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Sustainable & responsible agriculture

Syngenta’s ambition is to empower farmers and support the development of agricultural systems that function within planetary boundaries. Innovation, integrity, responsibility, and collaboration are at the heart of our business. We are focused on continuously improving the sustainability of agriculture in all that we do.

Regulation and registration

How are crop protection products approved for sale?

The crop protection industry is one of the most highly regulated in the world, with products subject to extensive evaluation before they are approved for registration and sale. To register a product we must first demonstrate that it meets the regulatory standards of the country, that it can be used safely by workers, and that it has no adverse effects for the environment and the crops that it will protect, and to the food that will ultimately be produced from those crops. The exact nature of the study process depends on the planned use of the product – but generally more than a hundred studies covering toxicology, metabolism, residues, ecotoxicology, physical-chemical properties and environmental impact are performed.

The studies required for approval are performed in accordance with internationally agreed test guidelines which can take up to five years to complete. Once submitted for approval, the regulatory ities evaluate the data over a two to four-year period before reaching a conclusion on whether or not the product meets the country's regulatory standards. ization to sell is documented with a "registration certificate" issued by the regulatory ity. Registrations are usually time-limited and re-registration will be required after a certain period, often 10 years after the first registration.

On average, the development of any new crop protection product takes eight to 10 years and costs around $286 million before a product is commercially launched.

Does regulation of crop protection products differ between markets/countries?

The data requirements for approval of crop protection products are broadly similar in most countries. However, the way that the data are used and the conclusions reached by the regulatory ities in product evaluations can differ depending on how countries have chosen to define protection goals.

In the US, the regulatory system considers the risks that crop protection products pose under realistic agricultural conditions. This approach focuses on factors such as the quantity of a substance that will actually be used by growers.

In Europe, a number of additional hazard-based regulatory cut-off criteria have been introduced - meaning that active ingredients will not be eligible for approval if classified as, for example, a carcinogen, a mutagen or a reprotoxin. These cut-off criteria apply regardless of the use rates of a crop protection product or whether there is any real risk for undesirable effects in practice. In Europe, all our crop protection products comply with relevant EEC Council directives and the EC's regulations on food safety.

What is a PIC listing and are any Syngenta products listed?

The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure is a global treaty that came into force in February 2004 and which is jointly implemented by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The PIC procedure is designed to promote shared responsibilities in relation to international trade of certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides. The PIC listing process does not involve an evaluation whether products can be manufactured and used safely. Also, PIC does not constitute a ban or prohibition of affected products by FAO/UNEP or a recommendation by these organizations to do so.

No Syngenta active ingredient or formulation is currently listed in Annex III of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure (PIC list).

Is Paraquat PIC listed?

No. Paraquat liquid formulations of type SL/EC at a concentration greater than or equal to 200 g paraquat ion per liter have been recommended for PIC (Prior Informed Consent) listing as “Severely Hazardous Pesticide Formulations” by the Chemical Review Committee of the Rotterdam Convention based on a proposal from Burkina Faso.

In 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019, the Conference of the Parties (COP), which is the decision-making body of the Convention, could not reach the required consensus on the paraquat formulations for listing in Annex III of the Convention (the PIC list). Further discussions were deferred to the next meeting in spring 2021.

It is Syngenta’s view that Burkina Faso’s listing proposal does not demonstrate that these formulations meet the definition of a SHPF under the provisions of the Convention. Burkina Faso’s underlying study on pesticide poisonings provides no evidence of severe health incidents involving the product under conditions of use. Paraquat is used safely around the world, popular with farmers and a vital tool for sustainable agriculture.

What is Syngenta's view on bees and neonicotinoids?

Over the last 10–15 years there has been a global debate about honeybee populations, and the short and long term effects of pesticides, and specifically neonicotinoids on them. Over time, many other influence factors over bee populations have been studied by scientists, including: diseases caused by viruses, parasites, and mites; poor nutrition; climate change; lack of genetic diversity and lineage; stress brought on by frequent transport of honey bee colonies; poor beekeeping management; and combinations of these factors.

More than one third of the world's crops depend on pollination, which means our business is reliant upon the pollination provided by bees and other pollinators. We conduct constant research on the environmental effects of our products, while helping beekeepers and farmers to maintain suitable areas for bee forage and beekeeping coexistence. Our Operation Pollinator program has helped boost the number of pollinating insects near farmland. It provides farmers with locally suited flower seed mixes and best practice advice to enable them to create bee friendly areas in field.

