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Pesticides poisonings in India
A webinar on implications for business accountability and regulatory reform
Date: Thursday, 24 June 2021
Time: 11 am CEST/2.30 pm SIT
Platform: Zoom – Register here

The webinar will be held in English. Simultaneous interpretation to Marathi will be provided.
The Maharashtra Association of Pesticide Poisoned Persons (MAPPP), the Pesticides Action Network (PAN India and PAN Asia Pacific) together with Public Eye and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) invite you to a webinar that sheds light on the quest for justice and accountability of a group of Indian farmers who were poisoned by a pesticide marketed by Swiss agrochemical giant Syngenta. We will also discuss the way forward for regulating pesticides use both in India and Europe.

Speakers:

  • A deadly pesticide poisoning in rural India – Dewanand Pawar (MAPPP)
  • The involvement of a Syngenta pesticide made in Switzerland – Dileep Kumar (PAN India)
  • The quest for justice and accountability in Switzerland – Christian Schliemann (ECCHR)
  • The need for an export ban and mandatory human rights due diligence – Anina Dalbert (Public Eye)
  • SIT report: what’s next? – Narasimha Reddy (PAN India)
  • Moderation: Sarojemi Rengam (PAN AP)

In 2017, hundreds of small-scale farmers and farm workers were poisoned – and over 20 died – in just a few weeks whilst spraying pesticides on cotton fields in the district of Yavatmal in central India. A key product involved was the insecticide Polo, manufactured by Syngenta.

The use of Polo’s active ingredient diafenthiuron is long banned in Switzerland and the European Union but Syngenta keeps selling it in countries where regulations are weaker and less strictly enforced. In 2017, Syngenta exported 75 tonnes of diafenthiuron from Switzerland to India. A Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigated the poisoning in Yavatmal, identified several policy measures and recommended to ban multiple product formulations that were responsible for most of the deaths, including diafenthiuron. Although temporary bans were adopted, today all products are again available on the Indian market.

In September 2020, Public Eye, ECCHR, PAN India and MAPPP filed a “specific instance” with the Swiss national contact point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, on behalf of a group of 51 affected farmers, to demand that Syngenta provide remedy and change its sales practices in India. At the same time, the law firm schadenanwaelte filed a claim for compensation in the court of Basel on behalf of the families of two victims who died and a farmer who was severely injured.

In October, Switzerland decided to prohibit the export of five highly hazardous pesticides including diafenthiuron. Just a few weeks later, the Responsible Business Initiative, which proposed to introduce mandatory human rights due diligence requirements for Swiss companies like Syngenta, was narrowly rejected.