Syngenta

Background

Syngenta is an agrochemical company that manufactures pesticides and seeds. It is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland. The company invests US$1.3 billion in research and development annually.1Research and Development,” Syngenta. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/MmqN5

Syngenta recently launched a new tagline: “Helping farmers. Fighting climate change.” The firm states that agriculture can help address climate change and be part of the solution by sequestering carbon in the soil.2Erik Fyrwald. “Helping farmers, fighting climate change,”  EURACTIV, July 2, 2020, Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/7XAYi

Syngenta CEO Erik Fyrwald has said that following the COVID-19 pandemic, the world must have a “green economic recovery with sustainability at its core” and that “we must ensure that the recovery is one that is both more sustainable and gives us a food supply more resilient to the effects of climate change.” Fyrwald stressed that agriculture is “part of the solution.”3Erik Fyrwald. “Helping farmers, fighting climate change,”  EURACTIV, July 2, 2020, Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/7XAYi

Syngenta has 28,000 employees in over 100 countries. Its crop protection sales were US$10.6 billion and seed sales were US$3.1 billion in 2019.4Company,” Syngenta. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/wip/50KKx In 2020, its crop protection sales rose to US$11.1 billion and seed sales rose to US$3.2 billion.5Company,” Syngenta. Archived November 22, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/Set6E 

In June 2020, Syngenta announced the launch of Syngenta Group, a new organization that combined Syngenta AG, headquartered in Switzerland; ADAMA, based in Israel; and the agricultural businesses of Sinochem, based in China.6Launch of Syngenta Group – Creating a Global AgTech Market Leader,” BusinessWire, June 18, 2021. Archived November 9, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ofqiQ

Stance on Climate Change

In 2019, Fyrwald told the Financial Times that “climate change is the most important issue we face,” adding that “agriculture is part of the problem, so it has to become part of the solution.”7Hermy Sender. “Eric Fyrwald: Changing the image of the agrochemicals industry,” The Financial Times, July 28, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In April 2019, Syngenta entered into a partnership with The Nature Conservancy.8Syngenta and The Nature Conservancy Team Up to Deliver Innovation for Nature,” The Nature Conservancy, April 29, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/H8fO7 In a public policy position document on climate change, Syngenta says the collaboration has already allowed it to “expand our global efforts on sustainable agriculture, giving us the opportunity to apply and test innovative new techniques to enhance soil health, protect natural habitats and enhance carbon sequestration in agriculture.”9Our Public Policy Position: Syngenta and climate change,” Syngenta, October 2018. Archived November 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In March 2020, Syngenta commissioned a survey of large-scale farmers in the United States, France, China, Brazil, India and across Africa by market research firm IPSOS Mori. According to the results, “72 percent of larger farmers are worried about the impact climate change will have on crop yields, animal health and their ability to do business over the next five years.”10Climate Change Research Global Farmers,” Syngenta Group, March 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Syngenta’s 2020 Good Growth Plan “puts the urgent fight against climate change and biodiversity loss at the heart of farming’s productive future and the global economic recovery.” Syngenta first launched its Good Growth Plan in 2013.11The Good Growth Plan,” Syngenta. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/jEiKZ

In a website post titled “Strive for carbon neutral agriculture,” Syngenta states that it has “long worked with farmers to increase soil health and biodiversity, two key pillars of regenerative agriculture,” and that its Good Growth Plan will see the company “extending our focus to measure the amount of carbon dioxide that is captured in the soil, helping farmers manage and reduce the greenhouse gases contributed by agriculture.” The page lists three targets Syngenta has set to “[add] to our efforts towards carbon neutral agriculture:” to “Measure and enable carbon capture and mitigation in agriculture, “enhance biodiversity and soil health on 3 million hectares of rural farmland every year,” and “Reduce the carbon intensity of our operations by 50% by 2030.”12Strive for carbon neutral agriculture,” Syngenta. Archived December 2, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/x424l 

Syngenta promotes “climate smart agriculture,” which it describes as “a set of practices that help farmers work sustainably. It includes conservation agriculture practices. These practices aim to reduce soil disturbance, enhance permanent soil cover and implement crop rotation.”13How can agriculture play a role in addressing climate change?” Syngenta. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/NAK0K

