Syngenta Corporate Profile

July 2010

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Syngenta AG

In December 1999, Novartis Agribusiness and AstraZeneca Agrochemicals merged to form Syngenta. Earlier that year, AstraZeneca was formed when Zeneca, a British lifesciences company, acquired Astra AB, a Swedish pharmaceutical corporation. Only four years earlier, Ciba-Geigy and Sandoz merged to form Novartis.

Today Syngenta is the world’s largest agrochemical producer.Furthermore, the company is the world’s leading agricultural biotechnology corporation, third largest owner of plant biotechnology patents, and third largest seed supplier.[1] In 2009, the company’s sales totaled almost US$ 11 billion. [2]

Syngenta at a Glance

Headquarters Basel, Switzerland

Key subsidiaries Tomono Agrica (Japan), Agra (Italy), Agrosem (France), Koipesol Semillas (Spain), Crop protection business of Oriental Chemical Industries (South Korea), Sturdy Grow Hybrids (United States), Wilson Seeds (United States), Agritrading (Italy), American Sunmelon (United States), Ishirara Sangyo Kaisha Ltd. (Japan), Mogen (Netherlands), New Farm Crops (United Kingdom), Hilleshog NK (Sweden), Stauffer Chemical BV (Netherlands), Sluis & Grut (Netherlands), Northrup King Co. (United States), Rogers (United States), Funk Seeds International (United States),Golden Harvest (United States), Dia-Engei (Japan), Dulcinea Farms, LLC (United States), Advanta BV (Netherlands), GreenLeaf Genetics LLC (United States), Conrad Fafard, Inc (United States), Zeraim Gedera (Israel), Goldsmith Seeds (United States), SPS Argentina (South America), Synergene Seed & Technology, Inc. (United States), Pybas Vegetable Seed Co., Inc. (United States), Maribo Seed (Denmark) [3]

Product sectors In 2009, Selective Herbicides (US$2.22 billion in sales), Non-Selective Herbicides (US$1.14 billion), Fungicides (US$2.44 billion), Insecticides (US$1.31 billion), Professional Products (US$458 million), Other (96 million) [2]

Employees About 25,900 employees worldwide [4]

Sales distribution Syngenta operates in over 90 countries. Its regional revenue distribution in 2008 was as follows: Europe, Africa and the Middle East (US$4.3 billion or37% of total global sales), NAFTA (US $3.6 billion or 31% of total), Latin America ($2.2 billion or 19% of total), and Asia Pacific (US $1.5 billion or 13% of total). [5]

Revenues [6]

2009 revenue was $10.99 billion.

2008 revenue was US$11.6 billion.

2007 revenue was US$ 9.2 billion.

2006 revenue was US$ 8 billion

2005 revenue was US$ 8.1 billion

2004 revenue was US$ 7.3 billion

Net income In 2008, Syngenta’s net income was  CHF 1.6 billion (about US $1.5 billion today) . In 2007, the company made almost CHF 1.2 billion (about US$ 1.14 billion today) in net income. [5]

Executive compensation In 2009, Chairman of the Board Martin Taylor received $2,510,380 ($1.9 million of which was in cash). Other members of the Board (9 people in all) were paid a total of $2.5 million, while members of the Executive Committee (8 people in all) were paid a total of $16.955 million, including in-kind benefits. [2]

Type of corporation Public, traded on the Swiss Stock Exchange and New York Stock Exchange.


Syngenta says it “is committed to sustainable agriculture through innovative research and technology.”Its pesticides, however, tell a different story, and include active ingredients such as:

Acetochlor Acetochlor is a known carcinogen [7] granted conditional registration by the U.S. EPA in 1994. A 1995 study found acetochlor in tap water in 52% of 29 major U.S. cities tested. [8] The state of New York has refused to register acetochlor. [9]

Avermectin Avermectin is known to increase the risk of birth defects and affect the brain and central nervous system. [10] It is a PAN Bad Actor chemical.

