Syngenta Company Profile

Syngenta is one of the biggest agricultural companies in the world, selling seeds and chemicals. It has been involved in controversies around GM and pesticides.

You can find Corporate Watch articles on Syngenta and our 2002 Company Profile in the right hand column of this page.

There is also lots of useful information on Syngenta’s website:

  • Click here to find out what products the company is selling.

  • Click here to find out who’s on Syngenta’s board of directors.

  • Click here to download Syngenta’s latest annual report and accounts.

For a more critical perspective on Syngenta’s work try Powerbase, or the Landless Workers Movement (MST) website.


1. The Company

Industry Areas

Seeds (including GM), agrochemicals

Market share/importance

Syngenta is the largest agribusiness company in the world. In 2000 Syngenta was the worlds largest manufacturer of agrochemicals,[1] the third largest owner of plant biotechnology patents[2] and the third largest seed supplier.[3] Syngenta has more than 20,000 employees in 20 countries worldwide[4] and sales of over USD $6 billion.[5]


Syngenta is a powerful player in the introduction of GM crops both in the UK and globally. Despite being a ‘new’ company, Syngenta inherits the dubious legacies of both its parent companies, Novartis and AstraZeneca, promoters of GM technology and producers of hazardous chemicals. Syngenta was formed in December 1999 with the spin-off and merger of the agrochemical and seed division of Novartis (a Swiss lifesciences company formed in 1996 by the merger of two giant Swiss chemical/pharmaceutical companies Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz), and the agrochemicals and biotechnology research divisions of AstraZeneca (a British lifesciences company formed in 1999 by the acquisition of Astra AB, a Swedish pharmaceutical company, by Zeneca, a British chemicals and biotechnology company, formerly part of ICI). Astra Zeneca has retained its seed interests, a 50% stake in Advanta, a joint venture with Cosun.

In the late 1990s Novartis and AstraZeneca were keen to establish themselves as ‘lifesciences’ companies and exploit the potential synergies between their pharmaceutical, chemical and agricultural sectors. Both invested heavily in acquiring seed and biotechnology companies. However, the strain of having to manage several very different sectors more than out weighed the savings made during basic research ‘synergies’.[6] The Syngenta spin-off was a result of the poor performance of both Novartis’ and AstraZeneca’s agribusiness divisions during 1999, largely caused by the global backlash against GM crops. The creation of Syngenta has enabled parent companies Novartis and AstraZeneca to make considerable savings, and to rid themselves of their controversial agricultural biotechnology ventures. Syngenta has so far managed to avoid the public vilification Monsanto attracted, and has been quietly getting on with developing some of the most controversial applications of agricultural biotechnology including genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs)/traitor technology. End of year results for 2001 show that all is not going well for Syngenta: sales are down by 4% and European opposition to GM crops is said to be costing the company tens of millions of dollars.[7]

References [1] Barbara Dinham, 2001, ‘Corporate Change’, Pesticides Action Network UK available online at (viewed 26,03,02)

[2] ‘Globalization Inc. Concentration in Corporate Power: The Unmentioned Agenda’, ETC Communiqué 2001, available on-line at (viewed 26,03,2002)

[3] ‘Globalization Inc. Concentration in Corporate Power: The Unmentioned Agenda’, ETC Communiqué 2001, available on-line at (viewed 26,03,2002)

[4] figures from Syngenta available online at (viewed 26,03,2002)

[5] ‘Syngenta Full Year Results 2001’ published 28,02,2002 available online at (viewed 26,03,2002)

[6] Syngenta CEO Michael Pragnell quoted in ‘Green and Dying’ in The Economist 16.11.00. available on line at (viewed 26,03,2002)

[7] ‘Syngenta earnings flat’, David Firn, Financial Times; 01,03,2002 available on line at (viewed 26,03,2002)

Products and Projects

2.1 Agrochemicals


Agrochemicals accounted for over 85% of Syngenta’s turnover in 2001.[8]


Herbicides (UK products are marked with *)