In a website post outlining how the agriculture industry can use carbon sequestration to combat climate change, Syngenta states, “Climate change is already causing problems for farmers. Climate smart agriculture is important because it helps farmers adapt and build resilience to climate change. It can increase agricultural productivity and farmers’ incomes.”14How can agriculture play a role in addressing climate change?” Syngenta. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/NAK0K

In 2018, Syngenta became a founding member of the Climate Smart Agriculture 100 project, which brought together 100 leading food and agribusiness companies to make “a measurable science-based commitment against climate change.”15Our Public Policy Position: Syngenta and climate change,” Syngenta, October 2018. Archived November 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

Prior to this, a 2017 report by Corporate Accountability, titled “Polluting Paris: How Big Polluters are Undermining Global Climate Policy,” found that climate smart agriculture was being used by corporations including Syngenta to “greenwash environmentally devastating practices” and that those corporations were influencing the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through “direct lobbying and trade association membership.”16Report: Paris deal threatened by corporate capture,” Corporate Accountability, November 1, 2017. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/8As2f

During a May 2021 panel titled “Trust Along Global Food Chains” at the St. Gallen Symposium, Fyrwald said that farmers being “part of the solution to climate change is really important.” He also said that “Crops capture carbon from the air and pull it into the soil,” and that “We need to do that in ways that keep that carbon in the soil and enable the 12 percent greenhouse gas emissions that come from agriculture to head towards zero.” Fyrwald added that regenerative agriculture is a key to the industry’s plans to address climate change.17Embracing Ag’s Crucial Role in the Fight Against Climate Change,” Syngenta Group, May 2021. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/tkIlX

Fyrwald was speaking during a panel discussion that also featured Dr. Louise O. Fresco, the President of Wageningen University and a Syngenta board member; and Stefan Scheiber, CEO of the Bühler Group, which manufactures equipment for food production. Syngenta Group was a main partner of the symposium.18Embracing Ag’s Crucial Role in the Fight Against Climate Change,” Syngenta Group, May 2021. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/tkIlX 

Prior to the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021, Simon Winter — Executive Director of the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture — wrote about increasing incomes for smallholder farmers while addressing climate change, saying:19Simon Winter. “How to increase incomes for smallholder farmers,” Swiss Info. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wip/wXMJ4

“Achieving living incomes is very complex, but it’s possible. The efforts will be built on sand, however, if we neglect the environmental pillar of sustainability. The biggest challenge here is climate change. Smallholder farming must become better able to deal with increasing weather extremes and the associated shocks. Necessary work here includes improving soil health, using resources more efficiently, reducing food losses after harvest and insuring crops against drought or flooding.” 

Winter added: “Smallholders also need rapid economic benefits. They simply don’t have the financial stamina to wait for the ‘long term.’ Such economic gains need to come fast and predictably, from a combination of public and private incentives, as well as farmers’ own progress.”20Simon Winter. “How to increase incomes for smallholder farmers,” Swiss Info. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wip/wXMJ4

Regenerative agriculture

A Farmers Guardian article, sponsored by Syngenta, described how regenerative farming initiatives by the company were aiming to “give growers practical research-proven sustainable solutions in a changing environment.”21Rebuilding soil structure,” Farmers Guardian. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/RqUv4

A video shared by Syngenta on Twitter in August 2020 says that agriculture can combat climate change as “agricultural fields can act as a valuable carbon sink and help remove greenhouse gases from our environment.” The video points to regenerative agriculture techniques such as no-till farming to keep carbon in the soil, instead of being released into the air — a key element of regenerative agriculture.22By reducing greenhouse gas emissions with sustainable farming practices & technology, #agriculture can help address #ClimateChange and be part of the solution:  https://syngenta.com/who-we-are/our-stories/carbon-sequestration,” Tweet by @Syngenta, August 4, 2020. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived .png on file at DeSmog.

Kendra Klein, a senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth, told Civil Eats in 2019 that agrochemical companies were trying to “co-opt the regenerative farming concept.” Mentioning Syngenta, Klein said that promoting regenerative methods “is a cover for continuing a very resource-intensive, energy- and greenhouse gas-intensive form of agriculture,” referring to the company’s push with Bayer for pesticide use.23Gosia Wozniacka, “With Regenerative Agriculture Booming, the Question of Pesticide Use Looms Large,” Civil Eats, September 5, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/RViMo

A December 2020 article from agricultural news website Ag Web highlighted how major companies including Syngenta, BASF, Nutrien Ag and Bayer are taking part in the practice of “carbon farming,” in which companies receive money for practices that help sequester carbon during the farming process.24Tyne Morgan. “Future of Farming: Chase to Capture Carbon As Another Revenue Stream,” AgWeb, December 14, 2020. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/H0cxz   

Ag Web reported that Syngenta is developing a reporting program called AgriEdge, which covers all crops and geographies, and will allow farmers to “dig into the data to see the return on investment for whatever sustainable practice they choose.”   

