Paraquat, the agrotoxic Made in Europe.


Paraquat, the Made in Europe agrotoxic that sickens and kills the planet’s farmers. Wide use in oil palm plantations

Paraquat is the Made in Europe agrotoxin that is poisoning farm workers around the world. Banned in Europe, it is still produced and exported to developing countries, where the profits of the few devour the rights of the many. To produce what then comes back to us in the form of palm oil in products.

The business of poisons

The dangers of glyphosate (1) have finally reached the attention of the general public. Its fate is sealed, and it will be replaced by a deadly new dicamba-based mix. The business of agrotoxics after all works this way, as we showed in the ebook ‘GMOs the Big Scam.

In contrast, paraquat belongs to the previous generation of chemical weapons in agriculture. A neurotoxic pesticide so poisonous that it can kill a human being with one small gulp. Poisoning victims-accidental and by suicide-each year number in the thousands, planet-wide.

Double standard

The use of paraquat in Europe has been outlawed since 2007. After the EU Court of Justice annulled Directive 112/2003/EC, insofar as the European Commission had authorized this substance, for failing to ‘meet the requirements of the protection of human and animal health.’ (2) We owe this to the initiative of the Kingdom of Sweden, with the support of Denmark, Finland and Austria.

However, the poison is still being produced in Europe for distribution in developing countries, where the giants’ lobbies have been able to ‘convince’ local rulers not to ban its use despite its serious danger to humans, animals and the environment. (3) Thus, the Swiss Syngenta group exports annually about 41,000 tons of paraquat now produced in Huddersfield (UK), until 2015 also to Belgium.

‘The fact that the EU has decided to ban the pesticide for health and environmental reasons, but they still export it to countries with far weaker regulation and far weaker controls, is shocking to me.’

(Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur to the United Nations on toxic waste)

Human rights then come into play, when in the name of profit, substances known to be seriously hazardous to health are exported. ‘While the UK has played a leading role in tackling modern slavery,’ explains Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur to the UN on toxic waste (4) – ‘a blind eye has been turned to the impact of UK activities on human rights, in terms of supply chains and value chains.’

Paraquat sickens and kills

The Luxembourg judges, in the 82-page ruling served to outlaw the poison in question, (5) considered various studies on its toxicity. Studies in Guatemala, Sri Lanka, and Spain have shown that even the use of masks and protective clothing are not enough to prevent users’ exposure to the toxic agent.

‘Syngenta, the creator and main seller of paraquat, currently makes profits from its sales to developing countries, knowing that farmers and workers have no possibility to protect themselves adequately which leads to high risk conditions of use and uncounted poisoning cases.’

(Francois Meienberg, Public Eye NGO, Berne Declaration)

Neurotoxicity is widely established, to the point that exposure to this pesticide is perhaps unique among the causes of Parkinson’s disease identified to date. (6) And that is why France has recognized Parkinson’s as an occupational disease for farmers beyond the Alps. Who, until 2007, sprayed paraquat on vineyards and olive groves, in particular.

Paraquat and palm oil

Oil palm crops are now the ones where the use of the neurotoxic pesticide is most prevalent. For one simple reason, flora and fauna tend to renew spontaneously in deforested tropical areas. Therefore, effective chemical weapons are needed to ensure the productivity of the crop, destroying all other sources of life. A broad-spectrum pesticide, more effective than glyphosate, is needed. Like paraquat, in fact. (7)

Poisoning, sickening and killing human beings-even children-who work in near-slavery conditions at the palm oil supply chain is a side effect, so to speak.

It remains for us, in the end, to decide whether the cost savings of producing our children’s snacks, the creaminess of Spalmella, or the biodiesel is worth that much. No thanks. Boycott palm oil, also for these reasons.

Dario Dongo


(1) Previous articles by the author on glyphosate, as of 2011, cited in footnote to the article

(2) Judgment 11.7.07 of the Court of First Instance in case T-229/04, at

(3) Business as usual, you might say. Recall that Monsanto continued to produce in the U.S. until 2004 the infamous Agent Orange, formerly used as a chemical weapon in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). We also wrote about this in ‘GMO the Big Scam’

(4) SEE

(5) See Note 2

(6) See, 13/9/881/pdf

(7) SEE