AAtrex®, Gesaprim®, Dual®, Bicep®, Callistro®, Flex®, Fusilade®, Gramoxone®(paraquat), Reglone®, Topik®, Touchdown® (a glyphosate based product licensed for use on RoundUp Ready crops in the US), Alto*, Dosaflo*, FlexFoundation*, Gesagard*, Gesagard*


Fungicides (UK products are marked with *)

Amistar®, Bravo®, Ridomil®, Apron® XL*, Ridomil Gold®, Score®, Tilt®, Unix®, Divora*, Favour*, Folio*, Fongarid*


Insecticides (UK products are marked with *)

Actara®/Cruiser ®, Force®, Proclaim®, Karate®, Vertimec®, Insgar*, Plenium*


Seed treatments (UK products are marked with *)

Apron® XL*, Dividend®, Maxim® / Celest®, Cruiser ®, Beret*


2.2 Seeds


Seeds accounted for approximately 15% of Syngenta’s turnover in 2001.[9]


2.21. Non GM crops


Syngenta produce the NK® range of hybrid seeds including corn, soya, sunflower, oil seed rape and other field crops. Other Syngenta seed products include Proshield? Corn, Hilleshög® Sugar beet, S&G® and Rogers® vegetables including cauliflower, sweet corn, beans, peas, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and melons, and S&G® Flowers.


2.22. GM Crops


On of Syngenta’s most controversial enterprises is the development and commercialisation of GM crops. Although very prominent in this field under 3% of Syngenta’s sales in 2001 come from GM crops. [10]


Functional Foods


Zeneca’s slow ripening tomato was the first GM food product to be marketed in Europe in spring 1996, this line has since been discontinued.


Insect Resistant Crops

Syngenta supplies two varieties of GM Bt insect resistant corn. NK® YieldGard® and NK® Knockout® (also called Event 176 or Maximiser) insect resistant Bt corn. NK® Knockout® is the only GM crop approved for commercial growing in the EU.


Herbicide Tolerant Crops


Syngenta (Astra-Zeneca/Novartis) has conducted UK field trials of both Liberty Link and RoundUp Ready sugar beet. In the US Syngenta already markets a number of soya and maize crop lines incorporating Liberty Link and RoundUp Ready traits licensed from Aventis/Bayer and Monsanto respectively. It also markets its own version of glyphosate (RoundUp), called Touchdown for application on RoundUp ready crops[11]. Syngenta is currently developing a range of GM crops with ‘Acuron’ herbicide tolerance.[12]


For details of GM crops developed by Syngenta (and old crop lines developed by Novartis and Astra Zeneca) go to


For details of Syngenta crops currently undergoing field trials in the UK go to DEFRA GMO Public Register Index,[13]


References [8] Calculated from figures in Syngenta Annual Review 2001 available online at (viewed 23.10.2002)

[9] Calculated from figures in Syngenta Annual Review 2001 available online at (viewed 23.10.2002)

[10] Calculated from figures in Syngenta Annual Review 2001 available online at (viewed 23.10.2002)

[11] ‘Comparison of Touchdown® with IQ Technology TM/Roundup UltraMax’ available online at [12] ‘Novartis Announces New Herbicide Tolerance Technology’, Novartis Press release 19,02,1999, archived online at [13] DEFRA GMO Public Register Index,

Who, Where, How Much?

3.1 Syngenta Global


At an international level Syngenta is owned and operated by Syngenta International AG based in Switzerland.


a. Contact Details


Syngenta International AG

Schwartzwaldallee 215,

4058 Basel,


Tel +41616971111


b. Directors


Syngenta International AG is run by the following board of directors[14]


Heinz Imhof Chair of the board of directors of Syngenta and head of the chair’s committee. Previous appointments include Head of Novartis’ Agribusiness division and a member of the Novartis executive committee; Deputy Executive Head Novartis Agribusiness and Head of Novartis Seeds; Deputy Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Sandoz Corporation in New York; Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Sandoz Pharmaceuticals Corporation in East Hanover, New Jersey; member of the Sandoz Ltd. executive committee and president of Sandoz Agro and Sandoz Seeds.


