Renewable Farming

Syngenta’s board votes “advanced takeover talks” with China National Chemical

Swiss seed and pesticide maker Syngenta is formally negotiating a company sale to China National Chemical Corp, reports Bloomberg Business.

It would give China National Chemical Corp. a new reach into the multinational GMO seed and herbicide market. It would also create a stronger corporate interest, within China, to pursue transgenic traits and related herbicides in China — and in opposition to many Chinese anti-GMO activists who are struggling to reduce the presence of transgenic food crops in China. Also, more than 60 other nations ban or oppose growing GMO crops. 

In effect, worldwide crop regions are dividing into GMO and non-GMO camps. Pro-GMO forces are using aggressive lobbying to “crack” barriers against GMO seed in certain countries, such as New Zealand. Conflicts over market access for GMOs are becoming more aggressive as opposition heats up. One of our consultant friends who visited Ukraine asked a farm manager there what would happen if someone tried to grow GMO soybeans on his farm. The manager answered, “That person would be shot.”

Meanwhile, Africa is seen as a wide-open field for marketing transgenic seed. Australia, up for grabs.

Overall, it’s clear that the potential GMO market is less than global as some 60 nations, including most European Union nations, question the public health aspects of GMO crops and related chemistries.

Thus, the multinationals are consolidating and diversifying to cope with this prospect. Last month, Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. agreed to merge their ag entities into a combined business with about $100 billion of annual seed and pesticide sales.

Earlier, Syngenta rejected a merger offer from Monsanto. And Monsanto itself recently announced downsizing of its worldwide staff by about 16% on shrinking sales of crop protection products.

Who’s doing very well in the new seed market race? Companies that develop and sell only non-GMO and/or organic seed. And also those which give non-GMO seed equal priority in marketing. We’re hearing advice from crop consultants that if you want the best non-GMO seed corn and beans for 2016, it’s getting late to place your order.

Organic seed choices could be even tighter. One reason: Current Illinois quotes at Clarkson Grain for organic corn, $10 per bushel.  Organic soybeans, $21.