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Syngenta AG is a large global agribusiness which markets seeds and pesticides. Syngenta is involved in biotechnology and genomic research. The company is a leader in crop protection, and ranks third in total sales in the commercial agricultural seeds market. Sales in 2008 were approximately US$ 11.6 billion. Syngenta employs over 24,000 people in over 90 countries. Syngenta is listed on the Swiss stock exchange and in New Yorkmarker.


Based in Basel, Switzerland, Syngenta was formed in 2000 by the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. Its roots are considerably older.

In 1758 the city’s Johann Rudolf Geigy-Gemuseus began trading in “Materials, Chemicals, Dyes and Drugs of all kinds”. In 1876, Sandoz Laboratories began business in Basel, followed in 1884 by Ciba. These three companies ultimately became Novartis in 1995. Ciba-Geigy, formed in 1971, had concentrated mainly on crop protection in its agro division, Sandoz more on seeds.

Zeneca Agrochemicals was part of AstraZeneca, and formerly of Imperial Chemical Industries. ICI was formed in the UK in 1926. Two years later, work began at the Agricultural Research Station at Jealott’s Hill near Bracknellmarker.

In 2004, Syngenta Seeds purchased the North American corn and soybean business of Advanta, as well as Garst and Golden Harvest.

In 2005, Syngenta opposed a Swissmarker ban on genetically modified organisms.

In 2007, Syngenta's Canadian division was named one of Canada's Top 100 Employers, as published in Maclean's magazine, one of only a handful of agribusiness firms to receive this honour.

On 21 October, 2007, a Brazilian peasant organization, the Landless Workers' Movement, led a group of landless farmers in an occupation of one of the company's seed research farms, in protest against genetically-modified vegetables and in hopes of obtaining land for landless families to cultivate. After the occupation had begun, a group of gunmen arrived in a minibus and attacked the protesters. A security guard was killed, various protesters were wounded, and Valmir Mota de Oliveira, known as Keno, was found dead, "killed execution-style by two shots to the chest" according to some reports "at the centre of a bitter dispute".

Protesters and sympathizers (including Sarah Wilson, of Christian Aid) claimed that the gunmen were under orders of Syngenta to kill the occupiers, but the company says that the guards of the security company they contracted were not allowed to carry guns. The MST claimed further that NF Security was a front company controlled by rural producer organizations linked to the agribusiness. Amnesty International expressed concern, and said that threats and intimidation by gunmen hired by landowners and agricultural companies are a common occurrence in Paraná.

The police investigation completed in February 2008 implicated MST members and employees of NF Security but not Syngenta.

The Civil Court of Cascavel granted an order for the repossession of the site on December 20, 2007. On June 12, 2008, the remaining MST members left the Santa Teresa site they had been occupying. On October 14, 2008, Syngenta announced donation of the 123-hectare station to the Agronomy Institute of Paraná (IAPAR). IAPAR will use the site for research into biodiversity, recovery of degraded areas and agriculture production systems, as well as environmental education programs.


Syngenta has eight primary product lines. The company develops, markets and sells these worldwide:


  • Field Crops
  • Vegetables
  • Flowers

In 2003, more than half of Syngenta sales came from selective herbicides and fungicides.

Key Syngenta brands include Aatrex (atrazine), Actara, Amistar (azoxystrobin), Callisto, Cruiser, DualGold, Golden Harvest, Garst, Northrup-King (NK), Rogers, S&G, and Gramoxone (paraquat).

Syngenta finances the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. This non-profit organization supports sustainable food security projects in a number of countries.

Some of Syngenta's main competitors are: Monsanto Company, BASFmarker, Dow AgroSciences, Bayer CropScience and DuPont.


Biofuels have become the hot topic on how we get away from oil dependency. Corn as ethanol has been the major alternate fuel source in the United States. Other countries like Brazil use sugarcane. Like many ag-companies, Syngenta also works in the bio-fuel space.

In 2007, Queensland University in Australia contracted with Syngenta to research different inputs for biofuels as a renewable energy source.

Board of directors

Syngenta is led by Chairman Martin Taylor. The other Directors are Peggy Bruzelius, Peter Doyle, Rupert Gasser, Pierre Landolt, Pedro Reiser, Peter Thompson, Jacques Vincent, Rolf Watter, and Felix Weber.