Sir David Barnes Vice Chair of the board of directors of Syngenta and member of the chair’s committee. Previous appointments include director of ICI PLC, Chief Executive of Zeneca Group PLC, deputy chair of AstraZeneca and deputy chair of Business in the Community. Currently also serving as a non-executive deputy chair of the board of directors of Astra-Zeneca, non-executive director of Prudential Corporation PLC, non-executive chair of Imperial Cancer Research Technology (ICRT) Limited, member of the board of trustees of the British Red Cross and a member of the board of governors of Ashridge Management College.


Michael Pragnell Chief Executive Officer and director of Syngenta and member of the chair’s committee. Previous appointments include Chief Executive Officer of Zeneca Agrochemicals, director of Zeneca Group PLC (responsibility for the Agrochemicals business and Asia Pacific), member of the Advanta B.V. Supervisory Board, executive director of AstraZeneca, director of Courtaulds PLC and non-executive director of David S. Smith (Holdings) PLC. He is also president of the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA).[15]


Peggy Bruzelius Director of Syngenta. Currently also chair of Grand Hotel Holdings and Lancelot Asset Management AB, director of AB Electrolux, Scania AB, Ratos AB, AB Drott, Axfood AB, Axel Johnson AB and the Swedish Trade Council. Senior advisor to Lehman Brothers. Previous appointments include Chief Executive Officer of ABB Financial Services AB, executive vice president of SEB, a member of the board of the Swedish Government Bank Support Authority member of the board of Trygg Hansa Mutual Life Insurance Company and Celsius AB.


Peter Doyle Director of Syngenta. Previous appointments include director of Zeneca Group PLC and director of ICI. Doyle is a non-executive director of Oxford Molecular Group PLC and Oxagen. He is currently chair of the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSCR) and a trustee of the Nuffield Foundation.


Rupert Gasser Director of Syngenta. Previous appointments include Executive Vice-President and Head of Nestlé Technical Production and R&D since 1990, and Senior Vice-President and General Manager/Executive Vice-President at Nestec SA.


Pierre Landolt Director of Syngenta and Novartis and previously a director of Sandoz AG since 1986. Previous appointments include director of Banque Edoard Constant S.A. (Geneva, Switzerland). Currently also serves as chair of Emasan AG (Basel, Switzerland), Sandoz Family Foundation (Glaris, Switzerland), Curaçao International Trust Company, CITCO, and as vice-chair of Parmigiani Mesure et Art du Temps (Fleurier, Switzerland) and Sandoz Family Foundation Holding Bancaire et Financière (Pully, Switzerland). Also a board member of Intercom Ltd. (London, United Kingdom). He is also a partner and serves on the board of Mocó Agropecuária Ltda, Patos, Pb (Brazil), Fair Corretora de Câmbio e Valores (Brazil) and Misú Irrigação Indústria e Comércio Ltda, Patos, Pb (Brazil), and he is partner in and chair of Banco Axial S.A. (São Paulo, Brazil,). He is currently a partner of Pabco International Ltd. and Pabco S.A. (Pully, Switzerland)


Pedro Reiser Director of Syngenta. Previous appointments include Member of the Board and Adviser of Novartis Pharma Japan until 2001, President and CEO for Sandoz and Novartis since 1995. Prior to that Reiser held a number of senior and management positions at Sandoz. Reiser was also President and CEO of Holvis AG in Basel, Switzerland.


Martin Taylor Director of Syngenta. Previous appointments include, Chief Executive Officer of Barclays PLC and a director of Courtaulds plc fr, becoming the Chief Executive of Courtaulds Textiles plc upon its demerger from Courtaulds plc in 1990. Currently also an international advisor to Goldman Sachs and the Chair of the WH Smith Group PLC, as well as director of Antigenics, Inc. and of Buttonwood Focus Fund Ltd. He has also chaired and sat upon various United Kingdom government task forces, including heading a Task Force looking at options for the reform of the tax and benefit systems.


