European Union Bans the Herbicide Paraquat


(Beyond Pesticides, July 13, 2007)

A European Union (EU) court banned the toxic weedkiller paraquat Wednesday, accepting arguments from the Swedish government that it does not meet EU health standards. Paraquat is the main ingredient in Swiss-based Syngenta’s Gramoxone – one of the world’s three most widely used weedkillers.

Paraquat has been linked to reproductive effects and to Parkinson’s disease. Although paraquat had already been banned in 13 countries, including Sweden, Denmark, and Austria, in 2003, the Commission of European Communities (CEC) had issued an order approving the use of paraquat. Sweden challenged this order and the judges, in a previous decision, ruled that the CEC’s action showed a “disregard” of proper procedures.

In the new ruling, the Court of First Instance criticizes EU regulators for not checking more carefully whether paraquat could harm humans and animals before authorizing it for sale in 2003. The court said the European Commission – which regulates herbicides and pesticides – was mistaken when it found no signs that the chemical could cause nervous system diseases such as Parkinson’s and that regulators failed to review existing studies on paraquat – even though the chemical producers that asked for approval had not mentioned the adverse studies in their application.

The ruling is a victory for Sweden – supported by Denmark, Austria and Finland – which was angered by having to lift some of its strict environmental controls when it joined the EU in 1995 in order to conform with trade rules.

Paraquat, which has been in use for more than 60 years, attacks the green part of a plant, drying the leaves out to kill it without affecting the roots of crops below ground. Among the literature that links paraquat to Parkinson’s is an April 2007 study that finds farm workers exposed to paraquat have twice the expected risk of developing Parkinson’s. A 2005 study also confirms the link between paraquat and Parkinson’s.

Source: Associated Press

TAKE ACTION: Let the Bush Administration know that the United States should follow the EU’s lead and ban the toxic herbicide paraquat. Contact EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and send an email to President Bush. Also let your elected members of Congress know how you feel. Contact your U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives.