News / 26 September 2013

Agrochemical producer Syngenta becomes observer UNCCD

Syngenta , global producer of seeds and agrochemicals, will become an ' observer ' within the UN Convention to Combat Desertification ( UNCCD ). This was decided last week during the annual meeting in Windhoek , Namibia and caused indignation among civil society groups. Groups that were present started a joint diplomatic protest. Our Both ENDS-colleague Nathalie van Haren took a leading role in this protest and was the spokeswoman towards the media. She explains what it was all about.

Food security?

"Syngenta and a handful of other agribusiness multinationals dominate the worldwide pesticides- and seed trade. According to Both Ends and partners these agribusinesses do not exactly have a positive reputation for their contribution to the prevention of land degradation. To the contrary; these companies sell their patented genetically engineered seeds under the guise of 'contributing to food security in drylands’. However, these companies will only cause a further decrease in  biodiversity in these fragile ecosystems and make local farmers become dependent on their products.  For decades, farmers in dry areas have been selecting seeds that can stand the drought, so they don’t need Syngenta’s seeds and chemical products.  Food security in these areas is rather determined by political and socio-economic factors. "


Searching for sustainable solutions

"The UN Convention to Combat Desertification is the global convention of the United Nations on combating desertification and drought. Every country in the world has signed this convention, except for Canada who withdrew in 2012. Both ENDS is a member of Drynet, a network of local organisations and communities in dry regions searching for ways to use land in a sustainable manner. Together with my colleague Sanderijn van Beek and other members of Drynet, we were participating in the UNCCD conference in Windhoek. We wanted to put several themes on the agenda of the delegates of the UNCCD. For example, we want the discussion of combating land degradation to focus on local people. In other words, if a government is planning to stimulate sustainable land use, it is important that local communities are being involved in the discussion and decision making. They can indicate best what is necessary and what is not to make things work.”





Independent research?

“Syntenta is not only becoming an observer, but also financial partner in the UNCCD Fellowship Program, funding research on land degradation. It is a good thing that there will be adequate funds for research.  The research program has been discussed for a long time by parties the UNCCD  but none of the richer countries had actually reserved funds for it yet.  Although the money is more than welcome, the question is whether the research will be reliable when paid by Syngenta. Will the research critically and objectively focus on the effects of agribusiness activities in dry regions? Furthermore Syngenta now has a ‘UN cover’ to plead itself free from criticism.”


Media stunt

“Both ENDS and other Drynet partners find it incomprehensible and hard to justify that Syngenta has obtained the status of observer. This is the reason why we organised a ‘media stunt’ - the first one ever done during a UNCCD conference. We wanted to make a clear statement with this action: The decision of the UNCCD does not contribute to a sustainable environment for millions of people worldwide in dry regions. With this action we urge the members of the UNCCD to first look at the impact of a company’s activities on local land users and the ecosystem in dry areas before approving such a request. In our opinion a company should obtain the status of observer when all its activities contribute to the goal of the Convention: combating desertification and drought. The activities should of course not counteract this goal, they should not be harmful to people and their environment in dry areas.”


Voorkant Algemeine Zeitung_kl


Profile of Syngenta

Harassment practices by Syngenta


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