Jacky Davis, digital ag solutions marketing lead for Syngenta, told Ag Web that “AgriEdge is a holistic, whole farm management program” that allows the company to “find ways for growers to not only agronomically find what fits on their field, but also utilize data collection and data analysis to really analyze what’s going on a per-field basis or a per-acre basis.”25Tyne Morgan. “Future of Farming: Chase to Capture Carbon As Another Revenue Stream,” AgWeb, December 14, 2020. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/H0cxz

In February 2021, Fyrwald said that to accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture, government policies need to provide proper incentives for farmers.26Emma Newburger. “Biden’s climate change plan: Pay farmers to cut carbon footprint,” CNBC, February 12, 2021. Archived November 9, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/oniwm In spring 2021, Syngenta was among the companies supporting the passage of a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate  that would allow farmers to implement carbon-sequestering agricultural practices and then sell carbon credits to large polluters. Politico reported that farmers had “expressed worry that large agribusinesses and multinational food companies would use their political prowess and market heft to benefit from the credits.”27H. Claire Brown. “The Senate appears poised to pass a bipartisan bill to help farmers sell carbon credits. Not everyone is happy,The Counter, April 27, 2021. Archived November 5, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/92ZXU Ximena Bustillo and Helena Bottemiller Evich. “Lawmakers ready new ag climate bill with major GOP backing,” Politico, April 20, 2021. Archived August 13, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/mYwce


Read more: Regenerative Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Digital and precision agriculture

President of Syngenta Crop Protection Vern Hawkins argued in January 2019 that changes in farming practices and technologies, and particularly the growth of precision agriculture, would be one of five key trends to watch for in the agriculture industry over the next few years. He said, “precision farming will continue to increase proficiencies in seeding, fertilizing, and crop protection.”28Eric Sfiligoj. “Syngenta Keeping Close Tabs on Changes for the Future of Ag,” CropLife, January 16, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/SmvEn

In October 2019, Syngenta committed US$2 billion over five years towards innovation to tackle climate change by helping farmers to “prepare for and tackle the increasing threats posed by climate change.” The company also pledged to “reduce carbon intensity of its operations by 50 percent, supporting the ambition of the Paris Agreement on climate change.”29Syngenta commits $2 billion and sets new targets for innovation to tackle climate change,” Syngenta, October 22, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/jtHWp

Syngenta says the investment is part of a sustainability goal to deliver “at least two technological breakthroughs to market each year” aimed at reducing “agriculture’s contribution to climate change, harness its mitigation capacity and help the food system stay within planetary boundaries.”30Syngenta commits $2 billion and sets new targets for innovation to tackle climate change,” Syngenta, October 22, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/jtHWp

In a paid post in The New York Times, Dan Burdett, Syngenta’s head of digital agriculture, said: “Digital technologies are rapidly transforming agriculture: data, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence and overall farm management help save farmers time and money, and enable unprecedented precision and efficiency.”31Is Digital Farming the Key to Sustainable Agriculture,” The New York Times. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/cNBnE

The company wrote in its 2019 disclosures to charity CDP, “There is currently limited understanding about the link between agriculture and climate change. Syngenta sees therefore an opportunity to increase awareness among farmers, policy-makers and other stakeholders about how agricultural technologies could contribute to reducing CO2 emissions throughout the value chain – from agricultural input to consumer product.”32Syngenta Ag- Climate Change 2019 (disclosure to CDP),” Syngenta. Archived November 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. 

It continued: “Increased awareness and associated new agreements and regulations could lead to a broader acceptance of agricultural technology, better freedom to operate and sales increase for Syngenta.”

