Syngenta

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.

Syngenta is a global agribusiness, agrochemical and biotechnology corporation based in Basel, Switzerland. It has substantial interests in the seed industry and genetically modified (GMO) crops. The company produces insecticides, herbicides -- including the controversial weedkiller Atrazine -- fungicides, field crop seeds (soybeans), vegetable seeds (corn, beans, tomatoes), and flowers. It is one of the "Big 6" Biotech Corporations, along with BASF, Bayer, Dupont, Dow Chemical Company, and Monsanto (so called because they dominate the agricultural input market -- that is, they own the world’s seed, pesticide and biotechnology industries).[1][2]

In 2010, the company's operating revenue was $11.6 billion with a gross operating profit of $5.77 billion.[3][4]

In 2009, Syngenta opened a North American subsidiary, Syngenta Seeds, based in Hopkins, Minnesota. The president of Syngenta Seeds is David Morgan, and the company is a wholly-owned, indirect subsidiary of Syngenta AG in Switzerland. It is not traded separately from Syngenta AG on Wall Street. [5]

Lobbying and Political Contributions

2012 Lobbying Statistics

In 2012, Syngenta lobbied through its own corporate firm (Syngenta Corp.) As well as numerous lobbying firms including the Alpine Group and the Podesta Group

Lobbying Firm Amount Reported Issue
Alpine Group $60,000 Toxic Substances Control Act, H.R. 553 (Endochrine Disruptor Screening Enhancement), H.R. 901 (Chemical Facility Security Improvement), Food Quality Protection Act Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act H.R. 2031, EATS (Expediting Agriculture Through Science) Act,
Cornerstone Government Affairs $180,000 Agriculture Appropriations, Interior and Environmental Appropriations, Biotechnology, Farm Bill, FIFRA and FQPA
EOP Group $60,000 EPA's pesticide management plan, Atrazine and Metalachlor
International Business-Government Counselors $20,000 Duty Suspension on Various Chemicals. H.R. 4435, 4436, 4437, 4438, 4473, 4474, 4475, 4476, 4477, 4478, 4479, 4506, 4507, 4508, 4509, 4510, 4511, 4512, 4513, 4514, 4515, 4516, 4517, 4518, 4519, 4520, 4701, 4702, 4703, 4704, 4705, 4706, 4707, 4708, 4741, 4742, 4743, 4744, 4745, 5504, 5505, 5506, 5507; S. 2519, 2521, 2522, 2523, 2524, 2525, 2590, 2593, 2594, 2596, 2597, 2598, 2618, 2619, 2624, 2625, 2626, 2627, 2628, 2629, 2630, 2631, 2632, 2633, 2905, 2906, 2907, 2908,
Podesta Group $80,000 Pesticide Regulation, S. 3240 Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act.
Syngenta Corp. $527,000 Trade issues; Duty suspension; biotechnology; Tariffs; Agriculture appropriations; Biofuels; Farm Bill; Pesticides.

Previous Lobbying and lobbying expenditures

Syngenta spent a total of $410,000 on lobbying in 2011, $680,000 in 2010, $975,000 in 2009, $690,000 in 2008, $1.2 million in 2007, and $4.36 million in 2006, and $960,000 in 2005[6] The company reported a total of $600,000 in lobbying expenses for 2011.[7]

In 2011, Syngenta paid $90,000 to the Alpine Group, $180,000 to Cornerstone Government Affairs, $90,000 to the EOP Group, $240,000 to the Podesta Group.[8]

Former Senator Robert Dole was a lobbyist for Syngenta in 2004.[9]

The company spent over $610,000 and Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. spent over $390,000 in direct lobbying costs focusing on the federal pesticide laws, biotechnology and EPA’s review of the company’s Atrazine product.[10] In the first 3 months of 2012, the Syngenta Crop Protection has already spent $270,000 on the same issues.[11]

6 of the corporation's 10 lobbyists are revolving door, and have worked for government at some point, including James Richards and Thomas Hunt Shipman who worked for the Dept of Agriculture.[12]

PAC contributions

The official name of Syngenta's PAC is the Syngenta Corporation Employee Political Action Committee (Syngenta PAC) and is funded by employee contributions.

