The New Lede exposes Syngenta’s efforts to conceal weedkiller link to Parkinson’s disease

Chemical giant Syngenta for decades plotted to hide its own scientific evidence and undermine independent research showing a link between exposure to the company’s weedkiller paraquat and Parkinson’s disease, as revealed in The New Lede’s latest scoop.

The New Lede, a nonprofit news organization, late last week published its blockbuster exposé on the attempt to influence science. The article was based on a trove of internal Syngenta documents, emails and meeting notes, among other sources. The files were made public in the court-ordered discovery process of a lawsuit against Syngenta filed by farmers diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

The documents detail how the Swiss chemical company used researchers and lawyers to water down its own science linking the herbicide to Parkinson’s. Syngenta also touted “independent” studies that found no connection between the chemical and the disease.

Executives created a “PQ SWAT TEAM” that included Syngenta’s head of corporate communications and others. The group, also known as the “Paraquat Communications Management Team,” was set up to “respond immediately” and prepare “to triage the situation” when independent studies were published linking paraquat exposure to Parkinson’s. 

Syngenta also hired an outside attorney who suggested edits to internal communications and pushed company scientists to alter “problematic language” and scientific conclusions deemed “unhelpful” to Syngenta’s defense of paraquat, The New Lede reports.

The scoop comes just weeks after The New Lede received a top recognition from leading U.S. agriculture journalists for an investigation into how Syngenta knew the health dangers of paraquat as far back as the 1960s but hid the information from regulators and the public.

Syngenta’s disturbing pattern of hiding information about paraquat’s link to Parkinson’s raises ethical questions and undermines the integrity of scientific research funded by corporations. 

The latest story, like many others by The New Lede, is co-published with The Guardian.

Full disclosure: The New Lede, which launched in May 2022, is a journalism initiative of EWG and is a distinct service that operates independently of the organization’s advocacy and communications units. EWG has no influence on editorial decision-making at The New Lede.


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.


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