Paraquat in India: too big a risk for farmers and workers

Press Release by PAN India, IUF, PAN Asia and the Pacific, Berne Declaration
Geneva, Penang, Thiruvananthapuram, Hyderabad, Zürich |  April 23, 2015
 
A new report published today Conditions of Paraquat use in India  shows that the herbicide paraquat is widely used under high–risk conditions in India. The report finds that rules and recommendations for paraquat use are often ignored, that users don’t have the required information, nor do they have the means to protect themselves from exposure. All of this violates the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management.
 
The victims are farmers and workers who are suffering from numerous adverse health effects caused by paraquat. The report’s publishers are therefore calling for paraquat to be included on a list (under the Rotterdam Convention) which allows governments much more control over its importation. Such a listing, say the publishers, would support developing countries to make an informed decision on allowing or not the importation of paraquat.
 
“Conditions of Paraquat Use in India” published by the IUF, Pesticide Action Network (PAN)Asia and the Pacific, PAN India and the Berne Declaration, shows the shocking reality about the use of paraquat in India. This highly hazardous herbicide is already banned in many countries around the world, including African and Asian countries, the European Union, and Switzerland, the home country of Syngenta, the main producer of paraquat. Nevertheless, it is still one of the world’s most widely used herbicides, especially in developing countries, where its use leads to the poisoning of countless workers and farmers.
 
The data, collected across six states in India, revealed that:
paraquat is sold in plastic carrying bags 
• even when it is sold in proper containers, many users can’t read the labels
• contrary to recommended use instructions, users mix it with other ingredients 
• users apply it with leaking knapsack sprayers and use it on crops that the herbicide is not approved for 
• personal protective equipment is nearly non-existent 
 
These practices increase exposure and the risk to human health. As a result, farmers and workers suffer from headaches, vomiting, burning sensations, breathing difficulty, muscle pain and/or abdominal discomfort. Chronic exposure can lead to lung, brain or skin damage.
 
Paraquat is being used on about 25 crops (in the study area) while the Central Insecticide Board & Registration Committee (CIBRC) of India has approved its use on only nine crops. Furthermore, manufacturers of paraquat (including the main manufacturer Syngenta) have recommended its use on crops not approved by the CIBRC; this is in violation of the Indian Insecticides Act. The study also shows that the use of paraquat in India violates the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management; and under the Code manufacturers, distributors and relevant authorities have a duty to change this untenable situation.
 
From May 12-14, the delegates of the 154 parties to the Rotterdam Convention will meet in Geneva to vote on a proposal to list the most common paraquat formulation in Annex III of the Convention. The result of this study underlines the urgent need for such a listing, which will first of all facilitate information exchange about its characteristics, and help countries to make an informed decision about its importation. We call on all parties to support the listing, to give countries the possibility to act in a responsible manner, and to protect human health.
 
 
For more information:
 
C. Jayakumar, PAN India: Tel: +91 944 7016587; Email: jayakumar.c@gmail.com
Dr. Narasimha Reddy Tel: +919010205742; Email: nreddy.donthi@gmail.com
 
Sue Longley, IUF: Tel: +41 22 793 2233; Email: sue.longley@iuf.org 
Sarojeni Rengam, PAN AP: Tel:+604 657 0271; Email: sarojeni.rengam@panap.net 
François Meienberg, Berne Declaration: Tel: +41 44 277 70 04; Email: food@evb.ch