Maharashtra farmers move Switzerland court against Syngenta

A group of farmers affected by the infection caused due to insecticide Polo sprayed on cotton crops in 2017 in Yavatmal district, Vidarbha has filed a petition in the Switzerland court against MNC Syngenta for the deaths of farmers and also making others physically unfit. They have demanded a complete ban on Polo, compensation and a liability from the company.

Syngenta spokesman in a mail said, ''As a matter of principle we do not comment on ongoing litigation.''

Widows of two farmers and a farmer who is suffering health issues since 2017 have filed a petition in the civil court for the city of Bale, Switzerland and also filed a complaint at OECD, Switzerland.

The petitioners have submitted that according to official data 886 patients were admitted for treatment in hospital for poisoning through insecticide spraying in the fall of 2017 alone. Among the poisoning victims, judicial records show 65 deaths due to “spraying of insecticides” in Maharashtra, with most of those deaths occurring in the Yavatmal district. Based on police records, at least 94 of the farmers poisoned in 2017 because of use of Polo insecticide either alone or in combination with other products.

The petitioners have identified 51 farmers and farm workers in Yavatmal who used the Polo and as a result suffered negative health impacts. All 51 farmers used the pesticide solely for the treatment of pests on cotton. According to the, the 51 farmers did not receive training on protective measures from Syngenta.

Ironically, the precautions expected include, first and foremost, following the directions that are printed on the container labels and leaflets. ‘’This typically includes wearing suitable personal protective equipment (PPE), ensuring careful storage and responsible disposal, as well as adhering to proper agricultural practices for mixing, loading and applying the pesticides. Professional PPE appropriate for the climatic conditions could not be obtained in the areas where the 51 farmers live and used Polo. The makeshift protective equipment used by some was and remains ineffective.

The petitioners have brought to the court’s notice that in Switzerland the product was withdrawn from the market and features on the list of pesticides banned due to its negative effects on human health and the environment. Yet, the company continues to sell the product in other countries.

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