GENET archive


9-Misc: Interview with Syngenta CEO Michael Pragnell

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  You can't just force people!'
SOURCE: Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Switzerland
        posted by, Switzerland
DATE:   14 Feb 2006

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You can't just force people!'

Syngenta has again published brilliant results. Group CEO, Michael
Pragnell, has geared the agribusiness group up to satisfy trends in the
big producer countries. The doubts felt by the Europeans are not
particularly relevant.

The Sunday NZZ: Mr Pragnell, what kind of a car do you drive?

Michael Pragnell: A Mercedes Benz diesel.

Do you use biodiesel?

Not as yet, but technically it would not be a problem.

Last week the EU decided to take still stronger promotional measures to
encourage the use of bio fuels. Will this be a completely new market for
Syngenta sales? The EU in fact was late taking its decision. In Brazil,
ethanol already represents nearly 30% of vehicle fuel. They began to use
it back in the nineteen-seventies.

Does this really make sense in terms of the overall ecological and energy

We must analyze the position following the EU decision, from the legal
framework through to the possible added value chain. We will then see how
farmers can produce renewable fuels in the most economical and
environmentally-friendly manner possible.

Syngenta is doing research on a genetically modified maize which is
expected to yield better ethanol.

We are trying to arrive at a situation in which the maize plant itself
produces an expensive enzyme which must otherwise be added during the
ethanol production process. That would greatly enhance productivity. We
would then be able to offer a truly attractive technology. We have
submitted the documents and hope to obtain an authorization in the USA by

Could the growing of bio fuel crops save many European farmers who have
experienced problems in selling their output in recent decades?

There might indeed be very attractive prospects in this regard. But this
debate about over-production in Europe misses the point. At the global
level, far from having too much we have too little food to meet the needs
of the whole population. And the key means of production needed by
farmers, i.e. water, is becoming increasingly scarce in many regions of
the world. Farming uses up to 70% of global water consumption. Rice
cultivation requires a particularly large amount of water.

In China, rice is part of the staple diet, but there is a growing problem
both with water supplies and with water quality in that country. Let us
extrapolate this trend. In twenty years time 1 think people will be
astonished to see that we have set aside land areas which are perfectly
suitable for agricultural purposes. Instead, we are trying to grow meagre
crops at great expense in areas of the world where the conditions are

You are overlooking the fact that in many poor regions farming is the
only source of food, employment and income for the population. Social and
political reasons mitigate in favour of a functioning agricultural system.

That is of course correct. I am simply pointing out that nature is in
growing contradiction with these demands in many parts of the world.

The WTO, the World Trade Organization, handed down a ruling last week to
the effect that the EU Member States must not prevent imports of
genetically modified good. What impact will this ruling have?

Not much in the short term. In general, the genetically modified seed
material on offer today is mainly of interest for the countries of North
and South America where it is being grown. Genetically modified maize is
being grown on a modest scale in Europe We must accept the fact that
people cannot be forced to buy something they do not want. Nevertheless,
Europe is not an area where no genetically modified food products are
found. 90% of all soy beans come from genetically modified seed materials.

Until the first case of poisoning is reported...

So far, there is absolutely no documented case in which people might have
been harmed by the consumption of officially authorized genetically
modified food products Not one.

Your arguments are not winning much acceptance. Just a few weeks ago,
Switzerland approved a moratorium on genetically modified food.

We very much regretted that decision. The political system in Switzerland
favours the status quo and does not promote change. So we were not
surprised. But I do believe it is very short-sighted. Scientists are
migrating in droves to the US because researchers, like most other
people, do not like to work in a climate which is hostile to them.

Syngenta transferred its research to the US a long time ago.

Especially because we want to be close to our markets.

Syngenta earns over 70% of its sales with crop protection agents: around
6.3 billion last year. Do we really need these toxic substances to grow
our food?

Let us consider your question against the background of the very high
standard of living in Europe. Without the products made by our industry,
agricultural crop yields would be 35% lower for staple foodstuffs
worldwide. Two billion more people would go hungry. Please also think
back thirty years and ask yourself what selection of fruit and vegetables
people in the developed countries found in their shops then. The choice
was not always impressive. Today, you have high quality products, year in
year out, at much lower prices.