On July 31, 2020, Syngenta submitted feedback to the European Commission regarding updated rules for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Directive, which aims to “further reduc[e] pesticide use to help meet the goals of the Farm to Fork Strategy and the European Green Deal.”33Pesticides – sustainable use (updated EU rules),” European Commission. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL:https://archive.ph/K2xCv Ian Wheals, Syngenta’s Head of Europe, Africa and Middle East Regulatory Policy, wrote: “We think the use of precision agriculture at scale is one of the most promising solutions with potential to achieve the Commission’s ambitious targets, including the use of risk reduction systems and targeted application technologies.” Wheals added that companies’ investment  in “research and development of novel, low risk crop protection solutions is predicated on a reliable market access system,” and that for growers to adopt “innovative digital and precision agriculture technologies” they must have “support and incentives for their own associated investments.”34Syngenta’s Feedback on Sustainable Use of Pesticides Roadmap,“ European Commission, July 31, 2020. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/e0Llm 

Syngenta’s interest in expanding the use of precision agriculture technologies goes beyond Europe. In a post “supported” by Syngenta on EURACTIV, Syngenta Head of South Africa, Antonie Delpot, said, “we need an African green transition that enables Africa to make the most of technology and innovation, but in a sustainable way and in partnership with the different parts of society, including the private sector.”35Natasha Foote. “EU-Africa partnership must reflect ‘realities of African agriculture’,Euractiv, February 8, 2021. Archived March 3, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/sEmmP


Read more: Digital and Precision Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Role in Pesticides Controversy

Pesticides containing neonicotinoids were banned in Europe for two years in 2013 over fears they were contributing to a decline in bee health. In 2018, the EU voted for a total ban on using neonicotinoids in fields, which came into action at the end of that year.36Damian Carrington. “EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides,” The Guardian, April 27, 2018. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/lutrO

Syngenta took legal action against the ban, saying it had been enacted “on the basis of a flawed process, an inaccurate and incomplete assessment by the European Food Safety Authority and without the full support of EU Member States,” according to the Guardian.37Alison Benjamin, Amanda Holpuch and Ruth Spencer. “Chemicals giants go to court, bees go to Washington, and giant carpenter bees,” The Guardian, September 4, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/rLWQX According to The New York Times, Bayer CropScience and Syngenta – the two pesticide companies that make neonicotinoids in Europe – said they “were willing to finance additional research, but that the current data do not justify a ban.”38David Jolly. “Europe Bans Pesticides Thought Harmful to Bees,” The New York Times. April 29, 2013. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In a 2006 press release, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a US$1.5 million fine against Syngenta for “selling and distributing seed corn that contained an unregistered genetically engineered pesticide called Bt 10.”39EPA Fines Syngenta $1.5 million for distributing unregistered genetically engineered pesticide,” Environmental Protection Agency, December 21, 2006. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/Xuwiy

In 2013, the Greens/European Free Alliance published a 22-page report titled, “Syngenta, Lies & Pesticides” which aimed to “dismantle the most important of their [Syngenta’s] so called ‘scientific claims’ that are in fact based on lies, to protect corporate profits” regarding the company’s use and promotion of neonicotinoids.40Syngenta, Lies & Pesticides,” The Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament. Archived November 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. Syngenta, along with Bayer, were in 2016 reportedly criticized by campaigners and scientists after unpublished field trials “show[ed] their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels,” according to the Guardian.41Damian Carrington. “Pesticide manufacturers’ own tests reveal serious harm to honeybees,” The Guardian, September 22, 2016. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/bTWKu

Syngenta has also been in a long-standing battle with biologist Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, who has spent years researching the effect of the Syngenta herbicide Atrazine on frogs. A 2017 case study by the Union of Concerned Scientists details how Hayes’s discovery, which “linked atrazine exposure with changing genetically male frogs into functional females,” made him the target of years of harassment from Syngenta, which worked “to discredit his science and tarnish his reputation as a researcher.”42Syngenta Harassed the Scientist who Exposed Risks of Herbicide Atrazine,” Union of Concerned Scientists, October 12, 2017. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/KWOG8

In late 2017, Syngenta criticized the rising concern surrounding the environmental impact of chemicals like neonicotinoid pesticides, and denounced the idea that the usage of these chemicals significantly impacted bee health.43Andrew Marshall. “Syngenta warns of populist anti-ag technology agenda,” Farm Online, December 19, 2017. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/6QHVH Syngenta CEO Fyrwald said, “agriculture can be a solution to the greenhouse gas problem if we make sensible use of the available synthetic technology.” In June 2020, however, Fyrwald said that the company would continue to drive down the use of pesticides because, “consumers want that. Governments want that. We want it.”44Eric Roston and Agnieszka de Sousa. “Reorganized Syngenta Group Wants to Cut Back on Pesticides,” Bloomberg, June 30, 2020. Archived February 15, 2021. Archive URL:

