Syngenta headquarters in Basel
|Founded||13 November 2000|
|US$54 million (2017)|
|US$(96) million (2017)|
|US$20.33 billion (2017)|
|US$(7.97) billion (2017)|
Number of employees
The Syngenta Group is a leading global provider of agricultural science and technology, in particular seeds and crop protection products, with its headquarters in Basel and further locations in Chicago, Tel Aviv, and Shanghai. Syngenta was founded in 2000 and acquired by China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina) in 2015. In 2020, the Syngenta Group was formed, bringing together Syngenta, Adama, and the agricultural business of Sinochem under a single entity.
In the late 1990s, the merger of Astra and Zeneca created the world's third-largest chemical and pharmaceutical manufacturer. In 2000, AstraZeneca and Novartis decided to spin off their seeds and crop protection businesses because of the limited synergies between the agricultural and healthcare sectors. This led to the creation of the Syngenta joint venture. The joint venture was headquartered in Basel and was listed on the stock exchanges in London, New York, Stockholm, and Zurich. AstraZeneca shareholders received 39% of the shares and Novartis shareholders received 61%.
The creation of Syngenta was seen as evidence of the increasing specialization in the European chemical and pharmaceutical industry. Syngenta successfully held its own in the difficult market environment of the 2000s, which was characterized by a global decline in demand in the agricultural sector.Organic growth was mainly driven by investments in genetic engineering and biofuels as well as various acquisitions, including Sanbei Seed from China and Zeraim Gedera from Israel.
A milestone in Syngenta's history was the full DNA sequencing of the rice genome in 2001 when the company also became a member of the Golden Rice research consortium and acquired patenting and commercialization rights. The company waived royalty payments in markets where rice farmers were underperforming and allowed farmers to use seeds after crossing local varieties. In 2004, a genetically modified sweet corn variety from Syngenta received a European Union import license, attracting significant attention. It was the first genetically modified cereal for human consumption.
Over the years, there has been speculation that Monsanto, known primarily as a producer of glyphosate, might take over Syngenta. Monsanto's primary interest was in Syngenta's technical solutions to pesticide-resistant weeds. Both companies had long competed in important business areas, leading to legal disputes. In 2015, Monsanto made a formal offer to acquire Syngenta, but management rejected it on valuation grounds. As a result, other competitors such as Bayer, Dow Chemical, and DuPont were speculated to be potential buyers of Syngenta.
In 2015, ChemChina, a state-owned chemical company, finally took over Syngenta for a purchase price of $43 billion. This, the largest takeover by a Chinese company to date, caused criticism. Following a positive evaluation by the Board of Directors, the majority of Syngenta shareholders accepted ChemChina's offer. By July 2017, ChemChina had secured over 98% of Syngenta's shares, allowing a squeeze-out of the remaining shareholders and withdrawal from the stock exchange.
Under ChemChina's leadership, Syngenta played a prominent role in the reorganization and consolidation of the industry. In November 2017, Syngenta agreed to purchase Nidera from Cofco International. In March 2018, Syngenta announced plans to acquire Strider, a Brazilian agri-technology company. In July, Syngenta bought Floranova, a flower and vegetable seeds breeder based in the UK. In September 2019, the company acquired all the assets of The Cropio Group, another agri-technology company.
In June 2020, ChemChina transferred its entire agricultural business to the Syngenta Group, which now also includes Adama and the agricultural activities of Sinochem in addition to Syngenta. The group is headed by Erik Fyrwald (CEO), who previously ran Syngenta. Chen Lichtenstein, who previously headed Adama, is CFO of the Syngenta Group.
In October 2020, the company purchased Valagro, a market-leading producer of innovative Biologicals headquartered in Atessa, Italy.
The Syngenta Group acts as a holding company. The group currently employs around 49,000 people and generates annual sales of $23 billion.
The Syngenta Group consists of the business units Syngenta Crop Protection (crop protection), Syngenta Seeds (seeds), Adama (crop protection solutions), and Syngenta Group China. Under corporate law, the business units Syngenta Crop Protection and Syngenta Seeds are bundled in Syngenta AG. It is a public limited company headquartered in Basel (Switzerland), where the Syngenta Group headquarters are also located. Other important locations include Chicago (United States), Tel Aviv (Israel) and Shanghai (China). The Syngenta Group has research and development departments at its sites.
