BASEL – NGO Public Eye has accused the Swiss agricultural chemical company Syngenta of exporting pesticides it claims are linked to the involuntary poisoning of cotton farmers in India. Public Eye has released a report claiming up to 50 farmers may have been fatally poisoned between July and October 2017 due to excess use of Syngenta’s Polo insecticide to control white flies in cotton. The pesticide contains the chemical diafenthiuron that is produced by the company in Switzerland. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) states that diafenthiuron is toxic if inhaled.
However, Syngenta has strongly refuted the allegations. In a statement, the business said: “Syngenta is deeply concerned and saddened at the unfortunate death and hospitalisation of farm workers in the Yavatmal region in the state of Maharashtra as a result of exposure to alleged pesticide products in late 2017. These incidents have been the subject of media reporting in Switzerland this week.
“We strongly condemn the various salacious and incorrect reports alleging that our crop protection product Polo was responsible for the unfortunate incidents. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Syngenta’s product Polo, was at all responsible for the incidents that have occurred.
“Furthermore, the government appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) report specifically acknowledged the efforts of Syngenta during and immediately following the incident. Syngenta was the first company to respond to the incident and worked closely with the district administration in ensuring the availability of protective equipment, providing safe handling training and medical treatment to the affected people.
“Syngenta’s Polo has been successfully and safely used by Indian Farmers across the country for last 14 years without any reported incidents of fatality or casualties.”
Syngenta India also told Public Eye that Polo had been successfully used by farmers across the country for the last 14 years without any reported incidents of fatal casualties. With regard to the export of chemicals banned in Switzerland and Europe, the company told Swiss public television SRF that it was standard practice.
“It is often the case that a plant/crop protection product is registered in one country and not another – due to different regulatory criteria, climatic and agronomic conditions, or different needs of farmers,” the company stated.entfa