In 2018, Politico reported that Syngenta had “used its lobbying in Brussels to drive a wedge between the Commission and its own food safety agency,” EFSA, by pointing out what seemed to be loopholes in EFSA’s assessment of Syngenta pesticide diquat. Politico reported that Syngenta had sent letters and emails to the European Commission. A company representative told Politico that lobbying was “a normal part of any functioning political system.” Speaking to Politico about Syngenta’s complaints, an EFSA spokesperson said it stood by its findings and accused Syngenta of attempting to undermine its credibility: “EFSA often receives criticism about its work on regulated products. This is aimed at discrediting the solidity of our scientific approach when our assessments do not meet the expectations of interested parties.”45Simon Marks and Giulia Paravicin. “How Syngenta won the war over weedkillers,” Politico Europe, March 19, 2018. Archived November 4, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/SJlx6 

An Unearthed and Public Eye investigation in October 2020 reported that loopholes in European regulations allow European pesticides producers, including Syngenta, to export pesticides banned in the EU to poorer countries such as Ukraine, South Africa and Brazil. The investigation found that Syngenta was the biggest exporter of banned agrochemicals among the manufacturers analyzed, with exports of 29,307 metric tons – nearly three times those of the second largest exporter analyzed. In response to the investigation, a Syngenta spokesperson told Unearthed and Public Eye that the company had a history of “investing heavily in programs and training to ensure the correct use of our products” and that when “following label instructions, farmers can responsibly and safely use crop protection products that have been authorised by competent local authorities”.46Crispin Dowler. “Thousands of tonnes of banned pesticides shipped to poorer countries from British and European factories,” Unearthed, September 9, 2020. Archived November 19, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/xCF0g 

In March 2021, the Canadian Health Ministry planned to limit the use of  two crop chemicals because they have been linked to deaths of aquatic insects that are food for fish and birds:  Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin.47Rod Nickel. “Canada to limit uses of two crop chemicals on concerns about water insects,” Reuters, March 21, 2021. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/1QxdQ 

In May 2021, The European Court of Justice upheld2018 ruling which restricted the use of active substances which studies suggest harm populations of pollinators, such as bees, including Syngenta’s thiamethoxam.48Reuters. “EU court upholds ban on insecticides linked to harming bees,” The Guardian, March 21, 2021. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ZzcsD 

In April 2021, iNews reported that UK councils held millions of pounds worth of pension fund investments in the manufacturers of herbicides, including Syngenta, Bayer, Corteva and BASF.49Madeleine Cuff, Jan Goodey, Nicole Pihan. ‘Wildlife-friendly’ UK councils are invested in pesticide manufacturers via pension funds,” iNews, April 4, 2021. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/J2laC 

In May 2021, The Guardian reported that agricultural firms Bayer, Syngenta, Corteva and other large companies were among those dumping seeds coated with an array of insecticides and fungicides in a Nebraska ethanol plant for over a decade. The contamination led to several environmental and health consequences, including mass die-offs of fish miles downstream from the plant.50Carey Gillam. “Outrage as regulators let pesticides from factory pollute US town for years,” The Guardian, May 29, 2021. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/6HsCw

Genetically Modified Organisms 

Gene editing in agriculture is the process of adding, enhancing or removing specific traits from the DNA of an organism. Genetic modification can make organisms more resistant to certain environmental conditions, including pests, chemicals, diseases and weather.

Some studies show that the adoption of genetic modifications to make crops more insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant has reduced farmers’ need to spray pesticides, thereby decreasing the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops.51Graham Brookes and Simon Barfoot. “Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996-2016: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions,” GM Crops & Food, Archived April 16, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.  

However, other studies suggest that weeds become more resistant, leading farmers to use additional chemicals, in larger quantities.52Caroline Newman. “Largest-Ever Study Reveals Environmental Impact of Genetically Modified Crops,” UVATODAY, September 14, 2016. Archived October 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/BAPXC 

Many studies conclude that there is still not enough data in order to assess the long term safety of such new crops, nor their environmental impact.53Aristidis M. Tsatsakis, Muhammad Amjad Nawaz, Demetrios Kouretas, Georgios Balias, Kai Savolainen, Victor A. Tutelyan, Kirill S. Golokhvast, Jeong Dong Lee, Seung Hwan Yang, Gyuhwa Chung. “Environmental impacts of genetically modified plants: A review,” Environmental Research, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.03.011.