Read more

How are GM seeds products approved for sale?

All genetically modified (GM) seeds products are subject to intense regulatory scrutiny. We follow international guidance for assessing the safety of our GM seeds products. Our regulatory experts around the world stay in regular dialogue with relevant regulatory ities.

New GM seeds products only reach the market after the rigorous and comprehensive safety assessments of their environmental, feed and food safety have been reviewed and approved by the appropriate regulatory ities.

Does regulation of GM seeds products differ between markets/countries?

New GM seed products are only placed on the market after the safety assessments have been reviewed and approved by the appropriate regulatory ities in that particular county. The general type of data required for obtaining approvals is similar in various countries.

The time between submission to regulatory ities and approval does vary by country. Government regulations, regulatory systems, and the politics that influence them, can vary widely and are subject to change. Obtaining product approvals can be time consuming and costly, and data requirements for approvals continue to increase. In some countries, approvals are time-limited and must be renewed periodically to ensure that each product continues to meet regulatory standards.

How does Syngenta ensure regulatory compliance of GM products?

We maintain high levels of stewardship for all our genetic modified (GM) products, helping us ensure compliance with regulatory standards. The processes we have in place are audited by the Excellence Through Stewardship (ETS) initiative – the first industry coordinated initiative that promotes the global adoption of stewardship programs and quality management systems across the full life cycle of biotechnology derived plant products.

Our focus on safety and the environment begins at the start of our product lifecycle. We are committed to complying with plant biotechnology regulations and we maintain a management system for handling our genetically modified crops that is modeled on ISO 9001, the international quality standard.

Our regulatory compliance team works globally to ensure compliance best practices are shared and comprehensive compliance programs are available where needed. This approach, combined with the experience, knowledge and risk awareness of our employees, ensures that we maintain a high level of compliance.

We report on our biotechnology regulatory compliance in Our Sustainable Business Report (p. 51).

What is the main challenge for the export trade of GM seed products?

As the export trade for major crops increases, one of the major challenges facing the industry is the harmonization of approval processes between major cultivation and importing countries. Approvals of genetically modified (GM) seed products occur at different times due to differences in country regulatory processes. Creating greater synergy between approval processes would facilitate trade and ensure choice of supply. We strongly uphold the right of growers to have access to approved new technologies that can increase both their productivity and crop yields.

Several governments have signed a declaration of intent to work collaboratively on the issue of Low Level Presence of GM products where they have been approved in the country of origin but not in the countries of import – their aim is to facilitate improved international trade of agriculture commodities.

Read more: Global Low Level Presence Initiative (GLI)

Does Syngenta support the development and improvement of national legislation and regulation with respect to the approval of phytosanitary products and seeds?

National regulatory ities sometimes ask for public participation to develop or refine regulation with regard to biosafety aspects or phytosanitary questions.

Syngenta complies with regulatory requirements and has long experience of evaluating the safe use of our products. We are open to share our knowledge and to engage in dialogue with local regulatory ities to help shape the regulatory framework.

We also support the development and improvement of regulatory systems by participating in initiatives and platforms bringing together industry organizations and regulatory ities. Our staff is closely involved in the ‘Principles of Regulation’ initiative from CropLife International which provides building blocks for new regulation and measures for continuous improvement of existing regulation.

How does Syngenta support farmers using GM seeds in complying with national legislation and international conventions such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety?

Syngenta contributes to the work of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety through the Global Industry Coalition (GIC). GIC was established early on during the negotiations on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to provide concrete, reliable and accurate information for countries involved.

Syngenta strives to fully comply with the framework of existing national legislations. We are in an ongoing dialogue with regulatory ities as our products move through the product life cycle. Commercial regulatory approvals of GM products often include post-launch regulatory obligations for the technology developer and their customers, as for example Insect Resistance Management practices.

Syngenta customers learn about these requirements through our comprehensive education programs. Online resources, face to face meetings and product labels provide guidance. Also, our education materials often include customer support contact information in the event the customer has a question related to stewardship requirements. Syngenta also partners with key external stakeholder groups such as industry associations and local farm groups to help deliver the messages to customers. Syngenta has also developed innovative solutions to enable our customers to more easily comply with the requirements. As an example, the integration of refuge seed into the bags of some of our insect-protected GM products helps growers to fulfill the refuge planting obligation.

