A new report from The Guardian alleges that Syngenta tried to hide the link between the herbicide paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.
The report alleges that, according to internal corporate documents, Syngenta tried to covertly influence research done by scientists into the connection between paraquat and Parkinson’s disease.
Syngenta has always claimed that evidence linking Parkinson’s disease with paraquat is “inconclusive” and “fragmentary.” However, the report claims this “evidence” was created and manipulated by officials, lawyers and scientists hired by Syngenta.
The report claims that Syngenta:
- Enlisted scientists who produced scientific literature which failed to disclose them being involved with Syngenta
- Misled regulators regarding the existence of research its own scientists did which was unfavorable
- Had lawyers review scientific reports and suggest edits to them in order to downplay findings which were worrisome
- Created a “swat team” intended to quickly respond to scientific reports about paraquat which were unfavorable
- Established the goal of creating a worldwide scientific consensus that paraquat is not a Parkinson’s disease risk factor
Hiding Paraquat’s Dangers With The Help Of Lawyers
Syngenta, according to the report, hired a lawyer to work with Syngenta scientists, review their work and suggest edits to their work. This lawyer allegedly encouraged scientists to change “problematic language” as well as scientific conclusions which were seen as “unhelpful” regarding the success of paraquat.
According to the report, defense lawyer Jeffrey Wolff attended a meeting of Syngenta scientists in 2008. The meeting’s purpose was discussion of recent research regarding Parkinson’s disease and paraquat.
The report states that Wolff spent a half hour telling the scientists how to take notes and manage communications, using methods which could let Syngenta later hide them from the public via claiming attorney client privilege when litigation occurs.
Wolff, according to the report, advised Syngenta on how to improve a document about paraquat science strategy in case it ended up in the hands of “adversaries.”
In July 2008, according to the report, Wolff was emailed by a Syngenta lawyer. The Syngenta lawyer requested that Wolff review minutes and notes of internal meetings about the risks of paraquat exposure. Wolff was told that some statements were potentially “unhelpful.”
Wolff, according to the report, was told that paraquat animal lab tests found that paraquat exposure caused a loss of dopaminergic neurons in the brain, that this was “adverse in nature,” and that this was “potentially qualitatively relevant to man.” The loss of dopaminergic neurons in the brain is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.
Wolff, according to the report, responded by suggesting that the phrase “and to be adverse in nature” be removed. Wolff also allegedly questioned how the suggestion that the findings were possibly relevant to humans was phrased, and agreed that the overall statement was “unhelpful.”
According to the report, Wolff also worked with a Syngenta lawyer to edit a Syngenta scientist’s presentation to Syngenta leadership which was about the link between Parkinson’s disease and paraquat. Wolf was allegedly concerned about the “sensitive nature of the subject” and “blunt statements,” and suggested that only one electronic copy should be presented since it wasn’t in the company’s interest for numerous copies of the presentation to be circulated. Wolf allegedly suggested that a statement in the presentation which stated that data provided plausibility to the link between Parkinson’s disease and paraquat be deleted.
According to the report, Wolff also, while reviewing a slideshow, recommended that a statement saying “we can show loss of [brain] cells” related to paraquat exposure be deleted because it was “unhelpful” and verified “unhelpful” claims in scientific literature regarding paraquat. Wolff also allegedly asked scientists to change a slide which suggested that exposure to paraquat causes cell death and neuronal cell damage.
In 2009, according to the report, when Syngenta was preparing for a scientific study which would involve interviewing former workers regarding paraquat exposure, Wolff advised that lawyers should interview the workers instead of scientists so they could keep the interviews confidential, citing attorney-client privilege.
Syngenta Allegedly Tried To Influence Researchers’ Work
In 2003, numerous scientific researchers were reporting evidence that paraquat might be causing Parkinson’s disease.
According to the report, Syngenta responded by deciding in a June 2003 meeting to formulate a strategy that focused on “external influencing” in order to diffuse “potential threats.”
The company, according to the report, decided to try to influence external researchers’ future work when possible.
The report claims an important strategy was engaging outside scientists who might write papers which would support the company’s defense of the herbicide.
