Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
The non-selective herbicide paraquat is sold by Syngenta and other producers in more than 100 countries. Gramoxone(TN), manufactured by Syngenta, is the most common trade name for paraquat. Paraquat is extensively used on bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, palm oil, pineapple, rubber and sugar cane, both on plantations and by small-scale farmers.
Paraquat has been heavily criticized for the adverse impacts on workers since the 1960s. Globally, workers and farmers, who are regularly exposed to paraquat experience serious problems with their health. Paraquat is an extremely hazardous substance: it has been known to damage the lungs, heart, kidneys, adrenal glands, central nervous system, liver, muscles and spleen, causing multi-organ failure. The herbicide causes severe acute and long-term health problems such as severe dermatitis, second degree burns, nosebleeds, rapid heart rate, kidney failure, and respiratory failure. Some chronic effects have also been identified: an association with developmental and reproductive effects, as well as links to skin cancer and there is mounting evidence linking it to Parkinson's disease. The high toxicity and lack of antidote leads to serious ill health, and even death, from exposure.
Studies have also indicated that paraquat has lethal effects on hares and birds, and is embryotoxic and teratogenic to frogs. It poses a risk to non-target terrestrial and aquatic plants, and readily binds to soil particles and hence accumulates in soils.
Due to these facts the notorious occupational poison paraquat has been on the PAN international list of "Dirty Dozen" pesticides since 1985.
Conditions of use and realities in developing countries of the South -- high temperature and humidity, lack of protective clothing, leaking knapsack sprayers, illiteracy, lack of facilities for washing, or medical treatment, and repeated exposure -- compounds the concern that safe use of paraquat is not possible in these countries, in spite of "safety" claims by the industry.
"Last year Malaysia was the first Asian country to ban and phase out the use of paraquat. To prioritise global protection of human health and the environment, a worldwide ban of the toxic herbicide paraquat has to follow now," asserts Sarojeni V. Rengam, Executive Director of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Asia and the Pacific.
Unfortunately, the EU decided in October 2003 not to ban paraquat. The European Commission is aware of the dangers of paraquat, but nevertheless approved its use, ignoring the growing number of member states who openly rejected an EU-wide approval of paraquat, postponing a vote at the last four committee meetings. PAN has emphasized that this controversial decision was made in the European context, and therefore cannot have any implication for other regions, especially developing countries.
On November 24, 2003, PAN Europe, PAN Asia and the Pacific and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, sent an official "Open Letter" of protest to the European Commission calling on the Standing Committee to take urgent action following the inclusion of paraquat to the Annex 1 of the Pesticides Authorization Directive 91/414. The Commission's authorization of 3 October 2003 is being used to challenge regulatory decisions taken to protect human health in other countries (particularly in Malaysia), and to demand registration even when local conditions will pose significant risks to pesticide users.
Due to the serious health and ecological threats from paraquat use, on the occasion of the global "No Pesticide Use Day" December 3rd, the international Pesticide Action Network (PAN) demands that:
To view the joint Open Letter to the European Commission see: http://www.panap.net.
December 3 -- Reminder of the pesticide catastrophe 1984 in Bhopal
This year the Bhopal Day of Action Against Corporate Crime is also taking place on December 3, 2003, on the 19th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. For more information, visit http://www.bhopal.net or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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