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Swiss NGO Links Pesticide to Farmers' Death in India, Calls for Export Ban

  • A farmer channels water to irrigate his wheat field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, Dec. 15, 2015.

    A farmer channels water to irrigate his wheat field on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India, Dec. 15, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 19 September 2018

Public Eye, an NGO from Switzerland blamed Swiss-made pesticide for farmers' death in India, and called for an export ban.

Public Eye, a Swiss NGO, accused chemical firm Syngenta of exporting banned pesticides Tuesday. The group released a report, which claims that up to 50 cotton farmers may have been poisoned between July and October 2017 by chemicals produced by the company.


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The pesticide, which goes by the name of Polo, contains the chemical diafenthiuron, which is produced by the company in Switzerland. In 2017, Syngenta exported more than 126 tons from Switzerland: 75 tons to India, 50 tons to South Africa, and 1.5 tons to Colombia. The insecticide was banned in the European Union in 2002 and in Switzerland in 2009.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) stated that diafenthiuron is “toxic if inhaled” and can “cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure.”

Public Eye called for an export ban on the pesticide Polo after a report on the deaths of over 20 farmers was made public. The deaths occurred in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state in a single district of Yavatmal where Public Eye conducted its research. Hundreds of others were hospitalized after inhaling the pesticide.

Officials in Maharashtra reportedly opened a criminal investigation targeting Syngenta over the deaths.

Syngenta, which was bought by ChemChina for US$43 billion in 2017, has rejected the allegations. In a statement, the company said, "There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Syngenta's product Polo was at all responsible for the incidents that have occurred."

They have also branded the NGO’s allegations as “salacious and incorrect.” Syngenta noted that Polo "has been successfully and safely used by Indian Farmers across the country for the last 14 years," and that diafenthiuron is registered in 25 countries worldwide.

The company also warned that local formulations were sometimes marketed as Polo and claimed that it had set up mobile health clinics to treat affected farmers.

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