Farmers protest, defending the right to use pesticides. And who makes money from pesticides?

Luc Williams

Foundation Heinrich Böll, together with the Żywa Ziemia Coalition and the Polish Ecological Club in Krakow and the Municipal Club in Gliwice, prepared the report “Atlas of Pesticides. Facts about toxic substances in agriculture. One of the issues that researchers looked at was the actions of corporations that dominate this industry.

Pesticide kingdom

These are very old companies, often founded in the 19th century, with, as you can easily guess, chemical and pharmaceutical origins. There used to be more of them, but their history at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries is mainly one of mergers and other forms of mutual absorption; Currently, only four are important on the pesticide market: Syngenta Group, Bayer, Corteva and BASF. Back in 1993, they controlled 29 percent. market. In 2018 – already 70 percent.

Why did this happen? It was in the 1990s that genetic engineering became popular and entered agriculture by storm. Entrepreneurs operating in the chemical plant protection segment came up with an idea for a new business model: combining the sale of pesticides with the sale of seeds. They began to massively take over and absorb smaller companies that produced the latter. Nowadays, since 2015, further mergers have taken place and thus four global leaders have emerged.

Like pesticides, like seeds

It's very bad that this has happened; bad for the human population and the climate. As we can read in the report in question: “The power of players and further combining these two business models (sales of pesticides with sales of seeds – JN) has impact on product mix and agriculture around the world: seed producers selling pesticides have an interest in ensuring that their agrochemicals are also used in crops grown from their seeds. The world's leading suppliers of seeds and pesticides focus on selective breeding and genetic modification of a small number of crops, primarily soybeans and corn.

First of all, soy and corn – this should sound scary. Why? These seeds are not just a modest addition to the pesticide players' main business. It so happens that the four largest players on the seed market are… the same companies. They have 57 percent share. Let's repeat, like a refrain: Syngenta Group, Bayer, Corteva and BASF.

Glyphosate, paraquat and neonicotinoids

Now about how they are poisoning us Syngenta Group, Bayer, Corteva and BASF. Although it is of course “not their fault”, because the legal situation of various substances, including: these slightly more modern pesticides, can be financially complicated for reasons including: patents. Patents have expired for good old pesticides, so using mixtures based on them is much cheaper. The most commonly used substances are: the herbicide glyphosate, paraquat and neonicotinoids. What do they have in common? They are all dangerous. The first two for humans, the last mainly for pollinating insects, which, as every child knows, are the basis of human food security.

And now there is reassuring news for extremely unempathetic egoists – in the European Union, due to the legal regulations prohibiting the use of toxins in agriculture, which are so disliked by farmers, the above-mentioned. companies have a small share.* In Germany – 12%, in France – 11%. However, in Brazil it is 49 percent, in India – 59 percent. Currently, few pesticides are sold in Africa, but this is a very growth market for the industry. These regions – South America, Asia, Africa – are responsible for the fact that the market is growing by an average of 4%. annually. There are practically no regulations there. Therefore, the inhabitants of the Global South will be the first to suffer and are already suffering the consequences – health, social and climate.

*Which does not mean that in our stomachs, because we eat nuts from Brazil and tangerines from Morocco.


Luc's expertise lies in assisting students from a myriad of disciplines to refine and enhance their thesis work with clarity and impact. His methodical approach and the knack for simplifying complex information make him an invaluable ally for any thesis writer.