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Syngenta takes proactive approach to compensation

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BASEL, Switzerland—A Swiss agrochemicals company is compensating former employees who contracted bladder cancer after working with an insecticide, and will fund cancer-prevention programs.

Syngenta International A.G. announced the moves earlier this month. While it is not disclosing the amounts paid to nine former employees and the families of two others who died of bladder cancer, the chemical maker said it will use 250,000 Swiss francs (€157,063) to fund the prevention programs that will be developed with the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund.

A spokesman for Basel-based Syngenta said insurance was not used to fund the compensation or the prevention programs. No suits have been filed related to the illnesses that some research has suggested could be from exposure to chlordimeform, the active ingredient in the pesticide Galecron made at Syngenta's Monthey, Switzerland plant.

There has been no conclusive scientific evidence to suggest the chemical induces bladder cancer.

Galecron was made from 1966 until 1976 and again from 1978 until 1988 by Ciba-Geigy, a company since acquired by Novartis, which merged with AstraZeneca's agriculture business to form Syngenta six years ago.

Ciba-Geigy first halted production of the insecticide as the product's safety was questioned and research into worker exposure was completed. It was relaunched with approval from authorities in several countries, but removed from the market in 1988 when further research showed a possible risk to those handling Galecron.

Syngenta is monitoring 289 other former employees who worked with the insecticide and if any of them become ill with bladder cancer, they will be compensated as well, according to the spokesman.

While the amount of compensation was not revealed, a spokesman for the trade union Unia in Bern confirmed that it was less than 500,000 Swiss francs (€314,157) per recipient.

All former employees who came in contact with Galecron have access to a monitoring program operated by Syngenta to track their health.