In the “Syngenta and Climate Change” report from 2019, Syngenta claims that “by making crops more efficient, we committed to increasing the average productivity of major crops by 20 percent, without using more land, water, or inputs”.54Syngenta and Climate Change,” Syngenta, October 2019. Archived August 2, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

A 2021 investigation by Corporate Europe Observatory examined lobbying by companies including Syngenta to water down the regulation of new GMOs, and lower standards for risk assessment, monitoring and labeling requirements. The investigation also detailed lobbying efforts by groups that represent agribusiness companies including Corteva, BASF and Bayer.55Derailing EU Rules on New GMOs,” Corporate Europe Observatory, March 29, 2021. Archived October 9, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ES6n6 

In an interview with European media platform EURACTIV, Alexandra Brand, chief sustainability officer at Syngenta, said that company was exploring plant breeding technologies to make its business more sustainable, because gene editing technologies can “help make crops more resistant to drought or torrential rains,” adding that “some of this is already possible today with conventional breeding and plant breeding will just make it faster.”56Sarantis Michalopoulos. “Syngenta vows to speed up innovation and precision in agriculture,” EURACTIV, April 12, 2019. Archived January 15, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/7Eo9y 

In the interview, which also listed Syngenta as a “supporter,” Brand also criticized the EU for its “very precautionary principle” when considering new technologies and reportedly attributed a decreasing rate of agricultural innovation in Europe to the EU’s caution. 

Lobbying

The company publicly states, “Syngenta may engage in political advocacy and debate on subjects that advance the company’s goals, support our customers, partners and industry, and improve the communities where we work and live.” The statement goes on to stress that the company maintains “strict internal control of lobbying activities.”57Governance & stakeholder relations,” Syngenta. November 9, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/bTLIr

Syngenta Crop Protection AG is registered in the EU Transparency Register for lobbying.58Syngenta Crop Protection AG,” EU Transparency Register. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/TgljA It spent between €1,500,000 – €1,749,000 on lobbying in 2018, according to LobbyFacts.59Syngenta Crop Protection AG,” LobbyFacts. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/fsXCv

According to the EU Transparency Register, Syngenta spent between €1,500,000 – €1,749,000 on lobbying in 2020.60Syngenta,” European Commission. Archived December 3, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/7iS2n 

In 2016, the most recent year available, the company spent US$940,000 on lobbying in the U.S. according to OpenSecrets.org.61Client Profile: Syngenta AG,” OpenSecrets. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/4R6eQ The data shows that from 2000 to 2016 Syngenta lobbied a large number of U.S. agencies and governmental bodies, including:62Client Profile: Syngenta AG – Agencies,” OpenSecrets. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/6urU9

In 2017, more than 50 Belgian companies held an action in Brussels denouncing the 10th Forum for the Future of Agriculture, a lobbying event jointly organised by Syngenta and the European Landowners’ Organisation. Corporate Europe Observatory campaigner Martin Pigeon said at the time, “we are standing in solidarity with farming and citizens who are mobilising against the disastrous consequences of the grip that Big Agribusiness has on EU policy-making.”63The future of agriculture deserves better than Syngenta,” Corporate Europe Observatory, March 28, 2017. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/JnEpa

In 2018, Transparency International UK, an independent anti-corruption organisation, published its Corporate Political Engagement Index, which scored 104 multinational companies on their respective political engagement. Syngenta was given an E overall, while scoring an F — the Index’s lowest score — in the Political Contributions category. The company scored an E in the Responsible Lobbying category.64Corporate Political Engagement Index 2018,” Transparency International UK. Archived November 9, 2019. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/eFuJY

A 2018 investigation by Open Democracy revealed that Syngenta had made deals with the London Evening Standard newspaper to suppress reporting that the company was facing billion dollar lawsuits. In the same period, the paper ran a series of debates and articles about the “future of food,” which were sponsored by Syngenta.65James Cusick and Crina Boros. “How a GM giant ‘bought control’ of what millions of Londoners read,” OpenDemocracy, February 8, 2018. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/BB2Ze

