Syngenta: Influence / Lobbying

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a. Trade Associations, Lobby Groups and Opinion Forming

Syngenta are members of, or back, a number of trade associations and lobby groups including:

In early 2002 Syngenta along with BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow Agrosciences, DuPont and Monsanto set up the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC). Not to be confused with AEBC (the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission, the Government strategic advisory body on biotechnology issues affecting agriculture and the environment) the ABC is intended to be an information and education service on behalf of the UK agricultural biotechnology industry, promoting ‘a fair debate surrounding the production of GM crops’.[21] It is thought likely that the ABC will play an increasingly important role in representing the interests of the agricultural biotechnology industry during the UK public debate on GM crops in early 2003. Stephen Smith head of Syngenta Seeds Ltd and chair of the BSPB (see below) is also chair of the ABC. The ABC is the UK arm of Agricultural Biotechnology in Europe (ABE) which is a similar, but EU-wide, industry initiative.

Along with Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto and Bayer CropScience, Syngenta sponsors CropGen, an industry initiative which aims to ‘make the case for crop biotechnology and help achieve a more balanced debate about genetically modified (GM) crops in the UK.’ CropGen consists of a panel of independent, but very pro-GM, scientists and specialists[22]. The panel provides commentary on GM issues from a pro-GM, but supposedly non-corporate stance. CropGen claims that its panel of scientists is independent, pointing out that the companies have signed an undertaking that they cannot veto any of the scientific positions taken by the panel. Three of CropGen's 'independent' panel members, Dr Nigel Halford, Dr Peter Lutman and Dr Guy Poppy, work for the Institute of Arable Crops Research (IACR)[126] IACR is part of the research consortium which has contracts worth £3.3 million with the Government to conduct ecological monitoring of the farm-scale trials.[23] It also has research partnerships with Bayer CropScience, Novartis and DuPont [24]

Crop Protection Association
Syngenta is a member of the Crop Protection Association (formerly the British Agrochemicals Association). The CPA represents, and lobbies on behalf of, the agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology industry at a UK level. It is also one of the organisations that make up SCIMAC, the industry body established in June 1998 to support the ‘responsible and effective introduction of GM crops in the UK’. This includes running GM farm scale trials in conjunction with the Department of the Environment Transport and Regions (DETR).

European Crop Protection Association (ECPA)
The CPA is also affiliated to the ECPA. Syngenta along with the usual suspects (BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroScience, Dupont and Monsanto) make up the core membership of the ECPA. Based in Brussels the ECPA represents, promotes, and lobbies on behalf of the crop protection industry at a European level. Michael Pragnell, CEO of Syngenta AG, is president of the ECPA.

BSPB (British Society of Plant Breeders)
Syngenta Seeds is a member of the BSPB. Stephen Smith of Syngenta Seeds Ltd is chair of the board of the BSPB.[25] The BSPB represents the seed industry as a whole on technical, regulatory and intellectual property matters. As well as participating in SCIMAC (see below) recent BSPB activities have included lobbying for reforms to the UK seed certification process (including national seed listing trials) to reduce cost to plant breeders, lobbying both the UK government and EU for the acceptance of traces of GM material in supplies of non-GM seed. The BSPB have also lobbied hard for the introduction of a scheme whereby seed producers are remunerated by farmers for farm saved seed (i.e. seed not purchased from seed companies).[26]

SCIMAC (Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops)
SCIMAC was founded in June 1998 'to support the responsible and effective introduction of GM crops in the UK'. SCIMAC is responsible for the selection of sites for the government backed GM Farm Scale Trial programme. It also publishes a set of management guidelines for GM herbicide tolerant crops. [27]' Syngenta is a member of at least two of the five agricultural organisations that make up SCIMAC: British Society of Plant Breeders (BSPB), Crop Protection Association (CPA), National Farmers Union (NFU), United Kingdom Agricultural Supply Trade Association (UKASTA) and British Sugar Beet Seed Producers Association (BSBSPA).

Europabio (European Association for Bioindustries)
Syngenta belongs to of Europabio a European pro biotech lobby group which encourages the EU and national governments to develop policies that are supportive of biotechnology

International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
Whilst Syngenta is not listed as a member on the ICC website, its predecessors Sandoz, Ciba-Geigy, Novartis, Astra and Zeneca are all listed as members, and Dr Willy de Greef Head of Regulatory affairs at Syngenta is the chair of the ICC Commision on Biosociety. The ICC is the world’s largest business lobby group. It is compromised of over 7000 companies world-wide, and dominated by 50-100 of the worlds largest and most powerful transnational corporations. The ICC has always been a key player in the push for greater global market deregulation, trade liberalisation and industry self regulation, and has had a major influence on UN and WTO and agreements.