Peter Thompson Director of Syngenta. Previous appointments include President and CEO of Grand Metropolitan Foods Europe, President of Walkers Snack Foods in the U.K. and President of PepsiCo Foods International’s Europe, Middle East and Africa Division. Other positions currently held are President and Chief Executive Officer of Pepsi-Cola International, Director of Pepsi-Gemex, S.A. de C.V. and Sopresa, soft drink bottlers in Mexico and Venezuela respectively and a director of the US-Russia Business Council. Also director of the Immigration & Refugee Services of America and Boy Scouts of America and a trustee of the Stanwich School, Greenwich.


Rolf Watter Director of Syngenta. Other appointments currently held include partner in the law firm Bär & Karrer in Zurich, Professor at the Law School of the University of Zurich, board member of Forbo Holding AG, Eglisau, A.W. Faber-Castell (Holding) AG, Kusnacht and Galileo Switzerland AG, all of which are Swiss companies.


Felix Weber Director of Syngenta. Dr. Weber is currently also Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of Adecco SA. Previous positions held include partner in McKinsey & Company, managing director of Alusuisse South Africa Pty, from 1982 to 1984 and a member of the board of Alusaf Aluminum Smelter, a joint venture company formed by the Industrial Development Corporation and Alusuisse in South Africa. He was area sales manager between 1980 and 1982 in the United States and Europe for Alesa Alusuisse Engineering, and from 1976 to 1980 a project manager at ABB in Switzerland. Dr. Weber graduated in 1975 from the University of St. Gallen with a Lic. Oec. grade in operations research and finance and in 1978 with a Ph.D. in business administration from the University of St. Gallen.


c. Shares


An up to date share price for Syngenta AG can be obtained from Details of major share holders in Syngenta AG can be found at


d. Subsidiaries


The following companies do not operate under the Syngenta name but are subsidiaries of Syngenta International AG

New Farm Crops UK cereal plant breeders, originally bought by Ciba Geigy . The company is based in Lincolnshire with satellite breeding stations in Cambridgeshire and abroad. New Farm Crops conducted the world’s first field trials of GM wheat in 1994.

Northrup King Co (NK) US based maize seed breeder and supplier originally acquired by Sandoz Seeds in 1976. NK supplies maize, soyabeans, sunflower, winter oilseed rape and other field crops seeds worldwide. Syngenta markets GM corn through NK in the US.

Hilleshög Swedish based sugar/fodder beet breeder and supplier, originally acquired by Sandoz Seeds in 1989. Currently the 3rd largest suppliers of sugarbeet seed. Hilleshög have trailed both GM sugar/fodder beet and maize in the EU.[16]

Sluis & Grut (S&G) Dutch vegetable and flower seed breeder and supplier, originally bought by Sandoz Seeds as part of the Zaaduine Group in 1980. S&G supplies Syngenta vegetable seeds in Europe, Africa and Asia, and Syngenta flowers worldwide.

Rogers US breeder and supplier of vegetable seeds and sweet maize in particular, originally acquired by Sandoz Seeds in 1975. Rogers supplies Syngenta vegetable seeds in the Americas


e. Acquisitions


The following companies or interests have been acquired by Syngenta or their predecessors and appear to no longer operate under their original name.[17]


Funk Seeds In 1974 Ciba Geigy purchased all the public shares of this company and made it a wholly owned subsidiary.

Sturdy Grow Hybrids Novartis brought the germplasm assets of this developer of white corn hybrids in 1998. White corn is used in tortillas and other Mexican food.

Wilson Seeds Novartis acquired a 50/50 share of this company with Land O’Lake in 1998. The Company will focus on the production of white corn hybrids.

Agritrading (Italy) Novartis Seeds S.A. acquired 100 percent of the shares of this privately held Italian seed company in 1998. Agritrading specializes in research, development and supply of high performance corn germplasm, inbred lines and hybrids.