The Syngenta Group is one of the world's largest suppliers of crop protection products (including herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides), seeds (including rice and corn), and related products. Syngenta also produces biofuels, such as biodiesel.
The company is thus following the political strategy of many countries to reduce their dependence on oil imports from other countries. In 2011, it announced the corn trait Enogen to substantially reduce the consumption of water and energy versus conventional corn. Several ethanol producers plan to process such improved corn. For example, Syngenta has signed a commercial agreement with Three Rivers Energy of Coshocton, Ohio, U.S. to use grain featuring Enogen trait technology following the 2014 corn harvest.
The Syngenta Group also provides digital services to farmers. One example is the "AgriClime" platform, which calculates weather guarantees for farmers to assess and hedge harvest risks. Syngenta Group products and services are designed to help make crops more efficient, preserve biodiversity, and combat the effects of climate change.
Syngenta's predecessor, Ciba-Geigy, introduced the insecticide Galecron chlordimeform in 1966, which was removed from the market in 1988. In 1976, Ciba-Geigy told regulatory authorities that it was temporarily withdrawing chlordimeform because of ongoing long-term toxicology studies. The studies focused on whether long-term exposure could cause cancer. The research showed that this was the case and that they had already started to monitor the exposure of their workers and had found chlordimeform and its metabolites in their urine.:8-9
Ciba-Geigy then applied for, and was granted, permission to market Galecron at lower doses for use only on cotton. However, as further long-term monitoring data was obtained, regulators banned chlordimeform in 1988. In a 1995 class action in the U.S., Ciba-Geigy agreed to cover costs for employee health monitoring and treatment. In 2005, Syngenta reported that employee health monitoring was continuing at the company's Monthey, Switzerland site.
Syngenta's contributions to U.S. federal candidates, parties, and outside groups totaled $140,822 during the 2018 election cycle, ranking it 20th on the list of companies in its sector. Its lobbying expenditures in the U.S. during 2018 were $770,000, ranking it 7th in its sector.
In 2001, the company established the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. Its purpose is to promote sustainable agriculture, for example by supporting relevant scientific input and analysis in this field. The Syngenta Foundation originated from the former Novartis Foundation. The objectives and goals of the Syngenta Foundation are "to work with rural communities in the semi-arid regions of the world and improve their livelihoods." The Syngenta Foundation addressed the World Food Day Symposium in 2005 as an output of the Millennium Ecosystem Report.
Syngenta Group has explicitly committed itself to the United Nations' sustainability goals with the "Good Growth Plan", which was last renewed in 2020. The Group has a strong commitment to research and innovation, which has been reinforced in light of the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In October 2008, Syngenta Crop Protection Canada, Inc. was recognized as one of Waterloo Area's Top Employers, as announced in the Waterloo Region Record, Guelph Mercury and Cambridge Times. In 2011, Syngenta was named among the top 10 employers in biotechnology by Science magazine. The 2011 Dow Jones Sustainability Index named Syngenta one of the best performing chemical companies worldwide. Syngenta was one of five chemical companies in the World and Europe indices based on economic, social and environmental performance.
In 2001, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled in favor of Syngenta which had filed a suit against Bayer for patent infringement on a class of neonicotinoid insecticides. The following year Syngenta filed suits against Monsanto and other companies claiming infringement of its U.S. biotechnology patents covering genetically modified corn and cotton. In 2004, it again filed a suit against Monsanto, claiming antitrust violations related to the U.S. biotech corn seed market, and Monsanto countersued. Monsanto and Syngenta settled all litigation in 2008.
Syngenta was defendant in a class action lawsuit by the city of Greenville, Illinois concerning the adverse effects of atrazine in human water supplies. The suit was settled for $105 million in May 2012. A similar case involving six states has been in federal court since 2010.
