Syngenta: Agrochemical Pollution

Syngenta: Agrochemical Pollution

By Gustavo Castro Soto

The contamination of land and water in Chiapas due to the use of so much agrochemicals is alarming. Some rivers are polluted by monoculture plantations or by sugar mills.

Syngenta, The Transnational Agrochemical Pollution

The contamination of land and water in Chiapas due to the use of so much agrochemicals is alarming. Cancer and disease rates in indigenous and peasant communities are on the rise. [1] Some rivers already have serious levels of pollution caused by monoculture plantations (rubber, African palm, eucalyptus, etc.) or by sugar mills. This pollution is further aggravated by that which accumulates in the state's dams. Faced with this situation, many Chiapas communities in the Selva, Norte, Altos and Fronteriza regions have joined the campaigns against the consumption of agrochemicals and started the search for organic alternatives.

Meanwhile, the largest transnational corporations in the world are invading not only the Chiapas countryside but the entire country. A study carried out by Greenpeace on Persistent Organic Pollutants in Mexico offers the following data: “DDT residues and its metabolites have been found in eggs, milk, cheese, butter and cream in the Lagunera region (1975, 1981 and 1987 ), Mexico City (1978 and 1981) and in Soconusco, Chiapas (1990 and 1988). DDT and its metabolites have also been detected in adipose tissue of the abdomen and breast in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico City, Puebla, Ciudad Juárez and Veracruz, from 1975 to 1995. In a study carried out in children aged four to five years living in In the Yaqui Valley, children whose mothers had the presence of aldrin, endrin, dieldrin, heptachlor, and DDT in breast milk and umbilical cord blood also showed decreased coordination, reduced memory, and inferiority in physical tests, compared to children less exposed ”. On the other hand, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported long ago that Mexican women are the ones with the highest levels of DDT in their breast milk worldwide.

However, agrochemicals continue to be marketed in the country, which are even prohibited in the countries from which they are produced. Among the pesticides banned in other countries and authorized in Mexico are: Alachlor, aldicarb, azinphos methyl, captafol, carbaryl, captan, chlordane, DDT, dicofol, diurnal, endosulfan, phorate, phosphamidon, kadethrin, lindane, linuron, maneb, methidathion, methamidophos, methoxychlor, mevinphos, monochotophos, omethoate, oxyfluorfen, paraquat, methyl parathion, pentachlorophenol, quintacene, sulprofos, triazophos, tridemorph, vamidothion, 2-4-D. At the beginning of this new century, agrochemical sales by region in 2000 were: Asia / Pacific 25.4%; Latin America 12.8%; North America 29.6%; Western Europe 21.9% and the rest of the world 10.3%. In this same year the sale of agrochemicals was as follows: herbicides 47.1%; insecticides 28.9%; fungicides 18.0%; and others 6.0%.

What is Paraquat, Malathion, and Gramoxone?

Among the most commercial products and brands in Chiapas are Malathion, Gramoxone, Paraquat, Foley, Herbipol, Rival, Ranger, Faena, among many others. These trademarks are mainly in the hands of transnationals Syngenta Y Monsanto which has the patent of glyphosate contained in all its products and that it is highly toxic.

According to Ryan Zinn member of the Organic Consumers Association based in the United States [2] the Malathion It was marketed beginning in 1956 by the American Cyanamid Co. (which was bought by the American Home Products Corporation, now known as Wyeth Holdings Corporation). Since his patent has long expired, the malathion It has around 342 companies that already produce or formulate it, with more than 1200 formulas on the market (1997). [3] Malathion is widely used in agricultural fumigation in Chiapas. [4]

Syngenta it is the world's largest agrochemical company. It is also the third largest GMO and competes closely with Monsanto, Dow, and DuPont that commercialize proprietary corn seeds in Chiapas with the help of the government. further Syngenta It is the third largest seed transnational. Syngenta It has more than 20,000 thousand employees in 20 countries and its annual sales surpassed 6 billion dollars in 2003. Syngenta was formed from the merger of Norvartis (Switzerland) and Zeneca (Great Britain). Norvartis was the daughter of the 1996 Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz merger, at the time the largest corporate merger in history. Today, Syngenta has the patent of more than 120 pesticides and has more than 20 of the brands (such as Gramoxone) most 'popular' in the world, according to Ryan Zinn.

