Syngenta Plans PR Drive to Boost Perception of Crop Chemicals

Syngenta AG, the Swiss farm supplier trying to prevent a European Union ban on its thiamethoxam chemical over suspected bee deaths, will spend more on communications to boost the image of its products.

’’We increasingly spend time on this at a real high level,’’ Chief Executive Officer Michael Mack said at a conference in Basel today. The largest maker of crop chemicals will announce plans this year to improve its “outreach” to persuade the public that farmers need advanced technologies to meet rising demand for food over the next decades.

The EU’s two-year restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam will come into force in December, affecting sales of chemicals sold by Syngenta and Leverkusen, Germany-based competitor Bayer AG. Syngenta sees “a lot of support” for thiamethoxam in the U.S., even as authorities there continue to review neonicotinoids, Chief Operating Officer John Atkin said in an interview today.

A group of American beekeeping associations sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year, seeking to appeal its approval of Dow Chemical Co.’s Sulfoxaflor neonicotinoid pesticide. In the U.K., more than 328,000 people have signed a petition to ban pesticides which they say harm bees.

The EPA began a review of neonicotinoid insecticides in December, a process which takes multiple years, Syngenta spokesman Paul Barrett said.

’’People are fed a high dose of a romanticized, idealistic sense of agriculture that everything is natural,’’ Mack said today. Customers of food companies “have fallen in love with food and nature coming together. The last 10 years it wasn’t as simple as that,” he said.