Corteva Agriscience

Background

Corteva is a Wilmington, Delaware-based corporation which went public in June 2019, after being spun off from DowDuPont and operating as a DowDupont unit in 2018.

Based on agricultural revenues, Corteva is the largest “pure-play” agriculture company of these five firms (though the parent companies of some of the other five are larger). [1]

At the time of its spin-off, Corteva was marketed as the world’s largest purely agriculture-focused company, with a presence in 130 countries. Half of its sales now are in North America, 21% in Latin America, 20% in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and 9% in Asia Pacific. In 2019, it reported revenues of $13.85 billion, $6.26 billion of which came from the sales of “crop protection” products. It has 21,000 employees in roughly 140 countries. Corteva holds 104 manufacturing sites worldwide, including 29 crop protection sites (7 North America, 5 in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, 7 in Asia Pacific, and 10 in Latin America) and 75 seed facilities worldwide. [1][2]

Stance on Climate Change

The Dow Chemical Company and DuPont were both members of the Global Climate Coalition, an industry group active in the 1990s that fought against action to curtail climate change. [3]

DuPont was also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has lobbied against climate action. Dow Chemical discontinued financial support for ALEC in 2018. [4], [5]

Corteva now says it will “establish… appropriate [greenhouse gas] reduction targets by June 1, 2021.” [6]

In a column published by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Corteva CEO Jim Collins announced a $500,000 “Corteva Agriscience Climate Positive Challenge,” which the company says will reward farmers for pursuing carbon sequestration techniques. “Some folks believe that agriculture is part of the problem and causing all this (climate change) when, in reality, we believe agriculture is part of the solution,” he told trade publication Successful Farming when that challenge was announced. [7], [8]

Collins also advocated for Corteva to have a seat at the table during conversations on climate change, according to a September 2019 report by trade publication Agri-Pulse: “‘An integral part of the mission of Corteva is to use our convening power within our industry and across the entire food value chain to help bring about more sustainable and more collaborative solutions,’ Collins said. “For too long, the conversation around climate change has taken place in echo chambers: Businesses talking to business leaders, regulators talking to regulators, scientists, just talking to scientists and NGOs, with other NGOs. It turns out all of us are part of the solution here.” [9]

In 2018, representatives from Corteva and the U.S Agency for International Development signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop relations and support Feed the Future, a US Government initiative about global hunger and food security. In 2019, research was carried out for Corteva by the company Longitude that found around 52% of European consumers would be willing to pay up to 20% more to know that their food was produced sustainably. [10], [11]

Regenerative Agriculture

Corteva’s leadership has been heavily involved in promoting regenerative agricultural strategies on climate change. “‘We believe that farmers are the solution to mitigate climate change,’ Corteva CEO James Collins said at a March 2020 Canadian Crops Convention, according to the trade publication World-Grain.com. “Progress will only come if we develop a regulatory environment that allows farmers greater flexibility, not more restrictions,” he added. [12]

In a 2019 column published by the American Farm Bureau Federation, Collins argued that regenerative agriculture techniques could allow farms to sequester greenhouse gases in their soil. “In fact, when practices like diverse crop rotation, cover crops, reduced tillage, precision nitrogen management and improved grazing systems are fully adopted,” he claimed, “farmers and ranchers could achieve net-negative GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions.” [7]


Read more: Regenerative Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Digital and Precision Agriculture

On its website, Corteva suggests that “the future of agriculture and our world’s food supply will likely come down to those who can adjust their techniques and employ new innovations to adapt to current conditions.” [13]

In 2019, Jim Collins said that while “no industry has been impacted more by climate change than agriculture,” Agri-pulse describe him as “optimistic that farmers could reduce greenhouse gas emissions through new crop traits, precision agriculture and improved farming practices.” The industry needs to “work smarter, more efficiently, and with a smaller carbon footprint,” he said. [9]

In a Corteva-sponsored Politico article in June 2020, Corteva chief sustainability officer Anne L. Alonzo used the COVID-19 pandemic as a framework to promote the company’s goals in increasing the “resilience of our global food system over the next 10 years,” making specific reference to using “integrated solutions that combine seeds, seed applied technologies, agronomy advice, and digital services with crop protection products” to navigate through the crisis. [14]

In the wake of COVID-19, Corteva has called for a focus on “innovation” in farming. President of Corteva Agriscience in Europe Igor Teslenko said: “the current COVID19 health crisis has laid bare the vulnerabilities of our seemingly strong system and it is more important than ever that we address our weak points by focusing on education and promoting the innovation that enables farmers to keep improving.” [15]

Teslenko went on to say that “embracing innovation remains key” and argued that Europe needs to commit to “introducing adaptation measures and innovative agricultural management ideas to balance social demand, climate change and mitigate risks.” [15]

In its reporting of Teslenko’s comments, NGO Corporate Europe Observatory stated: “Why exactly the corona crisis would require less focus on social and environmental demands remains unclear.” [16]


Read more: Digital and Precision Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Role in Pesticides Controversy

The company’s pesticides include herbicides (about 52% of sales), insecticides (26% of sales) and fungicides (17% of sales). 

DuPont's decison to spin off Corteva has been linked by some to the company's liability for contamination from perflourooctanic acids (PFAS), also known as the “forever chemicals,” which have spread worldwide. “Chemours [another DuPont spin-off], with primary responsibility for the estimated tens of billions of dollars in PFAS obligations, does not have anywhere near the money or assets to cover [PFAS liabilities],” NBC News reported in March 2020. “If Chemours becomes insolvent, Corteva Inc. will be responsible, corporate filings show. Corteva does not have the funds to cover tens of billions in estimated PFAS costs either.” [17], [18]

PFAS, a group of over 4,000 poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances are human-made chemicals that include PFOA, a chemical used by DuPont to make Teflon-coated products. In litigation later made famous in the movie Dark Waters, attorney Rob Bilott uncovered internal DuPont company documents showing early evidence of PFOA’s hazards and won lawsuits over PFAS’ harmful health effects and their ability to cause cancers. PFAS are now publicly known to be nearly indestructible, have spread rapidly worldwide, and which can now be found in most people’s blood. [19], [20], [21], [22], [40]

Significant environmental lawsuits and liabilities disclosed in Corteva’s annual report include: a 2014 La Porte, Texas deadly release of methyl mercaptan (an incident that later led to a $3.195 million settlement in June, 2020 and the permanent closure of the plant in 2016); an environmental and Justice Department “discussion” about Clean Air Act non-compliance at its Denka La Place, Louisiana neoprene business; extensive PFAS/PFC/PFOA liability; and contamination at a Pompton Lakes facility in New Jersey. [2][23], [24] 

A February 2020 investigation by Greenpeace’s Unearthed journalism project found that “close to half (41%) of the leading products of the agrochemical giants BASF, Bayer, Corteva, FMC and Syngenta contained at least one” highly-hazardous pesticide. “Of the $13.4bn of sales by the CropLife companies in the dataset, $4.8bn went on chemicals found by regulatory agencies to pose hazards like acute poisoning or chronic illness in people, or high toxicity to bees and other wildlife,” Unearthed reported. The report highlighted a fungicide called cyproconazole, manufactured by Cortevam which the European Chemical Agency classifies as a reproductive toxin. [25]

Corteva announced in February 2020 that it would cease production of the controversial pesticide chlorpyrifos. [26]

Lobbying

The company spent between €900,000 and €999,999 on EU lobbying costs in 2020 according to LobbyFacts.eu data. [27]

In 2019, Corteva reported spending $1,271,000 on US lobbying, according to OpenSecrets.org. Corteva hired 21 lobbyists from five different firms, and also engaged in in-house lobbying, the Opensecrets data shows. [28]

In the US in 2019 and 2020, the company lobbied on issues relating to agriculture, environment and superfund, trade, taxes, federal budget and appropriations, the chemical industry, defence, energy and nuclear power, food industry, homeland security, and the automotive industry - at least four agencies: [29]

One lobbying report for Corteva shows the following topics under “specific lobbying issues”: the regulation of “Bioengineered foods and other biotechnology matters,” “Pesticide matters”, “Other renewable energy matters,” the Endangered Species Act and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) legislation, the Clean Air Act, climate change, and “water quality matters.” [30]

In 2020, iPolitics reported that lobbyist Phil Baldwin of Tactix was lobbying for both Corteva and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. [31]

Ties to President Trump’s Administration

In 2018, Donald Trump appointed Scott Hutchins, a “pesticide guy” who had spent his career at DowDuPont, as the new head of scientific research for the US Department of Agriculture. This nomination was met with criticism from the Union of Concerned Scientists who wrote that “Dow is particularly tight with the Trump administration” adding, “now former Dow officials and lobbyists are literally holding the reins of government.” [32]

In 2018, Dow lobbyist Ted McKinney, Corteva special advisor Ken Isley, and Corteva affiliated group CropLife America’s lobbyist Rebekah Adcock, were also appointed to the USDA as under secretary for trade, head of Foreign Agricultural Service, and advisor to Secretary Perdue, respectively. 

According to OpenSecrets.org, Dow Chemical donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration committee. A subsequent New York Times article in 2019 reported how “top pesticide industry executives had regular access to senior agency officials, pressing them to reconsider the way the federal government evaluates the threat pesticides cause to endangered species.” [33], [34]

Affiliations

Corteva is a member of CropLife International, which its 2019 sustainability report describes as “a global trade association of agrochemical companies representing the plant science industry.” CropLife has six member companies: FMC, BASF, Bayer, Corteva Agriscience, Syngenta and Sumitomo Chemical. 