Syngenta marketed under the name of Gramoxone its active ingredient called Paraquat. To further understand the harmfulness of this product, which is used so much in the field, the prologue to the second edition of the brochure on Paraquat, Syngenta's controversial herbicide, prepared by Fernando Bejarano of the Network of Action Network on Pesticides and Alternatives in Mexico (RAPAM) [5] that we reproduce below and that we also appreciate sharing.

According to specialist Fernando Bejarano , annually Syngenta sells about a billion dollars of paraquat, equivalent to 25 thousand tons. To give us an idea in proportion, this would be equivalent in one day to the salary of 500 billion people in the world who live in poverty earning 2 dollars a day. Bejarano confirms that: “At least 77% of world sales of paraquat they are carried out in developing countries, particularly in Asia and Latin America. In Latin America, the main consuming countries of this herbicide are Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. The paraquat It is used in more than 50 different crops, in more than 120 countries, poisoning workers in plantations of banana, coffee, cocoa, sugar, palm oil and many other crops, both in Latin America, Asia and Africa, as well as in nations of the European Union, as is the case of France, Spain and Portugal. "

In the United States, the sale and use of paraquat is already restricted. In the European Union it is proposed to ban it even for amateur or professional gardening. In Germany it can only be applied "once every four years in corn and beet crops, and in forest greenhouses, in addition to having limitations on its use in vineyards." For its part, the RAP-Chile campaign led to its fumigation being banned in 2001 in that country. In Colombia, their fumigation was also prohibited "in the fight against illicit crops, a practice that continues in countries like Mexico, to combat marijuana and poppy crops," as confirmed by Fernando Bejarano.

For the effects on human health, “the paraquat requires full protective equipment that protects skin, face and hands from contact with the herbicide; however, this type of equipment is rarely used, especially in tropical climates with high temperatures ”. For Bejarano, governments should comply with what is stated in the revised version of the FAO International Code of Conduct for the Distribution and Use of Pesticides, which it indicates in its article. 3.5 that “ Pesticides whose handling and application require the use of uncomfortable, expensive or difficult to obtain general protective equipment should be avoided, especially when the pesticides are to be used in tropical climates and by small-scale users. " Similarly, article 7.5 of the Code establishes that “ it may be desirable to prohibit the import, purchase and sale of a highly toxic and dangerous product, in the event that the control or marketing measures are not sufficient to ensure that the product can be handled with an acceptable level of risk to the user.”

According to Bejarano, Coordinator of the Mesoamerican and Caribbean Subregion of the Network for Action on Pesticides and their Alternatives in Latin America (RAP-AL), the Central American governments signed Agreement number 9 of the XVI Meeting of the Health Sector in 2000 of Central America and the Dominican Republic (RESSCAD), where they agree to restrict the use of 12 pesticides “responsible for the highest number of poisonings and deaths in the region, including paraquat ". However, it is not fulfilled. “In Nicaragua, 1,500 workers at the San Antonio sugar mill who suffer from chronic kidney failure caused by exposure to paraquat, demonstrated in July 2003 against the presidential veto on Law 456 ("Law to add occupational risks and diseases to Law 185, of the Labor Code), which had been approved by Congress."

“As part of its international public relations and lobbying campaign to clean up the image of its weed killer, Syngenta promoted the conduct of a study that falsely appeared as "independent" under the name of " Paraquat: a unique partner for agriculture and sustainable development ”, written by Prasanna Srinivasan, and publicized by the website of the Marshall Institute, in the United States, a conservative lobbying center, which receives money from corporations like Enron and has published several articles in favor of paraquat, against the precautionary principle, and whose main activity in recent years has been lobbying against the Kyoto Protocol , minimizing the effects of climate change. " Bejarano denounces that Syngenta has promoted the presentation of this book in several countries to wash its image and present the paraquat as benign for the environment and human health. “In Costa Rica, the presentation of this book received harsh criticism from researchers from the Regional Institute for Toxic Substances Studies (IRET), from state universities (UNA and UNED), and RAP-AL, for pretending to present with scientific support what is nothing but a propaganda campaign, since it only takes into account some opinions of people with an interest in the use and sale of paraquat or who have "training" agreements with Syngenta, but it never mentions, for example, the scientific studies that scientists such as Dr. Catherine Wesseling of the IRET have carried out for many years on the true impacts of paraquat in health and the environment. "

