Our research sheds light on the cynical trade by the world's largest agrochemical companies based in Switzerland, Germany and the USA in pesticides classified as 'highly hazardous' by the Pesticide Action Network (PAN).
The manufacturers benefit from weak regulations in low and middle-income countries, in order to continue selling products there that are banned in Switzerland or the EU due to their impacts on health or the environment. This is in spite of the fact that the safe application of these products is often not ensured in those countries, leading to millions of poisonings worldwide each year. A central player in this business is the world market leader in pesticides, Syngenta, with its headquarters in Basel.
We demand that Syngenta finally commit to ceasing the production and sale of highly hazardous pesticides worldwide – with a clear plan and binding deadlines.
Switzerland must no longer turn a blind eye
As the headquarters of the world's largest pesticide corporation and a country of production, Switzerland bears a special responsibility. We demand from the Swiss authorities binding measures against the irresponsible trade in highly hazardous pesticides:
An export ban on all pesticides whose use is prohibited in Switzerland due to their impact on human health or the environment.
After we had repeatedly drawn attention to the export of such pesticides from Switzerland, in 2020 the Swiss Federal Council decided to ban the export of five highly hazardous pesticides (including Paraquat) with effect from 2021 and to tighten export conditions for a further 100 substances. This is an important first step, but it does not go far enough. Numerous dangerous substances are not covered by the regulation. We demand that Switzerland prohibits the export of all pesticides banned for health or environmental reasons. The EU plans to introduce such an export ban, and countries such as Belgium and France have already done so.
Zero tolerance for residues of banned pesticides in food imports.
Our research shows that food imported into Switzerland often contains traces of pesticides that are banned here. These pose risks to the environment as well as to farmers and workers in third countries who are exposed to toxic substances during the production of imported food. Fortunately, in June 2023, Swiss parliament adopted a motion by National Councillor Christine Badertscher, according to which such residues should no longer be tolerated in the future. The Federal Council must now work out corresponding regulations.
Support for the international phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides.
The problem can ultimately only be solved through global action, to which Switzerland must contribute. Switzerland should advocate for the creation of a binding agreement with the goal of phasing out highly hazardous pesticides in agriculture worldwide.
The introduction of mandatory human rights due diligence for companies.
Last but not least, Switzerland must ensure that corporations are held accountable for environmental damage and human rights violations caused abroad, as proposed by the Responsible Business Initiative. The EU plans to introduce such binding due diligence requirements.