Chlorothalonil A known carcinogen, a possible groundwater contaminant and a toxin to aquatic organisms and beneficial soil microorganisms, Chlorotahlonil is an acutely toxic PAN Bad Actor Chemical. [11]

Clodinafop Clodinafop is classified as “likely to be carcinogen to humans” and is suspected to cause prostate, ovarian, liver and blood cancer. [12] Furthermore, it is known to be highly toxic to freshwater fish, is persistent and has the potential to contaminate drinking water. [13]

Diazinon Diazinon is an organophosphate pesticide (a class of pesticides that were orginially developed as nerve agents in WWII) and was the second top seller in the home and garden insecticide market until EPA was forced to severly restrict its use due to health concerns [14] Studies found it present at levels of up to 3,500 times those deemed safe by EPA. [8] Diazinon is a cholinesterase inhibitor and a PAN Bad Actor chemical. [15]

DDT The Swiss multinational Ciba-Geigy, later Syngenta, developed and marketed DDT between 1942 and 1962.Between 1988 and 1990, Ciba-Geigy shipped 405,000 liters of DDT to Tanzania in violation of stated company policy and FAO standards.[16]

Lambda-cyhalothrin A restricted use insecticide belonging to the pyrethroid class of chemicals, lambda-cyhalohrin is extremely toxic to aquatic organisms and bees.[17]

Metolachlor Metolachlor is a groundwater contaminant, suspected endocrine disrupter and possible human carcinogen. [18] Metolachlor was found in the water supplies of 19 of 29 major U.S. cities tested.[8] Due to its prevalence in groundwater and its human health effects, it is a PAN Bad Actor chemical.

Profenofos Another organophosphate insecticide, Profenofos is also a cholinesterase inhibiter, which means that it interferes in the transmission of nerve impulses. This could lead to tremors and nausea at low doses; paralysis and death at high doses. [19]

Simazine Herbicide functionally and molecularly similar to atrazine. See “Focus: Atrazine” below.

Agricultural Biotechnology

By 2000 Syngenta had positioned itself as the third largest holder of biotech patents.Some of Syngenta’s agricultural biotechnology products include insect-resistant Bt corn; herbicide-tolerant soybean, engineered for resistance to Roundup herbicide; and genetically modifiied cotton. [20] The company is also a leading developer of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies, or GURTs, in which organisms are genetically engineered to limit user benefits—such as the inability of so-called “Terminator” plants to produce seeds for replanting. [21]Genetically engineered crops pose serious risks to public health and the environment, increase reliance on pesticides, deepen agribusiness control over farmers, and undermine food security and sovereignty. Most biotech seeds are licensed to farmers, not sold: making it illegal to replant, save, trade, share or breed them as farmers have done for millennia. Global food security requires access to land; small-scale, ecologically based farming systems; and ample crop diversity to respond to varied and changing environments. Genetically engineered crops, in contrast, are an extension of industrial agricultural practices that concentrate land ownership, rely on synthetic pesticides, fertilizers and other off-farm inputs, and dramatically reduce crop biodiversity.

Focus: Paraquat

“Because Syngenta values its customers and firmly believes in the safety of its products, it is working hard to keep paraquat on the market. Syngenta wants farmers to have that choice not only for their own sake, but for the sake of agriculture itself – and for the environment too.”– Syngenta Corporation

Paraquat is the active ingredient of Gramoxone, one of Syngenta’s most prominent products and the second highest selling non-selective herbicide in the world [22]. In the U.S., paraquat is a restricted use pesticide.[23]The World Health Organization called paraquat “the only highly toxic herbicide of the post-war years.” [1]As little as one teaspoonful constitutes a fatal dose for humans.

Syngenta claims that Gramoxone’s “physical properties make it safe to handle, when used according to directions, with the required protective clothing.” Unfortunately, up to 70% of paraquat is applied in developing countries, where protective equipment is often lacking and many applicators cannot read label directions and warnings. [23] Consequently, studies have revealed that ill-equipped applicators commonly suffer from reduced lung capacity and poor health in general.Other commonly reported occupational effects resulting from paraquat exposure include damage to nails, skin, eyes and nose.Non-fatal exposure may result in “thirst, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, kidney failure, lung sores and liver injury.” [22] The frequency and severity of paraquat-related injuries have led civil rights groups to say “It is not right for a human to be handling it” [24]

Focus: Atrazine

“Atrazine has been subject to the most stringent regulatory and scientific evaluation, and Syngenta has submitted more than 100 scientific studies in recent years to EPA to support atrazine’s safety.”– Syngenta Corporation