Agra (Italy) Agrosem (France) Koipesol Semillas (Spain) Acquired by Novartis from Eridania Beghin-Say and accounted for the majority of their seed activities. This deal increased Novartis’ market share in sugar beet and oilseeds.

American Sunmelon Novartis purchased this leader in the American Seedless Watermelon market in 1999 to add to its existing watermelon sales of Rogers and S&G

Stauffer Chemical BV Bought by AstraZeneca in 1987, Stauffer manufactures agrochemicals and is based in the Netherlands. Ordered by the US Environmental Protection Agency to clean up 16,000 cubic yards of soil on its ex DDT production plant in Florida. The site also contains toxaphene and chlordane.

Ishirara Sangyo Kaisha Ltd Bought by AstraZeneca in 1998 this Japanese chemical company produces the ‘chlorothlonil’ fungicide sold as Bravo.

Mogen Dutch plant biotechnology company acquired by Zeneca in 1997. Shortly after acquiring the company for US$74m, a Zeneca-Mogen research plant was opened in Leiden (NL). The Leiden research plant was closed by Syngenta in late 2001.[18]

Crop protection business of Oriental chemical Industries (OCI) South Korean company acquired by Novartis in 1998 giving them access to the eighth biggest national market in the world. OCI was South Korea’s second largest producer of agrochemicals in 1997.


3.2 Syngenta in the UK


The following section gives details of UK companies owned by Syngenta International AG and where available their location and contact details.[19]


3.2.1 Contact Detals


a. Principle Offices



European Regional Centre — Regional Headquarters Priestley Road

Surrey Research Park




Ph : +44 (0) 1483 260000

Fax : +44 (0) 1483 260001

This address is also the registered office for the following Syngenta companies Syngenta Ltd, Syngenta Epsilon Ltd, Syngenta Europe Ltd, Syngenta Grimsby Ltd, Syngenta Holdings Ltd, Syngenta Pensions Trustee Ltd, Syngenta Theta Ltd, Syngenta Treasury Ltd



London Office 6th Floor, Aldwych House,

81 Aldwych,



This address is also the registered office for the following Syngenta companies Syngenta Name Protection Ltd, Syngenta Agribusiness Ltd, Syngenta UK Ltd, Syngenta Crop Protection Ltd


b. Crop Protection Business


Syngenta Crop Protection

Syngenta Crop Protection UK Limited — Sales Office Whittlesford, Cambridge

CB2 4QT Ph : +44 (0) 1223 833621

Fax : +44 (0) 1223 493700


Syngenta Crop Protection

Syngenta Bioline — Sales Office Telstar Nursery

Holland Road, Little Clacton



CO16 9QG Ph : +44 (0) 1255 863200

Fax : +44 (0) 1255 863206


c. Seed Business


Syngenta Seeds


Syngenta Seeds – New Farm Crops/NK/Hilleshög — Sales & Marketing Office Hill Farm Road

Whittlesford, Cambridge


Ph : +44 (0) 1223 833621

Fax : +44 (0) 1223 493700


Syngenta Seeds Market Stainton, Market Rasen



Ph : +44 (0) 1507 343348

Fax : +44 (0) 1507 343526


Syngenta Seeds – S & G — Sales Office 17 Summerwood Lane

Ormskirk, Lancashire

L39 8TH

Ph : +44 (0) 1704 882882

Fax : +44 (0) 1704 841176


Syngenta Seeds


New Farm Crops — Sales Office Pampisford Road, Great Abington



Ph : +44 (0) 1223 893409

Fax : +44 (0) 1223 893371


d. Research Station




Jealott’s Hill International Research Centre — Research Bracknell


RG42 6EY

Ph : +44 (0) 1344 424701

Fax : +44 (0) 1344 455629

Following the closure of the Syngenta/Mogen research centre in Leiden, Netherlands in 2001 it is thought that Jealotts’s Hill is Syngenta’s only remaining research and development centre in Europe.