The report alleges Syngenta had a consulting arrangement with pathologist Sir Colin Berry, who was the British Academy of Forensic Sciences’ president. The report alleges Berry participated in Syngenta’s “extended health science team” and attended Syngenta meetings about paraquat. The report alleges that similar relationships existed between Syngenta and numerous other scientists who wrote papers for scientific journals.
Berry was the co-author of “Paraquat and Parkinson’s Disease,” which found a weak link between the disease and paraquat, finding that evidence linking paraquat with Parkinson’s was “limited” and that the evidence was founded on “insufficient” data.
The paper did not disclose that any of its authors had any relationship with Syngenta.
However, according to the report, a memo from a lawyer who advised Syngenta suggested that Berry’s work on the paper was actually “Syngenta-sponsored.” That memo also allegedly suggested that if the public knew that Syngenta sponsored Berry’s work on the paper, “adverse consequences” could result.
Syngenta Allegedly Hid Results Of Animal Experiments
A Syngenta scientist named Louise Marks, according to the report, underwent a series of studies on mice from 2003 through 2007, confirming that mice exposed to paraquat experienced a drop of dopamine levels in the brain. A drop of dopamine levels in the brain is a hallmark of Parkinson’s disease.
Syngenta, according to the report, failed to publish this research or share this research with the EPA. The report claims that Syngenta instead said to the EPA in 2013 that their internal studies found that large doses of paraquat failed to reduce the number of dopaminergic neurons in mice, directly contradicting Marks’ research.
Syngenta, according to the report, then gave a presentation to the EPA in 2017 stating that Syngenta’s studies on animals failed to find that paraquat significantly affected the number of dopaminergic neurons. The company again failed to mention Marks’ findings to the EPA during this presentation, according to the report. The presentation allegedly concluded that the herbicide had “no effect” on brains and that a link between Parkinson’s disease and paraquat was “not supported.”
According to the report, Syngenta was asked in a deposition if the presentation to the EPA was “a lie.” Montague Dixon, a Syngenta executive, allegedly responded that Syngenta wasn’t hiding the Marks studies’ results from the agency, but was rather making the choice to focus on different studies.
Syngenta also, according to the report, formed a “swat team” to quickly identify and respond to negative outside research regarding paraquat. This team allegedly included scientists, company legal department representatives and company corporate affairs representatives.
According to the report, this team would hold meetings immediately upon being notified of any publication that needed to be reviewed. At these meetings, according to the report, the team would review the publication and agree to actions such as producing proactive media releases and commissioning scientific critiques for publication.
A 2011 email, according to the report, discussed a scientific study done by outside scientists that analyzed Parkinson’s risk factors. The email allegedly suggested that the team produce a Syngenta “position statement.” The email also allegedly suggested the team produce a “broader critical review of the approach” which was utilized by the outside scientists in the paper.
Paraquat And Parkinson’s Disease
Paraquat exposure has been linked by numerous scientific studies to an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.
One of the most important studies on this subject, “Rotenone, Paraquat, and Parkinson’s Disease,” examined Agricultural Health Study data and found that exposure to paraquat increases one’s risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 2.5 times.
Lawsuits allege that paraquat can cause Parkinson’s disease by creating oxidative stress in the brain, and that this oxidative stress kills neurons in the brain which produce dopamine. Dopamine is critical for the brain’s control of our motor functions, and these neurons don’t grow back when they die. So, when too many of these neurons die, dopamine levels drop too low and the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are the result.
Parkinson’s disease causes motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, slow movement and trouble walking.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease, which progressively worsens over time. Its progression cannot be stopped or slowed.
Treatments exist for the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but their effectiveness tends to lessen over time and they can have unwanted side effects. The treatments can also be very expensive.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after being exposed to paraquat, you may be facing a lifetime of huge medical bills related to the diagnosis. Call us today for a free consultation. We can help you recover financial compensation from paraquat’s manufacturers which can pay for the lifetime of treatment made necessary by this terrible disease.
We won’t charge you any fee to represent you against the manufacturers of paraquat until and unless we recover money for you. Call us today for a free consultation.