Atrazine is a non-selective herbicide and the second most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. It is a known carcinogen and widespread groundwater contaminant. [25] Atrazine was present in the tap water of 28 out of 29 major U.S. cities tested. [8]In fact, EWG reported that “cancer risks from atrazine and simazine in tap water [were] ten times the new FQPA benchmark in 60 Midwestern towns.”[26]

Multiple studies conducted by Dr. Tyrone Hayes, professor of developmental endocrinology at the University of California, Berkeley, highlight the hazards posed by Atrazine. In extensive research over several years, Dr. Hayes has shown that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities – including hermaphroditism and “chemical castration” – in frogs at levels 30 times less than the EPA maximum contaminant level. [27] The Syngenta Corporation has devoted considerable energies to suppressing Dr. Hayes’ findings. See “Focus: Suppressing Evidence,” below.

Focus: Suppressing Evidence

When Dr. Hayes made his results known to the company, funding for his experiments suddenly dried up and there were delays in approving guidelines for continued research.[28] Despite these obstacles, Dr. Hayes continued his research, but when his studies were complete, Syngenta refused to let him publish his data, reminding him that his contract included a clause that made his findings their private property. (LSP/PANNA) When Dr. Hayes ended his contract Syngenta attempted to buy his silence: He was offered US$2 million in laboratory support and asked to continue his research “in a private setting,” where unfavorable results could more easily be suppressed. Hayes, however, refused to abandon his studies, his data, or his principles.[28]

In June 2002, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), citing Hayes’ research, petitioned the EPA to withdraw atrazine from the market.Meanwhile, Syngenta spent US$260,000 lobbying the EPA and attempting to discredit the results of Hayes’ work.[29] EPA gave the green light to re-registration by issuing an interim re-registration eligibility decision in favor of atrazine. The agency reported that there is insufficient evidence “to show that atrazine produces a consistent, reproducible effect on amphibian development.”[30]

Undue influence

To advance their interests, powerhouses like Syngenta invest heavily in political and social influence. Some of Syngenta’s efforts to influence policy and public opinion include:

Trade organizations and think tanks Some of the trade and policy organizations in which Syngenta participates include:

Campaign contributions Syngenta and its predecessors contributed a total of US$1,274,345 to U.S. federal candidates through Political Action Committees (PACs) from 1994 to 2002 (72.1% to Republicans)— nearly US$255,000 per election cycle.[37]In 2002, Syngenta donated US$261,318 to both major U.S. political parties (62.5% to the Republican Party).[38]

Corporate science In 1998, Novartis and University of California, Berkeley, agreed to a five-year US$25 million research alliance that granted significant influence for the company. As a part of this agreement, Novartis secured first rights to negotiate licenses on about a third of all innovations and to place two representatives on the committee that assesses research proposals and allocates funding.[39]

A Wide Range of Impacts

Hazardous wastes Syngenta and its subsidiaries are responsible for pollution resulting in 18 Superfund sites.[31] Three of Syngenta’s five industrial facilities in the U.S. rank amongst the worst 30% of comparable facilities in total toxic releases.[32]

Use of human subjects In an effort to prevent deregistration of the pesticide diazinon for home and garden uses, Syngenta orally dosed healthy human subjects with the neurotoxic chemical.[32] In 1975, Ciba-Geigy sprayed monocrotophos, a hazardous organophosphate and neurotoxicant, on 40 Indian children and adult volunteers.[33]

Fraud In 2003, AstraZeneca settled a case for US$355 million regarding charges of fraud and bribery that were exposed in 1996 by a whistleblower.[34]

Polluting the Rhine River In 1986 a fire at the Sandoz chemical plant released 30 tons of pesticide into the Rhine River causing extensive downstream damage and necessitating one of the most extensive river clean-ups in the world.”An estimated half a million fish were killed, and some species were wiped out entirely. .” according to a BBC report. [35]

AdvertisementsIn Malaysia, Syngenta is fighting a government decision to ban the herbicide paraquat. The company, along with other chemical companies, has worked to influence the media, plantation workers and their trade union, fruit growers and rice farmers as part of its campaign to revoke the ban.[36]

Resources for action

Groups and individuals are taking action to hold Syngenta accountable for its impacts. The following resources are good starting points for more information about Syngenta and how you can help in these efforts.

Syngenta (
Syngenta’s Web site.

Scorecard (
Environmental Defense’s toxic release information Web site. You can look up Syngenta’s toxic release information and locations of its U.S. facilities.