3.22 Directors of Syngenta Ltd [20]


The following people are directors of Syngenta Ltd Matthew Bayliss (Secretary)

Robert Bissell

Neil Dempsy

Keith Hill

Christopher Richards

Kevin William

References [14] [15] more information on the ECPA is available online at [16] information from the Genewatch Syngenta profile available online at (viewed 23,10,2002)

[17] information from the Genewatch Syngenta profile available online at (viewed 23,10,2002) and the Rafi Top 10 Global Seed Companies 2000 available online at (viewed 23,10,2002)

[18] information from dutch newspaper article available online at (viewed 23,10,02)

[19] information from Syngenta UK homepage available online at (viewed 23,10,2002) and Companies House companies index available online at (viewed 23,10,2002)

[20] information from Companies House Current Appointments Report for SYNGENTA LIMITED (compiled 24/10/2002)

Influence / Lobbying

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

Corporate Crimes

5.1 Syngenta and GM crops


5.11 Current GM Crops

Despite their widespread rejection by people around the world Syngenta continues to develop and market GM crops. Syngenta currently markets crops that are either herbicide tolerant or insect resistant. The following problems are associated with herbicide tolerant or insect resistant GM crops.

Herbicide Tolerance [37]

  • Gene transfer to related wild species may take place, creating herbicide tolerant ‘super weeds’. This depends on the proximity of species with which the crop can successfully hybridise.
  • The crop itself may become a problem weed, either by spreading from the field or when seed shed at harvest emerges in the following crop (so-called ‘volunteer’ weeds). This is considered inevitable by many weed specialists.
  • The increased use of the specific herbicide a crop is made tolerant to, will encourage the emergence of resistant weeds through selection pressure.
  • Neighbouring organic or non-GM crops may be pollinated by the GM crop, leading to genetic contamination with the foreign genes. Levels of acceptable contamination have not been set and organic farming standards are likely to demand zero levels.
  • The widespread use of broad spectrum herbicides (like glufosinate or glyphosate) will lead to fields being efficiently cleared of weeds, thus removing some of the remaining food sources for farmland birds and other wildlife. The use of pesticides and herbicides is already thought to have contributed to the dramatic decline in farmland bird species in the UK.
  • Herbicide use patterns will change and although amounts may be reduced overall in terms of weight and volume (in large part because broad spectrum herbicides are more potent), the use of the specific herbicides that crops are being made resistant to will increase dramatically.

Insect resistance [38]

  • Insects will become resistant to the inbuilt insecticide and cause crop failures. In the USA, ‘refuges’ – where non-insect resistant crops are grown – of up to 40% of the crop area are being recommended to avoid this.
  • Knock-on effects on the food web by destroying non-target insects. Studies have shown that lacewings and monarch butterfly larvae can be harmed.
  • Gene transfer to related wild species may take place, creating insect resistant ‘super weeds’. This depends on the proximity of species with which the crop can successfully hybridise.
  • Neighbouring organic or non-GM crops may be pollinated by the GM crop, leading to genetic contamination with the foreign genes. Levels of acceptable contamination have not been set and organic farming standards are likely to demand zero levels.

The majority of Syngenta’s GM crops are sold in the USA. Syngenta is the only company to commercially market a GM crop within the EU. A single variety of GM insect resistant maize known as Event 176 or Compa CB is the only GM crop variety to have gained approval for commercial growing in the EU prior to the start of the moratorium on new GM crop varieties.

In the UK one of the crop lines being grown as part of the government sponsored farmscale trials, a herbicide tolerant (RoundUp Ready) sugar beet known as line #77 or T9100152 is a joint project between Monsanto and Syngenta.[39]

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5.12 Future GM crops

Whilst Syngenta is actively involved in the introduction of first generation GM crops (see current GM crops above), perhaps the greatest threat they pose is through the development of the next generation of GM crops, crops that have perceived benefits to customers. Many of these new technologies are being developed less because the company has great altruistic intentions than because it sees them as a method for dissipating public and regulatory opposition to GM crops.