Read more about the stewardship measures of our industry

Product safe use and stewardship

What does Syngenta do to make sure its products are used safely?

We are committed to the responsible and ethical management of our products throughout their life-cycle; we call this stewardship. Ensuring that our products are used safely is our priority.

Under The Good Growth Plan, we have committed to train 20 million farm workers on labor safety by 2020. Our aim is to drive real improvement in stewardship knowledge, attitudes and behaviors around the world. Together with expert partners, we are constantly reviewing our training approach to equip our 30,000 frontline trainers around the world with the skills, knowledge and tools for effective stewardship.

In developed markets, industry ities often provide training and guidance to users. In countries where this guidance does not exist, we train growers to handle products safely. In some areas low levels of literacy and little access to training can make it difficult to correctly read product labels or directions for use. Face-to-face training is complemented by safety messages on crop protection products through a variety of media including picture based training, actor-led dramas, and even TV and radio programs. We also provide specialist information to growers through our online platform “Pesticidewise”.

We monitor the response of growers to different safety messages, including the effectiveness of our training programs, in order to ensure that these important messages are understood by those who need them.

More information on this topic is also available in Our Sustainable Business Report (p. 29).

What type of toxicovigilance support does Syngenta provide?

Syngenta has established toxicovigilance programs in 100 countries globally. These programs include agreements with poison centers or hospitals to offer a 24 hours, seven days a week medical information support for patients who were exposed to pesticide products.

The information collected from reported incidents feeds a database that serves to improve our pro-active stewardship programs and provides information to include in our dossiers for regulatory submissions. In addition, we frequently train physicians to improve medical treatments in the case of pesticide-related incidents.

Read more in our Sustainable Business Report (p. 48)

What stewardship measures does Syngenta adhere to regarding genetic modification?

We are committed to promoting full and effective stewardship from discovery to commercialization for all our plant genetically modified (GM) products to maximize the benefits and minimize any risk from using them. We believe that the appropriate management and use of our products is an important element underpinning sustainable agriculture and safeguarding the environment and public health.

Our plant biotechnology stewardship lifecycle starts with gene discovery, includes plant development, seed production, seed marketing and distribution, crop production and crop utilization, and ends with product phase-out. We have worked with others in the agricultural biotechnology industry to develop and maintain the following stewardship programs and have established internal quality management systems to promote responsible management of plant biotechnology:

  • Insect and Weed Resistance Management

  • Field Trial Compliance Manual/Workshops

  • Containment Analysis and Critical Control Point (CACCP) Plan

  • Product Launch Stewardship Policy

  • Excellence Through Stewardship

Read more about our commitment to Biotechnology Stewardship

What is Syngenta doing to inform the public about the benefits of genetic modification?

We provide information on genetically modified (GM) technology and the benefits it can bring through open dialogue. We work with industry partners such as Crop Life International and the Council for Biotechnology Information to provide accurate and impartial information on the safety and benefits of GM technology. Other organizations that also provide information include the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications and the Biotechnology Industry Organization.

A good source of accurate information is GMO Answers, where people can ask questions to experts.

Resource efficiency and biodiversity

How does Syngenta contribute to improve resource efficiency?

We are committed to helping farmers around the world grow more and better quality food while using fewer natural resources. This means adopting sustainable farming practices that are more resource efficient and developing solutions that help farmers grow more from less.

Sustainably increasing farm productivity will add value to rural economies and make sure that land fertility is maintained and improved. Our best management practices are designed to provide farmers with simple, practical measures that enable them to work more productively and sustainably with the resources they have. Working closely with growers and stakeholders, we have developed simple measures that enable farmers to identify the issues and associated risks specific to their operation.

Read more about how we make crops more efficient, conserve water and report on progress in The Good Growth Plan

How does Syngenta help to protect biodiversity?

Farming relies on biodiversity – it is crucial for crop pollination, healthy soils and water purification. At the same time, farming, and increased cultivation, can also have impacts on biodiversity. In The Good Growth Plan, we have committed to help biodiversity flourish by enhancing biodiversity on 5 million hectares of farmland by 2020.

We support projects that demonstrate the importance of biodiversity and resource management in the production of high-quality and sustainable crops. We work with farmers to help them understand the importance of managing biodiversity on their farms. For instance, our Operation Pollinator program aims to increase populations of bees and other pollinating insects through the planting of locally suited flower mixes within field margins.

