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Banned in Europe: How the EU Exports Pesticides Too Dangerous for Use in Europe

Public Eye and Unearthed reveal for the first time the extent to which the European Union (EU) allows the export of certain pesticides even though it bans their use on its own fields. Our investigation shows the hypocrisy of allowing agrochemical companies to flood low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) with substances deemed too dangerous for European agriculture. The Basel-based giant Syngenta plays a leading role.

Syngenta’s best-selling pesticide, paraquat, is so dangerous that just one sip can be lethal. Chronic exposure, even at low doses, can cause Parkinson's disease. The deadly pesticide was first marketed in 1962, but has been banned in the European Union (EU) since 2007, as well as in Switzerland since 1989, on the grounds that it is too dangerous for European farmers even when wearing protective equipment.

Despite this, Syngenta continues to manufacture the herbicide at its plant in Huddersfield, UK, and export it to countries in South America, Asia and Africa, where it causes thousands of poisonings every year. Our investigation shows that in 2018, British authorities approved the export of more than 28,000 tonnes of a mixture based on paraquat.