for every shipment of paraquat destined for their shores—and this consent will not be granted easily. Many countries will consider the existing EU-ban in their decision.

Burkina Faso bases its request on a study published by the secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention a few weeks ago. The study shows that 54 of 296 pesticide poisonings are caused by the Syngenta herbicide Gramoxone. Gramoxone causes by far the most poisonings of any pesticide in that country. Symptoms reported go from headache, breathing difficulties and vision troubles to vomiting, the destruction of the contaminated skin and loss of consciousness.

In addition to the request by Burkina Faso under the Rotterdam Convention, nine West African states are taking steps to ban the product. “Syngenta have known for years that the use of paraquat, especially in developing countries, causes serious health damage. Nevertheless they keep promoting the product, neglecting their Corporate Social Responsibility. We therefore welcome the decision of the Burkina Faso government to take action now”, says François Meienberg of the Berne Declaration.

And Dr. Abou Thiam, Executive Director of PAN Africa comments: "It is heartening to see Burkina Faso proactively act to protect farmers and rural communities from pesticides like Syngenta's paraquat, linked to poisonings and disease. Every country and community deserves transparent information about pesticides, and the right to deny their use."