Syngenta: Tidy profit at the expense of pesticide victims

Zurich, 07.02.2007 - Tomorrow, Syngenta will present another set of splendid profit figures for the past year. With an action before the company’s corporate headquarters the Berne Declaration (BD) calls attention to the fact that a large share of Syngenta’s annual income is derived from the sale of paraquat – a pesticide that poisons tens of thousands of farmers and plantation workers every year. Over the past four months more than 34, 000 individuals and some 90 organizations from 29 countries has supported the international campaign against the dangerous Syngenta product. Governments and growers are increasingly aware of the dangers of paraquat and are taking action. Syngenta, however, plays deaf and sadly shows no sense of social responsibility.

In an action before the Syngenta corporate headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, activists of Berne Declaration, a Swiss based NGO working on more sustainable North-South relations, published today the outcome of the public proceedings on the website Syngenta has been found guilty of poisoning farmers and plantation workers with paraquat. The proceeding was the centerpiece of BD’s most recent campaign, launched in early October, to stop the production and sale of paraquat. More than 34,000 individuals have passed a verdict on Syngenta through the website poll, and overwhelmingly say the company is acting irresponsibly.
Global solidarity with the victims of paraquat is growing. The support of the Asian Peasant Coalition—a coalition of Asian farmers associations with over 15 million members—and the International Union of Agricultural Workers' Associations (IUF) which represents 12 million members from 336 labor unions in 120 countries, as well as of numerous environmental, consumer, youth, women and agricultural organizations on all continents highlight the breadth of worldwide opposition to Syngenta’s deadly pesticide. “Paraquat is an extremely hazardous pesticide, which has badly impacted on the health of many of our members in Asia. We therefore endorse the campaign to call on the world’s largest producer of paraquat, Syngenta, to take responsibility for the negative impacts of its product and to stop production of this pesticide”, says Danilo Ramos, Secretary General of the Asian Peasant Coalition. “This global alliance will continue to push for a ban on paraquat. Syngenta will have to give in sooner or later. The longer it waits, the more its image will suffer”, states François Meienberg of the Berne Declaration. “Agricultural workers and farmers who are exposed to paraquat are continuing their struggle against this highly toxic pesticide that is affecting their health. Together with these movements, PAN AP also calls on governments to ban paraquat”, asserts Sarojeni V, Rengam, Executive Director of the Pesticides Action Network Asia and the Pacific.

Global efforts to Ban Paraquat are gaining momentum. In his capacity as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Mr. Jean Ziegler has urged Syngenta to start acting responsibly. He hopes that many more countries will eventually ban paraquat. Companies and governments are taking action to cut the pesticide from their production processes and registration lists. In two recent examples, the Common Code for the Coffee Community (4C), whose members control roughly two thirds of the world’s production and demand for coffee (including Nestlé and Kraft foods), calls for the use of paraquat to be discontinued. In France – Europe’s second largest user of paraquat – the government decided last year to halve sales of the product by the end of 2009. “Even trusted advisors to Syngenta privately recommend that the company disassociate itself from this out-moded and destructive product,” said Monica Moore, Regional Coordinator for Pesticide Action Network North America. “We hope that this new information and verdict from Berne Declaration helps convince to do the right thing sooner rather than later to save lives and end the suffering caused by paraquat.”