There have certainly been successes. But the fear of toxicity is deep-
rooted. Your product Gramoxone is constantly hitting the headlines.

Political groups are often prone to hold up Gramoxone as a kind of
scandal. The herbicide is used in warm and humid regions to check the
growth of plants which compete with useful crops. When it is washed into
the soil by rain it becomes permanently attached to the earth and is not
leached out into the rivers.

But Gramoxone is not harmless to the people who spray it.

That is true. If it is not used correctly, it can cause temporary
irritation of the skin or eyes. We therefore urgently recommend the use
of suitable protection measures. We also train people in the developing
countries to the best of our ability. But many development aid and
environmental protection organizations make use of this problem to stir
up hostility to us.

Sadly, from time to time, impoverished farmers in the developing
countries swallow the herbicide to commit suicide. Last year, we
therefore added a bright colorant, an acrid odour and a substance to make
people vomit and prevent absorption of the product. We are currently
testing another variant. An innovative gelling agent will hopefully
prevent the absorption of large quantities of the toxin in the body if it
is swallowed. Since the introduction of these training and information
campaigns, the number of suicides caused by gramoxone has fallen

Interview with Birgit Voigt.

Flying high

Syngenta was created in the year 2000 by the merger of the agrichemical
branches of the British AstraZeneca and Novartis companies. For the last
two years (2005: sales worth 8.1 billion dollars, 19,000 employees
worldwide) the business has been highly successful. This has been clearly
reflected in the stock market prices.

58 year-old group CEO Michael Pragnell has been in charge of the group
since the merger. He joined AstraZeneca back in 1995 as director of
Zeneca Agrochemicals.

                                 PART II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Syngenta's 2005 profits shoot up
SOURCE: Swissinfo
DATE:   09 Feb 2006

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Syngenta's 2005 profits shoot up

A Syngenta scientist checks a plant in a seed research laboratory (Syngenta)
Swiss agrochemicals giant Syngenta has reported a strong growth in
profits, with annual sales for 2005 exceeding $8 billion (SFr10.4
billion) for the first time.

The company has promised to return around $800 million to shareholders
this year.

Net profit excluding restructuring for 2005 increased by 25 per cent to
$779 million and full-year sales rose 11 per cent to $8.1 billion, said
the company in a statement.

It added that net profit after restructuring, impairment and discontinued
operations also rose to $622 million from $460 million the year before.

The figures were all in line with analysts' expectations.

"We are very happy with our overall progress and there was growth across
all the businesses," Michael Pragnell, Syngenta's Chief Executive
Officer, told Reuters.

The Basel-based company said it would return about $800 million to
shareholders in 2006, increasing its dividend to SFr3.3 from SFr2.7 in 2004.

Market leader

Syngenta was created six years ago following the merger of the
agrochemicals businesses belonging to AstraZeneca and Novartis. It is,
along with German firm Bayer CropScience, one of the leading firms on the
agrochemicals market.

It produces anti-weed and fungi chemicals and is a major player in the
market for seeds for genetically altered pest-resistant crops.

Seeds account for around 30 per cent of sales and chemicals 70 per cent.

The company said that its crop protection segment had been driven by new
products, which had reinforced its position in the market, particularly
in the United States. Eastern Europe and Latin America also delivered
good results.

The seeds sector also achieved "strong growth", said the statement.

The company added that it expected the strong results to continue this year.

"Looking ahead, the strength of the business and our exciting pipeline
products enable us to plan additional expenditure in marketing and
product development and, for the three years through 2008, target double
digit growth in our earnings per share," said Pragnell.

Syngenta is the world leader in crop protection and ranks third in the
high-value commercial seeds market.
The company makes products that help farmers fight weeds, fungi and pests.
It was formed in 2000 by the merger of the agrochemicals divisions of
AstraZeneca and Novartis.
It employs about 19,000 people in more than 90 countries.

Key Facts
Syngenta 2005 results:
Net profit excluding restructuring: $779 million (+25%).
Full-year sales: $8.1 billion (+11%).
Net profit after restructuring, impairment and discontinued operations:
$622 million.
In addition, $800 million will be returned shareholders this year.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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