Faces of those affected

Pesticide Portraits

Hugo Alves dos Santos


02 / 04

A whole school is being poisoned

In May 2013, teacher Hugo Alves witnessed the scene when over 90 children and adults were poisoned by a highly hazardous insecticide produced by Syngenta. An agricultural plane accidentally sprayed the school. This is the story behind Hugo’s portrait, painted with water polluted by pesticides.

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Goiás Brazil

“Schools in rural areas often face cases of poisoning by pesticide. But if you protest about it, you can run into trouble.” Hugo teaches in the Rio Verde region, an important agri-business centre. Since the pesticide was accidentally sprayed on his school, he’s had recurring health problems and suffers from asthma. But the worst trauma was the suffering of the children: “They passed out, time and again. They screamed at me not to let them die.” Even today, five years on, these scenes torment him at night. The case led to Syngenta Brazil being convicted by a regional federal court in March 2018 – but the company only had to pay a small fine.

“There are regularly cases of pesticide poisonings in our schools”

Hugo Alves dos Santos Teacher

Recently, Hugo was exposed to highly hazardous pesticides once again, in another school in Rio Verde. He wants to make sure that all victims of the incident at his school, as well as all victims of pesticide poisonings, are finally listened to. He demands that both politicians and companies better protect the public. “Syngenta should stop turning a blind eye. It should acknowledge the impact that its pesticides have on human health, and do something about it.”

“Syngenta should stop turning a blind eye to this situation. It should acknowledge the impact that its pesticides are having on human health, and do something about it.”

Syngenta, no to highly hazardous pesticides!

Syngenta makes nearly CHF 4 billion annually selling ‘highly hazardous’ pesticides (according to the list produced by the international Pesticide Action Network). This toxic but very lucrative business is at the core of the Swiss giant’s business model.

Highly hazardous pesticides endanger millions of people in developing and emerging countries. Syngenta takes advantage of weak regulations in countries like Brazil or India to sell pesticides banned in Switzerland due to their effects on human health or the environment. In India, thousands of farmers are poisoned every year. In Brazil, millions are exposed to a toxic cocktail of pesticides in drinking water.

Highly hazardous pesticides are a ticking time-bomb. More and more studies show a link between exposure to pesticides and a rise in cases of cancer, Parkinson’s disease or congenital malformations.

We call on Syngenta, global leader in this irresponsible business, to stop making profits at the expense of the health of millions of people. Syngenta must stop producing and selling highly hazardous pesticides.

The petition was signed by almost 38,000 people. It was presented to Syngenta on August 22, 2019 at the Syngenta headquarters in Basel.