World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)
150 transnational corporations including Syngenta make up the WBCSD and are represented by their respective Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). It was formed in 1995 as a result of the amalgamation of the SCSD and the environmental wing of the ICC, the World Industry Council for Environment. The WBCSD professes that it is united by a 'shared commitment to sustainable development'. It claims to pursue this goal via the three pillars of economic growth, environmental protection and social equity.

Business Action on Sustainable Development (BASD)
BASD is a joint venture between ICC and WBCSD formed initially to represent the interests of corporations in the build up to, and during, the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (RIO+10) in Johannesburg in 2002. For more information on the BASD go to and

b. Research and education

UK Universities
Syngenta fund research and facilities in a number of UK universities including University of Reading[28] and University of Cambridge.[29]

John Innes Centre
Syngenta have recently withdrawn from a major research partnership with the John Innes Centre/Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich.[30] The partnership on wheat genomics research was initially instigated by one of Syngenta’s predecessor companies Zeneca and was worth £50 million[31]

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSCR)
The BBSRC is the body responsible for allocating state funding for research into biotechnology and biological science in the UK. As such the BBSRC has a huge degree of influence over the direction taken by researchers in these areas in UK universities. Syngenta is the most prominently represented company on the BBSRC’s board and committees. This includes Dr P Doyle Director of Syngenta AG (chair of the board), Dr S Bright (Strategy Board) Dr Andy Greenland (Genes Development and Biology Committee), Dr Ray Elliot (plant and microbial sciences committee) and Mr Kim Travis (Agri-food committee).[32]

University of California Berkeley
In 1998 the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology at the University of California, Berkeley signed a five-year collaborative research agreement worth up to $25 million with Novartis. In 2000 Syngenta agreed to carry on this programme of funding. It has been suggested that anxiety to maintain good relations with a major source of funding has been influential in the department’s backlash against the work of two of its academics. In late 2001 assistant professor Ignacio Chapela and graduate student David Quist published an article in the journal Nature which concluded that the native Mexican corn population had been contaminated by GM varieties, something that shouldn’t be possible as the commercial growing of GM corn is still illegal in Mexico. The article prompted a savage response from some members of the scientific community and was eventually retracted by Nature. Members of their own department were quick to condemn Chapela and Quist.[33]

Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
CGIAR operates a number of international agricultural research centres and seed banks whose mission statement is ‘To contribute to food security and poverty eradication in developing countries through research, partnerships, capacity building, and policy support, promoting sustainable agricultural development based on the environmentally sound management of natural resources.’[34] Founded in 1971 CGIAR is a collaborative venture with input and funding a number of organisations including the UN, the World Bank, various national development organisations and several private foundations (Ford, Kellogg, Rockefeller). In November 2002 it was announced that the Syngenta Foundation had become a member of the governing board of CGIAR. The appointment of the Syngenta Foundation has prompted fierce criticism from NGOs involved in CGIAR. They are angry at the lack of accountability shown by the organization, its increasingly pro-business, pro-corporate and pro-biotechnology policies, its failure to protect farmer rights and its failure to protect the material held in its gene banks from appropriation by corporations.[35]

c. PR Companies

Syngenta has links to a number of public relations (PR) companies in the UK.

ABC (see above) was set up and is operated PR company Weber Shandwick
ABE (see above) web site is owned by GCI Mannov[36] Grey Communications
The day to day running of CropGen (see above) is handled by Countrywide Porter Novelli

[21] ABC press release on the UK public debate on GM crops available online at (viewed 25,10,02)

[22] information from (viewed 23,10,2002)

[23]information from Genewatch briefing ‘Farm Scale Trials of GM Crops’ available online at (viewed 27,10,2002)

[24] information from the IACR website available at (viewed 23,10,2002)

[25] information from BSPB Annual Review available online at (viewed 23,10,2002)

[26] information from (viewed (27,10,2002)

[27] the SCIMAC Guidelines are available online at (viewed 25,10,02), A critique of the SCIMAC Code of Practice and Guidelines for Growing Genetically Modified Crops by Friends of the Earth SCIMAC:a href=""> (viewed 25,10,2002)

[28] information from University of Reading Department of Plant Sciences homepage available online at (viewed 29,10,2002)

[29] information from University of Cambridge website available online at (viewed 29,10,2002)

[30] information from (viewed 29,10,2002)

[31]Syngenta press release 16,09,1998 available online at (viewed 29,10,2002)

[32] information from and
[33] ‘SYNGENTA-GATE - UC DEPARTMENT TORN OVER CORN RESEARCH: UC Department Torn Over Corn Research Scientist’s Reputation May Be Damaged’ ANGEL BREWER / Daily Californian 09,04,02 available online at (viewed 30,10,2002) see also ‘Novartis revisited’ available online at (viewed 30,10,2002)

[34] information from CGIAR ‘about us’ page available online at (viewed 05,11,02)

[35] information from ‘CGIAR openly adopts corporate agenda’ AgBioIndia Mailing List, 05,11,2002 available online at
[36] information from a search for using