A former Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada employee is suing Switzerland-based agrichemical company Syngenta (NYSE:SYT) claiming prolonged exposure to the company’s herbicide products gave him Parkinson’s disease.
Wayne Gionet, of Victoria, filed a notice of civil claim under the Class Proceedings Act in BC Supreme Court on August 17, naming Syngenta AG and various subsidiaries as defendants. Gionet claims he worked at an experimental farm on Vancouver Island run by the federal agricultural department for 28 years beginning in the late 1970s. While working on the farm, Gionet claims, he worked with Syngenta’s Gramoxone herbicide products “extensively, often without appropriate personal protective equipment.”
In 2016, Gionet claims, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, having no idea that exposure to Gramoxone was linked with developing the neurodegenerative brain condition. According to the lawsuit, Gramoxone has been sold in Canada since 1963 as a weed-controlling herbicide commonly used by farmers on lands “where several crops were planted on the same land in a single growing season or year.” The main ingredient, Gionet claims, is a chemical called paraquat, whose properties as a herbicide were discovered by Syngenta’s corporate predecessor in 1955.
“Paraquat is highly toxic at the cellular level; it damages, destroys and injures by creating oxidative stress that causes or contributes to cell degeneration and death,” the claim states. “Paraquat has been banned in many countries around the world, including the 27 member countries of the European Union, because of its harmful effects on health.”
Other countries, Gionet claims, banned its use decades ago or imposed “severe restrictions” on its use, as Germany did in 1991. In Canada, according to the claim, Gramoxone products have undergone several evaluations by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency, but as recently as 2016 the agency’s informational pamphlet on the product “contained no mention or clarification of the risk between exposure to its active ingredient, paraquat, and Parkinson’s disease.”
“The Defendants knew or should have known of the risks associated with the use of and/or exposure to Gramoxone products,” the claim states. “Despite studies providing clear evidence of a link between the use and/or exposure to Gramoxone products and Parkinson’s disease … the Defendants failed to adequately investigate through post-marketing studies, tests and trials or to warn users of the significant and irreversible risks.”
Gionet seeks class certification and damages for battery, negligence and unjust enrichment. Allegations in the lawsuit have not been tested or proven in court, and Syngenta and its subsidiaries had not filed a response to the claim by press time.