A 2012 investigation by the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) revealed that Syngenta had a number of ongoing payments to individuals and organisations to promote its work. This included commentator Steve Milloy, a climate science denier and publisher of JunkScience.com. Milloy had received grants of up to US$25,000, according to emails between Milloy and Syngenta obtained by CMD.66Sara Jerving. “Syngenta’s Paid Third Party Pundits Spin the ‘News’ on Atrazine,” PR Watch, February 7, 2012. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/VXePL

According to an Associated Press report in 2018, Syngenta lobbyist Jeffrey Sands was granted permission by Trump administration White House Counsel Don McGahn to become Senior Advisor for Agriculture to former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt.67Mark Hand. “EPA happy to waive ethics rules for industry lobbyists joining the agency,” Think Progress, March 9, 2018. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/7DPgn McGahn said the decision to approve Sands was “in the public interest.” As Oklahoma’s Attorney General, prior to joining the Trump administration, Pruitt received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from oil and gas companies to his political campaigns,68Scott Pruitt – Oil and Gas Industries,” FollowTheMoney.Org. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/O3F7j and launched multiple lawsuits against the agency to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations.69Scott Pruitt’s web of fundraising and lawsuits,” EDF Action. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/SgbDm

In June 2020, Syngenta’s logo featured on a bill introduced by a number of U.S. senators to establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture certification program to help farmers and landowners participate in carbon credit markets. The bill also included the logos of a number of other agribusinesses, including Bayer and Corteva.70Charlie Mitchell. “Farms Can’t Stop Climate Change,” The New Republic, August 7, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/younW

Syngenta actively engages in media partnerships with Brussels-based media outlets, notably Politico Europe and EURACTIV, where it promotes and supports content and policy briefs and organizes events reaching EU policymakers and stakeholders.71Agrifood Brief, powered by Syngenta Group: Acting local, thinking global,” EURACTIV, July 3, 2020. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/MdkSY 72Syngenta foundation official: Asia and Africa will feed the world sustainably,” EURACTIV, June 19, 2019. Archived January 18, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wip/3cD8q In 2020, it participated in Politico’s Sustainable Future Summit to discuss Europe’s climate ambitions and its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.73We’re delighted to welcome Petra Laux, head of EAME business sustainability at @Syngenta, to POLITICO’s Sustainable Future Summit on December 2-3 for a discussion on Europe’s climate ambitions within its economic recovery >> http://bit.ly/3kLugMW | #POLITICOSustainability,” Tweet by user @LivePOLITICO, October 14, 2020. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived December 9, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/fmqVm In 2021, Syngenta was a sponsor of the Politico Sustainable Future Summit, held between November 30 and December 1.74Sustainable Future Summit – POLITICO,” Politico. Archived December 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/psWsv

Affiliations

Syngenta is a member of CropLife International alongside FMC, BASF, Bayer, Corteva Agriscience and Sumitomo Chemical.75Members,” CropLife International. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/PSOBu It is also a member of the UK Crop Protection Association.

According to the EU Transparency Register, Syngenta is part of:76Syngenta Crop Protection AG,” EU Transparency Register. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/TgljA

Syngenta works with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, The Nature Conservancy, the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) and the World Economic Forum.77Syngenta Ag- Climate Change 2019 (disclosure to CDP),” Syngenta. Archived November 9, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In June 2019, AGRA, Syngenta and the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture signed an agreement to work together towards developing Africa’s agricultural system, specifically by helping to increase access to yield-enhancing technologies and pest control products.78Agra & Syngenta partner for Africa,” Syngenta Foundation, June 18, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/0qP8F

In June 2020, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) logo was featured on a one-pager for a bill introduced by a number of U.S. senators to establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture certification programme to help farmers and landowners participate in carbon credit markets. The bill also included the logos of a number of other agribusinesses, including Bayer, Syngenta, and Corteva.79Charlie Mitchell. “Farms Can’t Save the Planet,” The New Republic, August 7, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/younW

Syngenta is part of the Glyphosate Renewal Group, a coalition of companies working together to call for the renewal of EU authorization for the active substance glyphosate, an agricultural herbicide. The groups members include Albaugh Europe SARL, Barclay Chemicals Manufacturing Ltd., Bayer Agriculture, Ciech Sarzyna S.A., Industrias Afrasa S.A., Nufarm GMBH & Co.KG and Sinon Corporation.80What is the Glyphosate Renewal Group,” Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived December 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/53rmx

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