Paraquat is a common pesticide that is used by farmers across the world to clear their fields of weeds. They spray the liquid on plots of land prior to cultivation and the weeds die within a few days. The chemical becomes inactivated on contact with the soil, so new crops are not impacted.
But despite its efficacy and its wide use, activists and doctors in India have fought for years to have paraquat banned.
This is because it is frequently ingested by those seeking to end their own lives. And unlike many other pesticides, paraquat has no antidote. As one toxicologist said, “In my experience as a toxicology expert, paraquat is the most lethal poison I have encountered.”
For Common Ground, Johanna Deeksha met families who had lost loved ones to the pesticide, and spoke to experts and activists about why they believe paraquat must be banned outright. “Often, family members said the patients regretted their decision and didn’t realise that paraquat could be fatal,” Deeksha said. “The fact that there aren’t enough steps being taken to address this issue really surprised me.”