Hoovers online
Provides financial information about Syngenta and links to detailed reports and filings.

Corporate watch
Corporate Watch’s corporate profile of Syngenta.

PAN Pesticides Database
Pesticide Action Network North America’s pesticide database allows you to search for toxicity, regulatory and other information by chemical or product.

Berne Declaration’s Stop Paraquat Web page

The “Stop Paraquat” campaign, conducted by NGOs, trade unions, and scientists around the world, calls to end the production, and ban the use, of the highly toxic herbicide, Paraquat.

[1] “Syngenta: A Corporate Profile,” Corporate Watch UK, November 2002, on 29 July 2010.

[2]  Syngenta 2009 Annual Report

[3] Syngenta Company History: on 29 July 2009

[4] Hoover’s Report:

[5] Syngenta 2008 Annual Report

[6] Syngenta Annual Reports, various years.

[7] Proposition 65 list of known:

[8] Brian Cohen et al, “Weed Killers by the Glass: A Citizens’ Tap Water Monitoring Project in 29 Cities,” Environmental Working Group, 17 August 1995, on 29 July 2010.

[9]Audrey Thier, “The Toxic Treadmill: Pesticide Use and Sales in New York State 1997-1998,” Environmental Advocates New York Public Interest Research Group, October 2000, on 29 July 2010

[10] EPA Avermectin Factsheet:

[11] PAN Pesticide Information Database:

[12] EPA Clodinafop factsheet:

[13] PAN Pesticide Information Database:

[14]Press Release, “EPA Phasing Out Pesticide Diazinon” Environmental Working Group. 5 Dec 2000, on 29 July 2010.

[15] PAN Pesticide Information Database:

[16] “The Syngenta Corporation & Atrazine: The Cost to the Land, People, and Democracy”, Land Stewardship Project, Pesticide Action Network North America, Jan 2010. Print.

[17] “Pesticide Information Profiles: Lambda Cyhalothrin,” Extension Toxicology Network, on 29 July 2010.

[18] PAN Pesticide Information Database:

[19] PAN Pesticide Information Database:

[20] Syngenta Website:

[21] “New Terminator Patent Goes to Syngenta”, ETC Group, 12 March 2001, on 30 July 2010.

[22] John Madely, “Paraquat-Syngenta’s Controversial Herbicide,” April 2002, on 30 July 2010.

[23] “Facts About Paraquat,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 8 May 2003, on 30 July 2010.

[24] “Asian Plantation Workers Face Weedkiller Health Threat”, Reuters, 2 Feb 2009, on 30 July 2010.

[25] PAN Pesticide Information Database:

[26] “Federal Cancer Risk Level Routinely Exceeded,” Environmental Working Group, 12 August 1997, on 30 July 2010.

[27] Tyrone B. Hayes. “There Is No Denying This: Defusing the Confusion About Atrazine”, BioScience.December 2004 / Vol. 54 No. 12. on 30 July 2010. Available through JStor at:

[28] Goldie Bulumensytk, “The Story of Syngenta & Tyrone Hayes at UC Berkeley: The Price of Research,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 31 October 2003, on 7 March 2004.

[29]“Syngenta’s Massive Lobbying Keeps Carcinogenic Corn Pesticide on Market”, Organic Consumers Association, 27 October 2004, on 30 July 2010.

[30] EPA Website:

[32] See

[32] “Syngneta (Novartis) Doses Humans with Diazinon in an Effort to Save the Pesticide,” Environmental Working Group, on 31 July 2010.

[33] Holly Knaus, “Ciba-Geigy Pushing Pills and Pesticides,” Multinational Monitor, on 31 July 2010.

[34] “Pharmaceutical Giant to Pay Fines,” Health Supreme, 21 June 2003, on 31 July 2010.

[35] “1986: Chemical spill turns Rhine red” British Broadcasting Corporation, on 31 July 2010

[36] Baradan Kuppusamy, “Malaysia: Government Pulled in Opposite Direction on Pesticide Use,” InterPress Service, 23 July 2003, on 31 July 2010.

[37] Online searchable database of FEC PAC filings at on 26 December 2003.

[38] Online searchable records at on 26 December 2003.

[39] Spitzer, Skip, “Industrial Agriculture and Corporate Power,” Pesticide Action Network North America, June 2003, on 31 July 2010.


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