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In landmark move, Yavatmal pesticide contact poisoning victims file case in Basel against agrochemical company Syngenta

In a first, a group of farmers from Yavatmal, Maharashtra, who suffered from contact pesticide poisoning in 2017, have filed a complaint along with their families, against the Switzerland-based agrochemical multinational company Syngenta in two separate instances. Syngenta manufactures the pesticide Polo which many of the farmers used to spray on cotton...

In 2017, over 60 farmers died, and hundreds were affected reportedly by the increased use of pesticides sprayed without any protective gear, on the cotton crop in Yavatmal and other districts of Maharashtra...

The specific instance complaint seeks remedy for violating OECD Guidelines Chapters II, IV and VII by Syngenta AG, and Syngenta India Ltd. for selling its pesticide Polo to the Yavatmal farmers who subsequently suffered severe negative health impacts from pesticide poisoning...

The farmers are demanding that Syngenta refrain from selling hazardous pesticides to small-scale farmers in India, the use of which requires Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to small  and for which – like in the case of Polo – no antidote is available in case of poisoning. In addition, the company should pay compensation to the 51 victim families for treatment costs and loss of income...

In a separate matter, also on 17 September, a survivor of poisoning and two women whose husbands died due to contact poisoning, filed lawsuits against Syngenta in a civil court in Bern, demanding monetary compensation for loss of lives and suffering, according to Dr Narasimha Reddy, advisor to PAN India and the (MAPPP). The claim is based on product liability, as one of the active ingredients in the pesticide Polo (diafenthiuron) came directly from Switzerland. ECCHR supports the complainants, who are represented by its partner law firm Schadenanwaelte...

The complaints are filed in the framework of the Responsible Business Initiative, part of an international movement and member of the European Coalition for Corporate Justice under which companies will be legally obliged to incorporate respect for human rights and the environment in all their business activities. This mandatory due diligence will also be appliedto Swiss based companies’ activities abroad.

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