Crop diversity is one of the world's least recognized but most valuable resources. The conservation of crop varieties is essential to meet future challenges, such as food supply and those associated with climate change. Many initiatives on a local, national or supra-national level aim at preserving the genepools for future use and research. We work with seed banks around the world to share and protect the genetic diversity of food crops and we are a donor to the Global Crop Diversity Trust - a foundation committed to conserving crop diversity for global food security.

Smallholder farmers and their livelihood

How does the company define smallholder farmers?

Worldwide, there are around 450 million smallholder farmers. We define smallholders as growers who face significant challenges in production and market access due to their limited land area or lack of infrastructure. They are generally dependent on their own and family labor. While this typically means growers with less than two hectares, each country and crop has its own particular dynamics and so we do not use a rigid global definition based on farm size.

In The Good Growth Plan, we have committed to empower smallholders by reaching 20 million small farmers and enabling them to increase their productivity by 50 percent by 2020.

How does Syngenta advocate the interests of smallholder farmers?

Smallholders are vitally important to addressing and achieving global food security. They constitute almost half the hungry people in the world even though they currently produce around 25% of global food and feed more than 2 billion people. We estimate that by 2050, even if large farmers can increase their production by 20%, smallholders will still need to more than double their production to feed the world.

Our experience has shown that an ongoing engagement with smallholder farmers on-the ground is needed to help them increasing productivity and profitability in a sustainable way. In The Good Growth Plan, we have committed to empower smallholders by reaching 20 million smallholders and enabling them to increase productivity by 50 percent by 2020. Smallholder farmers are an integral part of Syngenta’s customer base in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Half our sales come from emerging markets where smallholders dominate the farming market (80% and 95% respectively).

The Good Growth Plan is the enabling platform for many initiatives and projects that we have initiated and that we are supporting to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers across the world. Wherever we operate, we seek to make a positive contribution, as outlined in our Code of Conduct.

How does Syngenta engage with female smallholder farmers?

Women are often the backbone of rural economies around the world. Globally, they represent two-thirds of smallholders and 60 percent of all farmers. Research has shown that when women do have access to relevant services and other inputs, such as improved seeds and fertilizers, they will increase their yields substantially.

From the data gathered three years into The Good Growth Plan, we have learned that there is more to be done to address women better, and we are now taking a step towards exploring this opportunity. We have a significant number of women among our existing and potential customers and we understand that there are opportunities to tailor our outreach programs to serve them more effectively.

Are there initiatives developed by Syngenta and its partners that focus on improving smallholders' livelihoods?

There are more than 450 million smallholder farmers around the world who grow approximately 25% of global food. They economically support more than 2 billion people. However, the farm productivity is relatively low in these markets, and Syngenta is working to increase the productivity of more than 20 million smallholders by 50% by 2020. This is a key element of The Good Growth Plan.

In markets around the world, Syngenta develops and sells solutions that enable smallholder farmers to improve their productivity and profitability. Our solutions are tailored by crops and geographies. In Asia for example, our GroMoreTM program looks at rice growing through a paddy farmer's eyes. It provides growers with the right knowledge and technology in each key development phase of the crop (seedling - vegetative - reproductive - ripening). The knowledge is transferred to smallholders through farmer meetings, field days and other training platforms.

Along with better agronomy, trainings on the safe use of crop protection products, the cascading of know-how and technologies through self-help farmer organizations, and as a result of strategic partnerships, our solutions may include improved access to finance and provide better access to market.

Read more about Syngenta’s participation in public private partnerships under the World Economic Forum's New Vision for Agriculture, including the Southern Agriculture Growth Corridor in Tanzania, Grow Africa, and Grow Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia). Additionally, Syngenta works together with public and private food chain partners in various smallholders' initiatives in several key countries (Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Nicaragua; Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Vietnam; Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal).

Improving smallholders' access to technology

How does Syngenta contribute to agricultural education programs or institutions to improve capacity building amongst farmers – and smallholders in particular?

Specific Syngenta initiatives demonstrate how we help farmers in all parts of the world to better protect their crops and seeds. We accompany our solutions with capacity building initiatives for our customers that range from the dissemination of good agronomy, training in the safe, efficient and responsible use of agrochemicals, to biodiversity protection measures and advice on how to improve access to markets.

We entered into partnerships with other organizations including academia, NGOs, industry associations, local organizations and product retailers, to scale up the initiatives and programs to support their agronomy programs. To this end, the company and its partners run trainings in agronomy and in the safe and responsible use of crop protection products.

