Poisonous Profits: Exposing A Scandal

Details have emerged showing that Syngenta dragged its feet for decades in curbing deaths related to paraquat poisoning. Help us pass legislation banning this and other dangerous pesticides. Action Alert!

Internal company documents that have come to light due to litigation concerning paraquat’s link to Parkinson’s disease detail decades of resistance to making a safer version of paraquat, a potent herbicide that is one of the most widely used weedkillers in the United States, that has killed tens of thousands of people around the world since hitting the market in the 1960s. This underscores the urgent need to ban paraquat and other dangerous herbicides that pose a threat to human health.

Since drinking even one sip of paraquat can be lethal, it is used in suicides; in Taiwan, researchers say it causes 160 deaths a year. After South Korea banned paraquat, there was a 10% decline in suicides. Syngenta was aware of the lethality of its product as early as 1968, when a staff scientist suggested adding a chemical to paraquat (called an emetic) that would make those who ingested it vomit and thus prevent death. Documents dating from that time show that Syngenta rejected or resisted many different options for changes to its paraquat formulation to make it safer, in part to protect their bottom line. 

An emetic was eventually added, but at too low of a dose to actually save lives. After more than a decade of the addition of the emetic, the company considered other formulations that would be safer, such as diluting the formulation, but it was determined that such measures would “destroy group profit from paraquat,” according to an internal company memo. 

These documents have come to light thanks to a pending class action in which plaintiffs, represented by the firm Korein Tillery, allege that, not only does paraquat cause Parkinson’s disease, but Syngenta knew about it and covered it up. Meanwhile, the EPA denies that there is a causal relationship between Parkinson’s and paraquat. Yet a 2011 study found that workers exposed to paraquat had more than double the risk of developing Parkinson’s. In fact, paraquat is so good at causing Parkinson’s that researchers routinely give it to mice to create an animal model. Multiple studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) show clear links between the chemical and Parkinson’s. It’s about as persuasive as these things can get,” said one NIH researcher.

Clearly the EPA is part of the problem. We need Congressional action to protect us from paraquat and other dangerous pesticides. There is currently a bill in Congress (HR 7940, The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act) that would (among other things):

  • Ban organophosphates, neonicotinoids, and paraquat. 
  • Suspend the registration of pesticides banned in the European Union and require an emergency review of those pesticides.
  • Close loopholes that allow the EPA to issue conditional registrations to allow pesticides to be used before they have gone through full health and safety review.

These chemicals pose a threat to us all, not only because of their acute effects but also in their contributions to chronic disease. Let’s support this important measure.

Action Alert! Write to Congress in support if HR 7940. Please send your message immediately.


  1. Pesticides cause many diseases. Let’s farm organically and use natural, herbal repellants.

  2. We need Congressional action to protect us from paraquat and other dangerous pesticides. There is currently a bill in Congress (HR 7940, The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act) that would (among other things):
    Ban organophosphates, neonicotinoids, and paraquat.
    Close loopholes that allow the EPA to issue conditional registrations to allow pesticides to be used before they have gone through full health and safety review.

  3. So sick of greedy people doing things that take life away and our beautiful creatures. This must stop.

  4. Tight regularly are needed to protect the health of the general public and not to “protect” the bottom line if these companies.
    For example, Paraquat… 1 drop of this chemical can kill since it can kill via transdermal or ingestion. Paraquat will freeze and make the lungs brittle and resulting in death. Ingestion causes neurological problems at low dosages, but only 1 drop of Paraquat will kill. Many countries ban this and other pesticides for good reason.

  5. Paraquat is a very dangerous chemical and this has been known for years. And to allow it’s continued use is unconscionable, perhaps even genocide.

  6. Writing to Congress is one thing, but putting the same two Parties in office year after year is simply going to result in the same outcomes. To anyone paying attention to the facts that, since the 26th Amendment was ratified, we have had a growing national debt, a deficit economy just about every year, a 1% class that watched their spending power grow from 8% of the nation’s total wealth to over 42%, while the working class saw their spending power stagnate or drop, and it did not matter at all whether the Democrat or the Republican Party was in power. Both Parties only focus on what is good for corporations and the wealthy, and ignore the 95% poorer citizens. We need a third party in power in order to correct this, and we cannot get that as long as we have so many people that vote just along party lines, rather than for the best candidate for the job.

  7. Syngenta should be ashamed of themselves disrespecting humanity and using this in the guise of protecting plants! This is evil!!! I vomit when I read this!


  9. Farmers worldwide are fighting back against the stranglehold of enforced bad practices, complete gov take-overs and many other constant battles the smaller, independent food producer’s(& their customers) face. Look at the Punjabi – Jatt farmers protests. These people are amazing. What are WE doing to straighten out, our own countless problems with the big food system? Seems petrol & other big chemicals rule us all…even our rulers.

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