Looking after those who produce our seeds

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Looking after those who produce our seeds

look after every worker

Commitment to Fair Labor

How we are addressing the false allegations in the ‘Seeds of Debt’ film, as determined by Fair Labor Association study

In December 2014, the Danish NGO DanWatch published the documentary “Seeds of Debt”, by film maker Jens Pedersen, which seriously misrepresented Syngenta’s seeds business in India. We're deeply troubled by the false
allegations
made in the film 'Seeds of Debt', which claim that we knowingly exploit growers in India on our seed supply farms. We have repeatedly asked the film-maker to correct the misrepresentations and incorrect information in the film, in line with Danish Media Ethics Guidelines. The filmmaker has declined to do so, so we would like to address these false allegations.

We take any allegations of grower mistreatment very seriously, which is why we invited the Fair Labor Association in 2015 to investigate the matter of money-lending practices in India.

The full FLA report from that investigation confirms that the film, 'Seeds of Debt', makes false claims.

In particular, the allegation that Syngenta is knowingly involved in money lending schemes at high interest rates is false. On the contrary, our objective is to support our growers' cash flow by providing, through our grower-organizers, interest-free pre-payments, which are deducted from the final purchase price for maize seed. Syngenta does not and never has recruited money lenders.

In summary, the study found:

  • No evidence Syngenta engages in exploitative high-interest money-lending to its farmers.
  • That seed farmers reported a lower indebtedness compared to growers of commercial crops.
  • No cases of seed-farmer suicide in the villages covered by the study.
  • There were several reasons why growers preferred seed production for Syngenta to commercial crop production.
  • Some growers said that seed production supplements their income in a way that makes farming a viable profession overall.

FLA report

Fair labor in India

It's well known that India faces labor and worker welfare challenges. We've long recognized our responsibility to address these issues as they relate to the agriculture industry. We also know we can't do this alone. This is why we work with many local, national and international partners. Since 2004, we've partnered with the FLA to address labor standards and worker welfare in our seed supply chain. We're proud of our progress but there's still much to do.

Together with the FLA, we address issues including child labor, health and safety, awareness of workers’ rights, wages and benefits, hours of work, harassment and abuse, and discrimination. With their guidance and expertise, we developed our Fair Labor Program. Our compliance program includes (1) adopting and communicating workplace standards (2) training staff to assess and remediate non-compliance issues (3) conducting internal assessments of facilities and (4) providing workers with confidential reporting channels.

This ground-breaking work eventually resulted in our receiving full FLA accreditation in India in 2015, the result of tireless efforts to ensure our operations meet the highest ethical standards, in line with our long-term commitment to look after every worker, throughout our entire supply chain.

Thousands of Syngenta employees in India work every day to help farmers improve the quality of life for their families and communities. We will continue to investigate any claims of grower mistreatment and exploitation as we work with the FLA to remain fully committed to fair labor compliance throughout our supply chains in India, and worldwide.

Important questions about the film 'Seeds of Debt'

Does Syngenta recruit money-lenders?

No. Syngenta does not and has never recruited money-lenders. We recruit grower-organizers, who typically have an agricultural background, experience in seed production, influence within the local community and with growers as well as logistics capabilities.

Why wouldn't Syngenta agree to be interviewed for the documentary 'Seeds of Debt'?

We take allegations of this nature very seriously, so after seeing early footage, it was not appropriate for us to comment until an independent investigation was made into the allegations of money-lending at high interest rates. The results of the investigation concluded that the allegations were false, and the film-maker was asked by Syngenta to adhere to the principles in the Danish Press Ethical Rules to correct the false information. Regrettably, our requests went unheeded.

Is Syngenta fully compliant with the FLA code?

In 2004, we became the first agriculture company to join the FLA and have made considerable progress in addressing labor concerns that exist in India and many parts of the world. But we freely admit that we still face considerable challenges in fully implementing the FLA code. In the FLA's published reports, they highlight only non-compliance and corrective action plans, which do not illustrate the incredible gains that have been made over the past decade of partnership with them.

For example, we've implemented the most ambitious program to address labor standards in the industry by striving for fair labor conditions throughout our entire supply chain network as a commitment of our Good Growth Plan. Our Fair Labor Program is on track to cover our entire supply chain by 2020.

What is Syngenta's responsibility in preventing grower suicides?

This tragic and complex phenomenon affects Indian society as a whole. Making claims that Syngenta is directly responsible for grower impoverishment leading to suicide without evidence is not only wrong, it's highly irresponsible.

Did Syngenta try to stop the video from being released?

No. Our letters to the filmmaker, Jens Pedersen are from Syngenta's Head of Media Relations not our lawyers. The letters highlight false claims and inaccuracies in footage we were shown and remind Mr. Pedersen that the allegations made must be substantiated in line with media ethics guidelines. We also urged him to ensure false claims and inaccuracies were corrected before the film was released.

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