Syngenta takeover comes under heavy fire

Syngenta takeover comes under heavy fire

SWISSAID, Berne Declaration (BD), MultiWatch and Bread for All protested at the Annual General Meeting of Syngenta in Basel on Tuesday against the proposed takeover of the Swiss multinational agrochemical corporation by the Chinese state-owned company ChemChina and its negative consequences for farmers, consumers and the environment. Even in China itself, resistance against the controversial deal is rising.

Qin Zhongda, former Chinese Minister of the Chemical Industry, started the resistance as the initial signatory of an open letter asking critical questions regarding the takeover and its consequences for China’s farmers and consumers. In the letter, Zhongda expresses concerns that Syngenta’s genetically modified seeds will endanger China’s local soybean and rice varieties and lead to increased production and use of toxic pesticides. The letter has been co-signed by 460 people from China.

International organisations - including 19 from Switzerland - have launched an open letter addressing similar issues. The letter will be handed over on Tuesday afternoon at the Chinese Embassy in Berne. Previously, SWISSAID, Multiwatch, Bread for All and BD have also expressed their concern at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Syngenta in Basel, making similar points to the Chinese letter. Key points of the criticism are growing ecological risks and increasing monopolisation in agribusiness following the takeover. In addition to pesticides, ChemChina also secures all of Syngenta’s intellectual property rights on plants.

The representatives of the development organisations at the AGM called on Syngenta to promptly change its aggressive patent policy. Patents on conventional plants or naturally occurring traits, restrict free access to breeding material and impede innovation in the seed sector. Syngenta however, supports such patents and the monopolisation of seeds. With only a few large corporations controlling the seed and pesticide parket, as well as the research agenda, the freedom of choice of farmers and consumers is drastically limited.

Harsh criticism - (in the open letter from China, as well as at the AGM in Basel) - was also expressed regarding the sale of dangerous pesticides such as Paraquat. These are banned or restricted in their use in industrialised countries because of their high toxicity. Nevertheless, Syngenta forces their sale in developing countries, aware that they cannot be applied correctly in those countries. Thereby, the Basel agrochemical corporation endangers the health of countless farmers and plantation workers. This has also been documented in various case studies by BD and its partners.

Pictures of the protest: Download on the right side

Further information

And background can be found in the newly published Schwarzbuch Syngenta by Multiwatch.

Questions and Interview:

Fabio Leippert (SWISSAID): 031 350 53 75; f.leippert@swissaid.ch