MAPPP et al v. Syngenta

No description
September 17, 2020
Final judgment
International, Bern

Environmental NGOs, Farm/rural workers, Farmers
Maharashtra Association of Pesticide Poisoned Persons (MAPPP), Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India, Public Eye, European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), Pesticides Action Network Asia Pacific (PANAP)
No description

Polo, Diafenthiuron, Insecticid
A mediation through the Swiss OECD National Contact Point (NCP) over alleged pesticide poisonings in Yavatmal caused by Syngenta’s insecticide Polo.
Swiss National Contact Point of the OECD of Bern, International

June 16, 2022
The Swiss NCP closes the specific instance.

On June 16, 2022, the Swiss National Contact Point (NCP) for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises officially closed the mediation procedure initiated in 2020 by five NGOs calling on the Swiss company Syngenta to recognize and compensate the damage suffered by 51 cotton farmers in the Yavatmal region of India.

In 2017, following exposure to Polo, an insecticide containing diafenthiuron produced by the Syngenta company, many farmers in the Yavatmal region showed signs of poisoning, impaired vision, and gastrointestinal problems resulting in work incapacity and, in some cases, hospitalization. As a result, the economic situation of affected farmers has deteriorated dramatically. Given the inadequacy of the financial aid granted by the Maharashtra government to support the victims, and in view of the seriousness of the symptoms, a group of 51 farmers supported by five associations have submitted a request for mediation to the Swiss National Contact Point, with the aim of repairing the damage caused to the victims. The requesting associations also called for an end to the manufacture and sale of Polo to rural farmers in India, due to the systematic absence of the protective equipment necessary for the use of this type of product. The plaintiff associations also wanted Syngenta to ensure that the labeling of its products effectively informs of the risks associated with their use, and fully complies with national legislation and OECD guidelines on good labeling practice.

Mediation began on December 15, 2020 under the offices of the Swiss NCP, and four sessions of negotiations took place between the various parties during the months of March to August 2021. No agreement was reached between the plaintiff associations and Syngenta on the recognition and compensation of the damage suffered by the 51 farmers.

In parallel to this mediation, three conciliation proceedings were brought before the Civil Court of Basel-Stadt by a farmer and two widows of farmers who died as a result of Polo poisoning in the Yavatmal region. For this reason, Syngenta refused to elaborate on the causal link between exposure to Polo and the damage suffered by the victims.

On June 16, 2022, the Swiss NCP ruled in favor of Syngenta, recognizing that discussions concerning this causal link would create serious prejudice for Syngenta in view of the ongoing legal proceedings. As the mediation procedure before the NCP is a non-contentious and non-binding international procedure, the course and outcome of which is left to the discretion of the parties by mutual agreement, the resolution of the dispute necessarily depends on the goodwill of the company in question.

For the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights, one of the five plaintiff associations, the NCP mediation procedure in Switzerland thus demonstrates "once again the shortcomings of this non-judicial mechanism, which relies entirely on the goodwill of companies and fails to provide a remedy for victims of human rights violations."