Syngenta brings together chemistry, biology, genetics, biologicals, new breeding and digital technologies, as well as monitoring and application techniques to provide farmers around the world with modern agricultural solutions that meet their needs.
Syngenta’s comprehensive portfolios of crop protection, seed treatment and seed products provide growers around the world with efficient solutions to help them grow strong and healthy plants.
We focus on major crops that make up the majority of global food production: cereals; corn; diverse field crops including sunflower; rice; soybean; specialty crops including coffee and cocoa; sugar cane and vegetables.
We also apply our world-leading agriculture technology in the Lawn and Garden market.
Crop protection products are chemical or biological substances that protect crops from damage caused by biotic and abiotic stress. They control weeds, disease and insect pressure, and can mitigate climate stress. The widespread use of newer and more effective products since the middle of the twentieth century has increased food security and improved standards of living around the world.
- Herbicides control weeds that compete with crops for light and nutrients. Without weed control, crop yield can be significantly reduced. Herbicides are categorized as selective herbicides, which control specific weeds without damaging the crop, and non-selective herbicides, which control all plants (if absorbed by green tissue).
- Fungicides prevent and/or cure fungal diseases which can have severe adverse effects on crop yield and quality. Plant diseases are caused by a great variety of pathogens.
- Insecticides control insects such as caterpillars and aphids that can significantly reduce crop yield and quality through their feeding.
- Seed treatments are substances or physical processes applied to seeds or seedlings. They help to protect the seeds and assure optimum emergence of the crop. Application of a substance to seeds is a very targeted method of reducing pest and disease attacks on the growing plant.
- Plant growth and stress regulators create a shorter, stronger plant, increase root mass, resulting in improved water and nutrient uptake and better drought-, heat-, and wind tolerance.
Plants themselves naturally produce a wide range of chemicals to protect themselves against pests, but these are not enough to prevent large losses of food crops. In fact, it is estimated that between 35% and 40% of all crops would be lost to insects, weeds and disease without appropriate pesticide use1.
The effective use of pesticides helps growers to grow more from less, increasing food security for millions of people by reducing crop losses resulting from insects, weeds and diseases.
1Oerke E C and Dehne H W; "Safeguarding Production – Losses in Major Crops and the Role of Crop Protection"; Crop Protection 23 (2004): 275-285.
Food was not healthier before pesticides: infestation with dangerous pests and disease was common and persistent. The use of pesticides has enabled farmers to produce a more abundant supply of safe, affordable, fresh food than ever before, supporting healthy diets around the world.
Pesticides themselves do not make food unhealthy and residues in fruit and vegetables are highly regulated to remain well within safety levels (see next question).
Modern pesticides are designed with three things in mind – they must be safe, they must be specific to their target and they must be short-lived, breaking down harmlessly shortly after achieving their aim. They are only approved for use after extensive testing for any potential effect on human health or the environment.
Pesticide residues in food are highly regulated and constantly monitored. Maximum legal levels are typically 100 times lower than needed for safety and there is no evidence that the miniscule residue sometimes left on fruit and vegetables has any effect on human health.
All our products are also tested extensively to make sure that they do not have a negative impact on the environment, biodiversity or waterways when used as recommended. Pesticides can also bring environmental benefits by reducing the need for tilling thereby increasing soil vitality, reducing erosion, and improving the quality of the land.
Objective scientific research has led many food safety agencies around the world to conclude that organic food is not safer or more nutritious than food produced with agronomic practices that include the use of modern pesticides.
Contrary to common belief, organic farmers are allowed to use a range of pesticides and toxic chemicals on their crops – either those obtained from natural sources or those that are considered traditional practices.
Pesticides are developed to tackle specific issues in specific locations. Variations in climate or localized pest and diseases mean that a product used to treat crops in one country may not be suitable to treat the same crops in another country.
Regulations are often developed on a country level and regulatory bodies will only approve a product if there is a real need for them in their country to secure food production and food security. This means that while a certain product has been approved for use in one location it will not necessarily be approved for use in another. This is not an indication of the safety of its ingredients or that a product has been ‘banned’ in a particular country, it is merely that it has not been registered or re-registered there.
For more than 60 years, the herbicide Atrazine has been used safely and effectively by farmers as a selective herbicide to control weeds in crops such as corn, sorghum and sugar cane.
Atrazine provides considerable advantages to farmers. It is a well-understood and affordable product – without it, a University of Chicago economist has estimated corn farming in the US would cost up to $59 per acre more (representing a combination of alternative herbicide costs and reduced yield). Atrazine is also widely used in conservation tillage and non-till systems, which can reduce soil erosion by up to 90% – according to data from the US Department of Agriculture – helping to preserve soil fertility and protect waterways from sediment.