As of June 30, 2012 Syngenta PAC raised $217,387 and spent $191,815 for 2012 elections.[13] The largest recipient is Rep. Colin Peterson of Minnesota, one of the ranking leaders on the House Ag Committee.[14]

As of January, 2, 2012, in the 2012 election cycle, Syngenta had given a total of $90,000 to agribusiness-related political action committees, of which 37 percent went to Democrats and 63 percent to Republicans.[15]

In the 2010 election cycle, Syngenta's PAC spent $285,750 in contributions to federal candidates, with 58 percent going to Democratic candidates and 42 percent going to Republican candidates. [16]

In the 2008 election cycle, Syngenta's PAC spent a total of $226,120 on contributions to federal candidates, of which 46 percent went to Democrats and 54 percent went to Republicans.[17]

In the 2006 election cycle, Syngenta's PAC spent a total of $156,020 on contributions to federal candidates, with 30 percent going to Democrats and 70 percent to Republicans.[18]

In the 2004 election cycle, Syngenta's PAC spent $95,200 on contributions to federal candidates, of which 25 percent went to Democrats and 75 percent to Republicans.[19]

Syngenta CEO Michael Mack donated $1,000 to Syngenta's PAC in the 2012 election cycle. [20][21]

History

In November of 2000, Novartis combined its agricultural division with that of AstraZeneca to form the first global group focusing exclusively on agribusiness. [22]

Pharmaceutical giants Novartis and AstraZeneca formed Syngenta, from the agrochemical and seed divisions of Novartis and the agrochemicals and biotechnology research divisions of AstraZeneca, and spun it off. Syngenta is the world’s second biggest player in agrochemicals and the third biggest seed producer. [23][24]

Business divisions

Syngenta divides itself into three main "reporting areas": Crop protection, seeds and business development. The Crop Protection division produces chemicals including herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and seed treatments to control weeds, insects and diseases in crops. Syngenta's Crop Protection business focuses mainly on herbicides for corn, cereals, soybean and rice; fungicides designed mainly to be used on corn, cereals, fruits, grapes, rice, soybean and vegetables, and insecticides for fruits, vegetables and field crops. Syngenta's "seed care" products are insecticides and fungicides that are applied to plants during the early stages of growth.[25]

Syngenta Crop Protection

Syngenta Crop Protection, Inc. in Greensboro, North Carolina (in the U.S.), is located at 410 South Swing Road in Greensboro, North Carolina 27409-2012. It is Syngenta's United States headquarters for research, and one of Syngenta's main U.S. sites for research and development. The facilities take up 2,970,000 square feet of space. [26] Syngenta's Crop Protection business also manufactures vaccines and antibiotics, rubber, plastic and other chemicals.[27] Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. was formerly called Novartis Crop Protection, Inc. It changed its name to Syngenta Crop Protection Inc. in 2000. The company was incorporated in 1996 and operates as a subsidiary of Syngenta AG. It is the manufacturer of the controversial chemical Atrazine.[28]

Revenues

In 2010, the company's operating revenue was $11.6 billion with a gross operating profit of $5.77 billion. 2011 revenues are estimated to hit $13.2 billion, and in 2014, the company is expected to make $14.2 billion. [29][30]

In the fiscal year ending in December of 2008, Syngenta reported sales of $11.6 billion dollars, with a gross operating profit of $5.89 billion, and 19,300 employees. [31]

Executive compensation

Syngenta's CEO and Executive Director, Michael Mack, was paid a total compensation in 2010 of $5.45 million. That figure included $1.25 million in salary, a bonus of $206,555, $2.56 million in stock awards, $127,295 in various other awards, and about $380,000 in pension and "deferred compensation earnings."[32] [33]

The Chairman of Syngenta's Board, John Martin Taylor, earned a total compensation package in 2010 of just over $2.46 million, of which $1.85 million was in cash, $382,616 was in stock and $222,880 was in "other compensation."[34]

Jurg Witmer, Syngenta's Vice Chairman of the Board, in 2010 earned a total compensation package of $364,765, of which $342,857 was in cash and $21,908 was in "other compensation."[35]

Board of Directors

Board of Directors (as of December 31, 2010):

Animal testing

Syngenta does animal testing.