Changes in 2007/2008Michael Pragnell, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Member of the Board, retired from Syngenta. On January 1, 2008 Michael Mack, became the new Chief Executive Officer. He was also elected as a new member of the Syngenta Board of Directors in 2008

Legal issues and controversies

Syngenta and its predecessor companies have been involved in numerous legal actions over the years.

Following a series of fatalities due to accidental consumption in the 1960s, the company’s herbicide, Gramoxone (Paraquat), gained notoriety in the 1970s and 80s due to a rash of suicides using the product, similar to the use of Monsantos herbicide Roundup/glyphosate for suicidal purposes. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies it as only moderately hazardous, in the United States it is labeled a restricted use pesticide and it is banned in several countries. The U.S. Center for Disease Control describes the herbicide as "dangerously poisionous" to humans if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed into the body. Syngenta has added a blue dye, a foul odor, and a powerful vomit-inducer to Gramoxone to help prevent mistakes and misuse.

Atrazine has been banned in several Wisconsinmarker counties in the United States and in the European Union. Syngenta has been linked to attempts to block the publications of UC Berkeley Professor Tyrone Hayes - Syngenta has denied those claims. Tyrone Hayes researches the herbicide Atrazine, which he has found to cause hermaphroditism in frogs. However, EPA and its independent Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) examined all available studies on this topic - including Hayes' work - and concluded there is "currently insufficient data" to determine if atrazine may affect amphibian development. Hayes, formerly part of the panel, resigned in 2000 to continue studies independently.

The company has also faced questions on its Galecron insecticide’s possible relationship to bladder cancer and other illnesses. Production of Galecron stopped between 1976 and 1978 for new safety assessments, and then halted permanently in 1988 after more research showed potential risk. In a 1995 class action in the US, Ciba-Geigy agreed to cover costs for employee health monitoring and treatment.

In 2001, the United States Patent and Trademark Office ruled in favor of Syngenta when the company filed suit against Bayer to protect its patent on a class of neonicotinoid insecticides. The following year Syngenta filed suit against Monsanto and a number of other companies claiming infringement of its U.S. biotechnology patents covering transgenic corn and cotton.

In 2004, the company again filed suit against Monsanto, claiming antitrust violations related to the U.S. biotech corn seed market.

In September 2008 Syngenta's U.S. subsidiaries announced settlements with the United States Environmental Protection Agency totalling $284,000. In various separate cases, the company had been alleged to have failed to store PPE away from areas contaminated with pesticides; distributed its Mesotrione Wet Paste herbicide with a chemical composition different to that registered with the EPA; and violated rules governing the advertisement of restricted-use pesticides.

In October 2008 Syngenta was found guilty of wrongful termination in a federal lawsuit in Baltimoremarker, Marylandmarker. A female employee who complained to management about an abusive manager was terminated after the complaint was filed. A jury awarded her $1.85 million.On May 8, 2009 the judge in the case awarded the woman an additional $244,113.24 in legal fees. The judge, Benson Everett Legg, noted in his order that the counsel for the defense, Whiteford, Taylor and Preston, had billed Syngenta $264,003 for 2,025.5 hours of work. The judge ruled that the fees charged by the counsel for the plaintiff were reasonable.The Syngenta legal record also includes citations by regulators, NGOs, and individuals for health issues related to its products.

Farmers Support Team

Syngenta sponsors several agricultural programs in developing nations. SFI created its flagship program, the Farmer Support Team (FST). The FST is a nationwide program in the Philippine archipelago. It works with farmers in all the major rice, fruit, and vegetable production provinces of the country. It began by helping Filipino farmers gain greater understanding and achieve higher productivity through trainings in Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Integrated Crop Management (ICM) and Total Crop Management (TCM).

Syngenta Foundation

The objectives and goals of the Syngenta Foundation are "to work with rural communities in the semiarid 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.

Awards and community involvement

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.


  1. Swiss Adopt Five-Year GMO Farming Ban
  2. CleanTech, Syngenta Queensland University in Biofuels
  3. Syngenta, Board of Directors
  4. Case 1:06-cv-00952-BEL Document 172
  5. Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, About the Syngenta Foundation[1]

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