Syngenta has been at the forefront of developing crops with altered nutritional characteristics. The company recently announced its intention to seek regulatory approval for the introduction of a new GM rice in Japan. The rice has been modified to remove a protein responsible for allergic reactions and is being aimed at kidney dialysis patients in Asia who cannot eat normal rice because of an intolerance to the cereal’s high protein content. Michael Pragnell chief executive of Syngenta talking about the GM rice said

‘It’s a niche market, but it’s a latch-lifter, the regulators either have to become less fastidious or deny benefits to patients. We are pursuing these markets not because we will make a fortune, but because it will introduce some regulatory tension.’[40]

A similar motive is behind Syngenta’s intention to collaborate in a project to give away vitamin A enhanced rice (also known as ‘Golden Rice’) to farmers in the global south.[41] Vitamin A deficiency is a major cause of irreversible blindness in the global south. Critics of the Vitamin A rice point out that it does not address the underlying causes of vitamin A deficiency: mainly poverty and lack of access to a diverse diet. In the short-term, measures such as supplements (pills) and food fortification are cheap, effective and safe alternative sources of vitamin A.[42] Food campaigners the ETC Group describes Golden Rice as a ‘Flag of Convenience’ under which biotech companies are trying to win support for GM crops.[43]

Like many controversial transnational companies, Syngenta has been doing its best to make its name and business activities appear to be inextricably linked to the concept of ‘sustainable development’. This was heightened by the build up to the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in September 2002. Syngenta also funds the Syngenta Foundation which ‘devotes its resources to promoting economically and ecologically sustainable agriculture throughout the world. Our work focuses on poverty-oriented agricultural research and development.’[44]

Syngenta and GURTs Syngenta is a world leader in the development for commercial use of crops incorporating Genetic Use Restriction Technologies, or GURTs. GURTs enable biotech companies to retain control and ownership over their products even after they have been sold to farmers. The best known of these technologies, often known as ‘Terminator’ technology, is used to make crops that generate sterile seed, forcing farmers to return to the biotech company to buy new seed every year. Another GURTs application – ‘Traitor’ technology – enables the control of particular plant characteristics. For example, a characteristic such as plant ripening can be switched on and off with the application of a proprietary (or biotech company licensed) chemical. If commercialised, GURTs will lock farmers across the world into a cycle that stops them saving seed and forces them to buy new patented seed and/or switching chemicals from biotech companies every year. In 2000 one of the outcomes of COP 5 of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity was a call for a ban on the field-testing of GURTs crops and a moratorium on their development until their impact has been fully assessed.

Despite the promises of both of its predecessor companies, Astra-Zeneca and Novartis, to not develop technologies that would prevent farmers from growing second generation seed, Syngenta has continued to patent and develop GURTs. A report compiled for Action Aid in 2000[45] identified that of all the companies involved in agricultural biotechnology Syngenta held the largest number of GURTs patents (36 of 71 patents). Amongst these patents are techniques that control the following characteristics in staple food crops: crop disease susceptibility (unless treated with chemicals), crop fertility, crop flowering, crop sprouting and crop aging. In recent years Syngenta’s UK research and development centre at Jealotts Hill near Bracknell, Berkshire has been home to several GURTs field trials.[46]

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5.2 Pesticides

Whilst Syngenta’s GM crops have attracted lots of attention recently, the majority of their business still comes from the sale of pesticides.

Paraquat [47]

‘The only highly toxic herbicide of the post-war years’ – World Health Organisation on Paraquat [48]

Syngenta has attracted criticism for its continued manufacture and sale of the insecticide Gramoxone or paraquat. A number of countries in Europe and in the global south have banned or resticted the use of the chemical. Workers and farmers regularly exposed to paraquat experience serious problems with their health. The high toxicity of the chemical and the lack of antidote leads to serious ill-health, and even death, from exposure.

‘When I started handling the pesticides I experienced headaches. … When I used Gramoxone in particular my nose bled. I used to get severe pains on the left side of my stomach’.


‘After spraying, I had very bad headaches, felt nausea, giddiness and chest pains.’