Atrazine is one of the most studied and thoroughly tested agricultural chemicals in the world. More than 7,000 studies have clearly established its safety for humans and the environment. It is supported by sound scientific evidence provided by a range of independent sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR), the United Kingdom’s Scientific Committee on Plants, conducted on behalf of the European Union, Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), and the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines ity (APVMA).
Collectively, the scientific weight of evidence indicates that atrazine does not adversely affect frogs or other wildlife at environmentally relevant concentrations.
In the United States, atrazine completed its first round of registration review in 2020. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will complete the next round of registration review for atrazine by 2035. Source: EPA
Further information about atrazine can be found at www.savingtheoasis.com, www.atrazinefacts.com and www.atrazine.com.
Seeds sales account for almost a quarter of Syngenta’s revenues. Our seed portfolio is one of the broadest in the industry including more than 200 product lines, and more than 6,800 varieties produced by around 38,000 seed suppliers around the world. We provide these seed suppliers with parent seeds of our proprietary seed varieties, which they grow and harvest before selling the harvested seeds back to us.
Our seed portfolio includes field crops - such as corn, soybean, rice and cereals – and vegetables. We have a significant market share across many of these crops and we are continually working to develop new and better seed varieties.
‘Conventional’ breeding generally refers to plant breeding without the use of molecular biology or biotechnology techniques. It involves the crossing of carefully chosen parent plants, then evaluating the resulting offspring for desired phenotypes, and selecting the best to be advanced to a final commercial variety.
‘Modern’ breeding generally refers to the use of molecular biology or biotechnology techniques to discover and isolate the desired characteristics – whether through marker assisted breeding, Plant Breeding Innovations (PBIs), or genetic modification. Modern breeding techniques do not eliminate the need for the crossing and selection breeding process steps required for conventional breeding, rather modern breeding techniques, such as marker assisted breeding, can accelerate the breeding process.
Marker-assisted (or molecular-assisted) breeding can provide a dramatic improvement in the efficiency with which breeders can select plants with desirable combinations of genes. It is used to develop both native (non-GM) trait and biotech (GM) trait products.
A molecular marker is a “genetic tag” that identifies a particular location within a plant’s DNA sequences. Plant breeders use genetic markers to identify the versions of specific genes associated with a desirable trait. This allows them to predict and guide performance at early stages of development.
Marker-assisted breeding enables the outcome of the breeding process to be optimized at the gene level, allowing for the development of plants with new properties that are beneficial to the consumer, such as improved taste, without incorporating undesirable characteristics.
Hybridization is a traditional breeding process in which two inbred lines from diverse backgrounds are crossed to create seed varieties with greater yield potential and stronger biological characteristics than exhibited by either parent – a phenomenon called hybrid vigor or heterosis.
From the farmer’s perspective, hybrid seed has many advantages, including higher yield potential, uniformity, improved plant vigor, improved resistance to stress and disease, and a better return on investment.
Crops in which breeders have achieved high levels of hybrid vigor (typically 15% or more) are dominated by hybrid varieties, which are continuously improved and adapted to current needs by the seed producer.
The introduction of hybrid seeds led to one of the biggest science-based jumps in crop productivity.
Read more on hybrid seed technology
Hybrids seeds are created through cross-fertilization of purified “inbred” lines, in which every plant has the same characteristics. Hybrid seeds are bred to improve specific attributes such as vigor. The seed produced by the second generation of the hybrid does not reliably produce a true copy of that hybrid. It will not have the same genetic make-up and characteristics as the plant from which it originated, often resulting in the loss of much of its yield potential. In addition, the practice of so-called farm-saved-seed can increase seed-borne diseases, which affect yield but also the quality of the harvest.
Read more about Farm-saved seed (FSS) practices
Biofuels are derived from biomass and offer a lower-carbon, renewable alternative to fossil fuels.
Efficient biofuels can help to address key global challenges of climate change and energy security.
We research and develop crops that make biofuel production more efficient and help reduce competition for land. Syngenta’s ENOGEN®, the industry’s first output trait (altering the harvested crop) in corn, accelerates the conversion of starch to sugar in ethanol production.
We focus on helping growers improve agricultural productivity and crop value to meet growing demand and reduce competition between food and fuel.
Seed treatments are substances or physical processes applied to seeds or seedlings that help protect plants from insects and disease during critical growth stages, and improve seed quality (germination). Estimates suggest that around 80% of all plant problems are due to soil or root problems. The application of treatments to seeds promotes the development of stronger, healthier roots, leading to improved crop performance and greater resilience to conditions that may otherwise affect plant vigor. This results in improved plant health and increased yield.