In the U.S., Syngenta is facing lawsuits from farmers and shipping companies regarding Viptera genetically modified corn. The plaintiffs in nearly 30 states contend that Syngenta's introduction of Viptera drove down U.S. grain market prices, leading to financial harm, and that Syngenta acted irresponsibly by doing too little to enable shipping companies to export the grain to approved ports. Before Viptera's 2010 introduction Syngenta secured all U.S. and NCGA-recommended export approvals, but none from China. China had imported little to no U.S. grain prior to 2010, and at the time was not considered a major partner, which changed in 2010, when it dramatically increased U.S. grain imports. For three years, China imported U.S. Viptera grain without formal approval. In November 2013, Chinese officials destroyed a U.S. grain shipment containing Viptera grain and began rejecting all U.S. shipments with the GM grain, but continued to accept it from all countries other than the U.S. The same year, U.S. corn market prices dropped $4 per bushel, causing over $2.9 billion in losses, with just over half of that loss occurring prior to China's November rejection. China later approved the GM corn in 2014 but U.S. corn grain market prices have since not rebounded. Syngenta lost the first lawsuit to reach trial in Kansas on 23 June 2017 and was ordered to pay the farmers $217 million. However, Syngenta has stated it would appeal the verdict.
In 2007, Syngenta came under scrutiny by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This was due to third-party sales of products in countries such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
In the past, Syngenta's crop protection products have also been the subject of repeated criticism. The company was accused of including the sale of highly toxic pesticides in its business model. In 2012, the company was therefore nominated for the "Public Eye Award", which denounces companies with questionable human rights practices.
On 21 October 2007, a Brazilian peasant organization, the Landless Workers' Movement, led a group of landless farmers in an invasion of one of the company's seed research farms, in protest against genetically-engineered ("genetically modified") vegetables and in hopes of obtaining land for landless families to cultivate. After the invasion had begun, a team from NF Security arrived in a minibus and a fight with gunfire ensued. A trespasser and a security guard were killed, and some trespassers and other security guards were wounded.
The Brazilian police investigation, which concluded in November 2007, blamed the confrontation and death of the trespasser on nine employees and the owner of NF Security; the leader of MST was blamed for trespassing. The inquiry found that the invader was fatally shot in the abdomen and in the leg. The security guard was shot in the head. Eight others were injured, five of them invaders.
The Civil Court of Cascavel granted an order for the repossession of the site on 20 December 2007 and on 12 June 2008, the remaining MST members left the Santa Teresa site they had been occupying. On 14 October 2008, Syngenta donated the 123-hectare station to the Agronomy Institute of Paraná (IAPAR) for research into biodiversity, recovery of degraded areas and agriculture production systems, as well as environmental education programs.
In November 2015, Judge Pedro Ivo Moreiro, of the 1st Civil Court of Cascavel, ruled that Syngenta must pay compensation to the family of Valmir Mota de Oliveira ("Keno"), who was killed in the attack, and to Isabel Nascimento dos Santos who was injured. In his sentence the judge stated that "to refer to what happened as a confrontation is to close one's eyes to reality, since [...] there is no doubt that, in truth, it was a massacre disguised as repossession of property". The version of events put forward by Syngenta was rejected by the Court. In May 2010 Syngenta was condemned by the IV Permanent People's Tribunal for human rights violations in Brazil.
According to an article in 10 February 2014 issue of The New Yorker, Syngenta's public-relations team took steps to discredit Hayes, whose research is purported to suggest that the Syngenta-produced chemical atrazine was responsible for abnormal development of reproductive organs in frogs. The article states that the company paid third-party critics to write articles discrediting Hayes's work, planned to have his wife investigated, and planted hostile audience members at scientific talks given by Hayes.
During a 21 February 2014 interview conducted on Democracy Now, Hayes reiterated the claims. After the interview aired, Syngenta denied targeting Hayes or making any threats, calling those statements "uncorroborated and intentionally damaging" and demanding a retraction and public apology from Hayes and Democracy Now.
In 2010, Syngenta forwarded an ethics complaint to the University of California Berkeley, complaining that Hayes had been sending sexually explicit and harassing e-mails to Syngenta scientists. Legal counsel from the university responded that Hayes had acknowledged sending letters having "unprofessional and offensive" content, and that he had agreed not to use similar language in future communications.