– Women sprayers on palm oil estates, Malaysia. [49]

Alongside health risks there are also concerns about the impact of the chemical on the environment. Research indicates that it ‘is persistent and accumulates in soil. Studies indicate that paraquat has adverse effects on mammals, birds, fish and amphibians. In Sweden we believe that, for the environment and for health, the only safe use is no use,’ said Göran Eklöf of SSNC.[50] Despite the concern voiced about the continued use of Paraquat, Syngenta has recently built a new manufacturing facility for the chemical in China and intends to expand the market for it.

Exploiting Pesticide Licensing Loopholes Syngenta has been discovered exploiting loopholes in European pesticide licensing regulations which have allowed them to import seeds treated with chemicals unlicensed for use in the UK. This came to light when Andrew Lincoln, a courier from Norwich, started suffering ill effects after being exposed to bean seed imported into the UK by Syngenta Seeds Ltd. The exposure occurred when a consignment of seed that he was transporting spilled in the back of his van. In order to receive proper medical treatment Mr Lincoln sought information about the chemical treatment applied to the seeds. The mixture of chemicals in the seed treatment included Dichlofenthion, an organo-phosphate, the active ingredient in the pesticide Aatifon, and a chemical not on the UK list of approved pesticides. It emerged that the chemical was legal for ‘use’ in France where the seed originated and was treated. So long as the chemical was used in France (the application of the chemical as a seed treatment counts as its use) Syngenta was free to import and sell seed treated with it in the UK.[51]

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References [37] text taken from Genewatch website ‘crop traits’ section available on line at (viewed 05,11,02)

[38] text taken from Genewatch website ‘crop traits’ section available on line at (viewed 05,11,02)

[39] information from Genewatch web pages on Sugar/Fodder Beet in Farm Scale Trails available online at Trials/Beet.htm (viewed 05,11,02) and Genewatch briefing GM crops currently being field trialled in the UK (2001) available on line at Trials/Trl2001.pdf (viewed 05,11,02)

[40] ’Syngenta tries rice in fight for GM approval’, by David Firn, Financial Times, August 19 2002 available online (but only with FT subscription) at [41] information from Syngenta press release 16,05,00 available online at (viewed 05,11,02)

[42] information from Greenpeace ‘GE rice is fool’s gold’ available online at and (viewed 05,11,02)

[43]information from ‘Golden Rice and Trojan Trade Reps: A case study in the public sectors mismanagement of intellectual property’ RAFI Communique #66, Sept/Oct 2000 available online at (viewed 05,11,02)

[44] information from Syngenta Foundation web site ‘about us’ page available online at (viewed 05,11,02)

[45] Syngenta switching off farmers’ rights? Hugh Warwick, Genetics Forum, October 2000 [46] DEFRA GMO Public Register Index,, potatoes (00/R1/12 and 01/R34/01), oil seed rape (01/R34/02)

[47] ‘Paraquat-Syngenta’s controversial herbicide’ a report by John Madeley for PAN UK, Berne Declaration, PANAP, Swedish Declaration for Nature Conservation and Foro Emanus available online at (viewed 05,11,02)

[48] ‘WHO, Paraquat and Diquat’ 1984, WHO, Geneva quoted in (viewed 05,11,02)

[49] quote from PAN UK press release ‘Time to phase out paraquat – Syngenta’s controversial pesticide’,22,04,2002, available online at (viewed 05,11,02)

[50] ibid

[51] information from The Mark Thomas Product web site (Channel 4) available online at (viewed 05,11,02) and personal correspondence with Andy Lincoln

Links, contacts & resources

The following publications and web sites are excellent independent sources of information on Syngenta.

Genewatch Syngenta profile available online at

Pesticides Action Network report ‘Paraquat-Syngenta’s controversial herbicide’ by John Madeley for PAN UK, Berne Declaration, PANAP, Swedish Declaration for Nature Conservation and Foro Emanus available online at

Genetics Forum report ‘Syngenta: Switching off farmers’ rights?’ by Hugh Warwick published jointly by Berne Declaration, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, GeneWatch UK and Action Aid, October 2000 available online at