Although Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Austria prohibit the use of the paraquat, Syngenta managed to get the European Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health to include it in the European Union's pesticide authorization directive in December 2003. This has met with strong opposition from the Swedish government and a coalition of six citizen organizations, including the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) of Europe and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Tobacco and Allied Workers (IUF). According to Bejarano, in August 2005 the governments of Austria, Finland and Denmark would join the demand. The RAP-AL Coordinator confirms that “One of the evidences ignored by the Report of the Paraquat Review Committee that served as the basis for the decision to allow its sale in the European Union were the studies that indicate that the chronic use of paraquat is related to Parkinson's disease. This is a very severe disease of the nervous system and manifests itself with trembling, rigidity and poor spontaneous movements; It results from the degeneration of brain cells that produce dopamine, the substance that allows people to move normally. The report also ignored the results of a field study conducted among Guatemalan banana plantation workers, and further rejected the exposure modeling calculations. "

The alternatives.

It is important to join the campaign promoted by the Pesticide Action Network and its Alternatives in Mexico (RAPAM), around agrochemicals to achieve the legal prohibition of these products. These campaigns have been successful in Costa Rica where, thanks to citizen pressure, the transnational Chiquita has suspended the use of paraquat in all its banana plantations. Another example is that the Chiapas government has suspended the use of another agrochemical, lindane [6], in the basic picture for health, although this is not the case yet for agricultural and veterinary purposes. On the other hand, after 17 years of struggle by the workers of the African (or oil) palm plantations in Malaysia, a plantation that the governor of Chiapas also encourages a lot in the state, they managed to get the government to ban the paraquat in August 2002. With Malaysia there are already 13 countries that have banned paraquat for all uses, especially for health protection reasons, according to Fernando Bejarano.

RAPAM confirms that “private companies and international marketing organizations have joined the campaign against paraquat. The largest Swiss distributor Migros decided not to sell any product made with palm oil that has been used for cultivation paraquat, in addition to bananas. Similarly, the important Swiss company Volcafe no longer uses this herbicide on its own coffee plantations. The international Fair Trade organization decided that all certified companies will not use paraquat. Similarly, the Forest Stewardship Council world seal is not awarded if it has been used paraquat in the exploitation of forests. " It should be noted that in the Coastal Zone of Chiapas this product is widely used for the same plantations of banana and other fruit crops.

More and more in Latin America there are successful experiences of organic production with high yields. Even the use of natural or organic herbicides that consist of obtaining pesticides with the use of garlic, onion or chili is now questioned, since in the same way they destroy the biodiversity and microecosystems necessary to maintain the wealth of the earth and its high productivity. In Colombia there are communities that instead of attacking pests with agrochemicals or natural pesticides use the incorporation of more biodiversity that balances local ecosystems and at the same time combats pests.

Battles are won on the field. Hopefully municipal authorities, ejido or organizations manage to declare themselves "territories freed from agrochemicals and their transnationals."

Sources and for more information: Fernando Bejarano, foreword to the second edition in Spanish of Paraquat, Syngenta's controversial herbicide, the Network for Action on Pesticides and their Alternatives in Latin America (RAP-AL). Fernando Bejarano González, Coordinator of the Mesoamerican and Caribbean Subregion of RAP-AL [email protected] Tel (595) 95 4 77 44. You can also consult: Fernando Bejarano and Bernardino Marta, Editors, “Impactos del Libre Trade, Pesticides and GMOs in Latin American Agriculture ”, Rapam and Rapal. May 2003, Mexico, DF.

[1] See “Chiapas al Día” bulletin no. 426 and 467.
[3] The Malathion It has several commercial names such as Graneril, Lucathion, Tacsofor, Troje, Malathión.
[4] See “Chiapas al Día” Bulletin no. 467,
[5] RAPAM, Amado Nervo 23 int 2, Col. San Juanito, Texcoco, State of Mexico, Mexico, Tel and Fax (52)) + 595) 95 47744.
[6] See the Bulletin "Chiapas al Día" no. 426, 429,

* Gustavo Castro Soto

Video: Syngenta Cultar. Mango. Garlic. Onion. Potato. Plant Growth Tonic. Cultar Syngenta. Plant PGR (August 2021).