Our training programs raise awareness and share knowledge. They are part of our commitments to empower smallholder farmers and to help people stay safe as outlined in The Good Growth Plan. Since we have started this ambitious program, we already have come a long way.

How does Syngenta market commercial varieties and other inputs that are appropriate to the needs of smallholders?

We focus on building and sharing knowledge by providing smallholders good agronomy practices, combined with safe use and environmental stewardship. We set up demonstration farms where growers can experience first-hand the solutions we are tailoring to meet the local needs.

Through our Lead Farmer Networks we can reach a greater number of smallholders within the same community. We support Lead Farmers through education programs on best practices on the farm. Thereafter, these Lead Farmers will disseminate the knowledge by demonstrating the solutions and providing advice to their neighbors.

We are also exploring different options for connecting with smallholders via digital platforms. Technology can help us to provide timely agronomic advice to more smallholder farmers and help enable better access for them to information, markets and finance. We are currently piloting this approach across a number of geographies.

How does the company leverage its strengths to increase access to seeds and other inputs for smallholder farmers?

Syngenta’s presence in over 90 countries brings us close to smallholder famers in any part of the world. We reach out to them via distribution channels, our sales force and through specifically designed projects. In The Good Growth Plan we have committed to reaching 20 million smallholder farmers by 2020 and enable them to increase productivity by 50%. Read more about our progress.

Smallholder farmers need skills and resources to prosper. To increase productivity and profitability in a sustainable way, we offer training on agronomic practices, and provide advice on appropriate products and technology and how to use these effectively. By equipping smallholders with appropriate solutions and expertise, we help them develop their farming practices to ensure increased food security for themselves and their communities.

Solutions that are specifically designed for smallholders range from: producing smaller, more affordable packs of products in Asia and Africa to establishing demonstration farms, Centers of Excellence and Learning Centers. We are developing solutions to help farmers gain access to market, finance and insurance, and we are offering bartering models. Furthermore, in a number of countries we are using a lead farmer model to disseminate best practices from a community’s lead farmer to the smallholders he is surrounded by. We are replicating this model and rolling it out across different smallholder environments in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

What programs has Syngenta in place to make seeds and inputs more affordable to smallholder farmers?

Syngenta tailors its solutions to the needs of its customers. Initiatives such as UWEZO develop and promote the introduction of small packages to help smallholder farmers get access to high quality seeds and crop protection products. While we pay particular attention to local languages, the use of pictograms helps overcome language and illiteracy issues and ensure growers understand how to safely use, store and dispose the product. Furthermore, the sachets are designed to withstand humidity changes.
Read more about what Syngenta does to make sure its products are used safely

In The Good Growth Plan, we have committed to empower smallholders by reaching 20 million smallholders and enabling them to increase productivity by 50 percent by 2020. Increasing productivity is an important first step to raise smallholders above a subsistence level.

We want to understand what impact our products and services have on smallholder livelihoods. In numerous countries with smallholder customers, we have launched a series of CIMS, Solidaridad and Market Probe. These assessments help us to understand e.g. whether our smallholder customers (compared to smallholders with similar growing conditions but who hardly use technology or attend trainings) have more income, whether their Progress Out Of Poverty Index is higher, whether they practice better soil and biodiversity management, and whether they know how to safely use crop protection products.

Social Impact Assessments depict a given social, economic and environmental situation. They also provide in-depth insights into how we can continuously improve our agronomic, environmental and safe-use trainings to enable smallholder farmers to achieve higher yields and better performance.

Read more about our projects and solutions and how we are progressing on achieving our commitments

Does Syngenta participate in the 'Access to Seeds' index?

The Access to Seeds Index (‘Index’) is published every two years by the Access to Seeds Foundation, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and AgriCord. The Index compares the efforts of seed companies to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers. The Index is one of the SDG benchmarks published by the World Benchmarking Alliance.

Syngenta is part of the Access to Seeds Index. The index recognized the high level of transparency about how Syngenta engages with smallholder farmers across the world. With the launch of The Good Growth Plan, Syngenta has committed to reach 20 million smallholder farmers and enable them to increase productivity by 50 percent by 2020. The Good Growth Plan is an integral part of our strategy and we report on progress regularly on our website.

Read more about how we do business with smallholder farmers and how we advocate their interests