As of 2009, Syngenta International AG, based in Switzerland, is the world's largest agrochemical company and the third largest seed company. Its business interests include pesticides, and seeds for field crops and vegetables.
Reported Sales: USD 14.688 billion
Net Income: USD 1.649 billion
Workforce: 28,150 employees worldwide
Revenues are from: herbicides, pesticides and GM crop seeds.
Syngenta was formed from the merger of Novartis and AstraZeneca in 2001. Both Novartis and AstraZeneca have roots to companies founded more than one hundered years ago. Novartis was formed from the merger of Ciba and Geigy. In 1939, Geigy discovered the impact of DDT on insects; DDT was subsequently widely used by the Allied forces during World War II. In 1956, Geigy introduced atrazine to control weeds. AstraZeneca traces its roots to Imperial Chemical Company who, in 1954, developed diquat and paraquat. In 2005, Syngenta developed Golden Rice 2 - rice genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene.
In 2010, pesticide sales amounted to about USD 8.9 billion while seed sales took USD 2.8 billion.
Syngenta's harmful pesticides include acetochlor, atrazine, avermectin, chlorothalonil, clodinafop, diazinon, diquat, DDT, lambda-cyhalothrin, metolachlor, paraquat, profenofos, and simazine. DDT use has been listed for restriction (Annex B) in the Stockholm Convention. Atrazine, a non-selective herbicide introduced in 1956, is a known carcinogen and groundwater pollutant. Syngenta was reported to have orally dosed healthy human subjects with the neurotoxic diazinon. In 1975, Ciba-Geigy sprayed monocrotophos on 40 Indian children and adult volunteers.
Paraquat is among the most toxic herbicides, without a known antidote, and has been banned in Switzerland and the European Union. Up to 70% of paraquat is used in developing countries, where protective equipment is often lacking or impractical to use. Common exposure symptoms include burns to the mouth, acute respiratory diseases, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat. There can be nosebleeds, skin fissures, peeling, burns and blistering, eye injuries, and nail damage. There is evidence that it may cause the onset or accelerate the development of Parkinson's disease.
Suppression and Corruption of Science
Syngenta (then Novartis) hired Dr. Tyrone Hayes to conduct environmental tests on atrazine. When his results showed sexual abnormalities in male frogs at concentrations 30 times less the maximum EPA contaminant level, Syngenta claimed private property over his research results and did not allow the publication of the study. He replicated his results using personal resources and eventually published them refusing a USD 2 million laboratory support from Syngenta to keep the result private.
Also, in 1998, Novartis Agricultural Discovery Institute offered the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology of the University of California Berkeley (UCB) a 5-year USD 25 million grant in exchange for the first right to negotiate licenses on a third of the department's discoveries including both the results of company-funded research and results of research using public funds. In exchange, Syngenta representatives filled two of five seats on the department’s research committee, which decides how research money is spent.
Syngenta's genetically-engineered seeds include insect-killing Bt cotton (such as VIPCot), Roundup Ready soybean, and corn (proprietary AGRISURE ARTESIAN and triple stacked 3000GT). It is leading proponent of Genetic Use Restriction Technologies, such as the use of terminator genes, to limit user benefits such as seed replanting.
In 2001, IRRI entered into partnership with Syngenta to do research on a GE rice variety called Golden Rice. Syngenta announced a new variety - Golden Rice 2 - in 2005.