Contract testing

Syngenta contract tests out to Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). [37] HLS is the 3rd largest contract research organization (CRO) in the world and the largest animal testing facility in all of Europe. Firms hire CROs to conduct animal toxicity tests for agrochemicals, petrochemicals, household products, pharmaceutical drugs and toxins. HLS has a long history of gross animal welfare violations. See also Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Food safety issues

Syngenta inherits the dubious legacies of both parent companies, promoters of GMO (genetically modified organism) technology and manufacturers of hazardous chemicals (paraquat and atrazine11). In the late 1990s Novartis and AstraZeneca wanted to establish themselves as "lifesciences" companies in order to exploit potential synergies between their pharmaceutical, chemical and agricultural sectors. Both invested heavily in acquiring seed and biotechnology companies. The Syngenta spin-off was a result of the poor performance of both companies' agribusiness divisions in 1999 and at least partially due to the global backlash against GM crops.

The creation of Syngenta enabled the parent companies to make considerable savings and rid themselves of their controversial agricultural biotechnology ventures. Syngenta has so far managed to avoid the public vilification of Monsanto, while it quietly develops controversial agricultural biotechnology, including genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs)/traitor technology. [38]

Lobbying Against Proposed EU Pesticide Ban

Two studies published in early 2012 in the journal Science suggested a particularly strong connection between the use of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids and the decline of both bumble bee and honeybee populations.[39][40] Although neonicotinoid insecticides were initially accepted as a safer alternative for humans, livestock, and birds, and have been used for years on corn, soy, wheat, and canola (called rapeseed in Canada and Europe), these and other studies led the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to recommend a two-year ban of the most controversial neonicotinoids by the European Commission: thiamethoxam, manufactured by Swiss company Syngenta; and imidacloprid and clothianidin, manufactured by German company Bayer.[41] Private letters obtained and released by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) reveal that Bayer and Syngenta have engaged in intensive lobbying against these measures, sending letters to the food safety agency and the European Commission, which were followed later by threatened litigation.[42]

Dave Goulson, professor of biology at the University of Sussex, was one of the authors of the spring 2012 Science study on neonicotinoids and bumble bees. In the study, scientists exposed bumble bee colonies to the neonicotinoid imidacloprid. According to Goulson, compared to control colonies, treated colonies "had a significantly reduced growth rate and suffered an 85% reduction in production of queens..." Goulson goes on to say, "Exposure to these pesticides, which are essentially a neurotoxin, was affecting the ability of the bees to learn, to find their way home, to navigate, to collect food, and so on, which is hardly surprising if you realize they're neurotoxins."[43] The dangers of a shrinking bee population have led some to suggest that a significant decline in pollination may lead to agricultural crisis.[44]

Global GMOs & herbicide market

The top biotechnology companies are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Bayer. (Syngenta is a subsidiary of parent companies AstraZeneca and Novartis. Aventis' agribusiness division was bought out by Bayer.) They account for almost 100% of the genetically engineered seed and 60% of the global pesticide market. Thanks to recent acquisitions, they now own 23% of the commercial seed market. In 1999, almost 80% of total global transgenic acreage was planted in GMO soy, corn, cotton and canola. Until then, farmers could spray herbicides before planting, but not after, as herbicides would kill the intended crop. The other 20% of genetically modified acreage is planted with crops that produce pesticides. Monsanto’s "New Leaf" potato kills potato beetles, but is itself registered as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The five largest biotech companies in the world are also the five largest herbicide companies. GMOs ensure a continuous and ever-expanding market for their agrochemicals. [45]

Under current policy, the government provides large subsidies to farmers to produce grains, in particularly corn and soybeans. Livestock producers use corn and soy as a base for animal feed as they are protein rich and fatten up the animals. They are also cheap (due to government subsidies.) Livestock consumes 47% of the soy and 60% of the corn produced in the US. [46] See also Food and Drug Administration.

Key executives

Contact

Syngenta AG
Schwarzwaldallee 215
Basel
4058
Switzerland[48]
Phone: +41-61-323-11-11
Toll Free: 800-759-4500
Web address: http://www.syngenta.com/en/index.aspx

SourceWatch articles

External resources

External articles

References

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