Syngenta Annual Meeting: Controversial Pesticide Draws Investor Criticism

Zurich, 23.04.2012 - On the eve of Syngenta’s annual shareholder meeting the Ethos Foundation – representing 130 institutional investors - recommended to oppose the discharge of Board Members and the Executive Management. The reason for this refusal is the company’s irresponsible policy of marketing its highly toxic pesticide Paraquat in developing countries where it causes great numbers of poisoning cases every year. A report about the dialog with Syngenta published some days ago by the Swiss Bank Pictet also demands a radical change of Syngenta’s strategy .

The „Report on the Sustainability Dialogue with Syngenta“, produced by Ethos for Pictet concludes that recent developments have contributed to a “very unfavorable environment” for the further production and marketing of paraquat (brand name Gramoxone), especially in developing countries where conditions for a safe use are rarely fulfilled. The report calls Syngenta’s safe use programs a failure and recommends that Pictet’s continued involvement with the company be made contingent on the worldwide implementation of a corporate „zero misuse“strategy. The sale of the product should be restricted, as in the USA, to users who are fully equipped with the required protective clothing and trained in the proper use of the pesticide. According to Berne Declaration this demand could only be met, if Syngenta stops the sale of Paraquat in most countries.

Either way, paraquat is clearly growing into a serious image problem for Syngenta. As Ethos wrote in an earlier report for Pictet: “The company, while still insisting on the safety of Gramoxone, implicitly recognizes that it has lost the communication combat and admits it has to face significant challenges in terms of reputation.” “It is Ethos’ belief that the Paraquat compound does not meet investor expectations, not only in terms of sustainability but also in terms of commercial, regulatory and reputational risks.”