In August, 2019, Corteva joined the American Chemistry Council. [35]

LobbyFacts.eu writes that in 2019 Corteva was a member of the European Crop Protection Association, the European Seed Association, EuropaBio, and the International Biocontrol Manufacturers Association. [36]

Corteva is a partner of the Linking Environment and Farming charity (LEAF), with which it has a programme to develop “demon­stra­tion farm­ers as emerg­ing lead­ers in sus­tain­able farming”. LEAF is the only environmental group on the UK’s Trade and Agriculture Commission, which was set up to advise the government on maintaining “animal welfare and environmental standards” in post-Brexit trade deals. The commission has been widely criticised for including leading figures from the pro-deregulation Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, which has been shown to offer “intimate” access to UK ministers for US agribusinesses. [37], [38], [39]

Dana Bolden, Corteva's Senior Vice President, External Affairs is part of US Farmers and Ranchers in Action's Consumer Insights for Farmers Action Network. [41]

Corteva was listed as a Supporter of the International Food Information Council, as of September 2020. [42]

In June 2020, American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) logo was featured on a one-pager for a U.S. Department of Agriculture certification programme carbon credit bill alongside the logos of a number of agribusinesses including Bayer, Syngenta, and Corteva. [43]

References

  1. Largest Pure-Play AG Company, Agri Marketing, March 1, 2019. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/F0IkY
     
  2. Keep Growing,Corteva Annual Report 2019. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo URL: https://archive.fo/rnGIa
     
  3. Global Climate Coaliton Files,” DeSmog. Archived September 15, 2020. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.today/7f1wO
  4.  Randall G. Shelden, “The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)”, Centre on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, 2011. Archived on September 15, 2020

  5. Charles Koch Ramps Up Investment in ALEC as the Lobbying Group Loses Corporate Funders Over Far-Right Ties”, The Intercept, 2018. Archived on August 18 2020.

  6. Goals to Benefit Our Operations,Corteva. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/p95k2

  7. James C. Collins. “We Can Achieve Climate-Positive Agriculture Today,“ Farm Bureau, October 30, 2019. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/obPb2

  8.  Gil Gullickson. “Corteva Agriscience Commits $500,000 to Carbon Sequestration Program for Farmers,” Successful Farming, October 17, 2019.  Archived September 11, 2020Archive.fo https://archive.fo/7NCxr

  9.  Philip Brasher. “Corteva CEO pushing industry to address climate change,Argi-Pulse, September 25, 2019. Archived September 11, 2020Archive.fo https://archive.fo/9GVO0

  10. Office of Press Relations. “USAID Administrator Mark Green And Corteva Agriscience Future Chief Executive Officer Jim Collins To Sign Global Memorandum Of Understanding,” USAIDNovember 7, 2018. Archived September 11, 2020Archive.fo https://archive.fo/NJvEf

  11. Sarah Murray. “Food production that does not cost the earth,Financial Times, September 25, 2019. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/jTLI1

  12. Susan Reidy. “Corteva responding to changes in agriculture supply chain,” World-Grain, March 6, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/KtLD4

  13. Water in Agriculture: Adapting to a Changing Climate,” Corteva. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo http://archive.today/wI9Le

  14. Anne L. Alonzo. “A stronger and more resilient future for agriculture,” Politico, June 1, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/2yViy

  15. Igor Teslenko. “Embracing innovation for a stable and secure food supply,” EURACTIV, March 24, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/qVOui

  16. Corona Lobby Watch. Opportunistic lobbyists abuse the EU’s unprecedented health crisis,” Corporate Europe Observatory, May 1, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/9twTL

  17. “Breaking Down Toxic PFAS,” Earth Justice, February 20, 2020. Archived September 2, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/7Do0x

  18. Gretchen Morgenson. “How DuPont may avoid paying to clean up a toxic 'forever chemical',” NBC News, March 1, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/NEAwD

  19. Sarah Gibbens. “Toxic ‘forever chemicals’ more common in tap water than thought, report says,” National Geographic, January 24, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/2JYpR

  20. Sharon Lerner. “The Teflon Toxin; DuPont and the Chemistry of Deception,” The Intercept, August 11, 2015. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/qEvlb

  21. Sharon Kelly. “Teflon’s Toxic Legacy,Earth Island Journal. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/D9zx0

  22. Rebecca Hersher. “Scientists Dig Into Hard Questions About The Fluorinated Pollutants Known As PFAS,NPR, April 22, 2019. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/5gLP2

  23. Cheryl Hogue. “Corteva to pay $3 million for pollution problems at former DuPont site in La Porte, Texas,Chemical and Engineering News, July 13, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/lVAx2

  24. “ DuPont Settlement Information Sheet,EPA, July 13, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/Rv9Xc

  25. Crispin Dowler. “Revealed: The pesticide giants making billions on toxic and bee-harming chemicals,Unearthed, February 20, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/lPZS5

  26.  Stéphane Foucart and Stéphane Horel. “US chemist Corteva to stop producing chlorpyrifos by the end of 2020,” Le Monde, February 8, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/RCShJ

  27. Corteva Agriscience/DuPont International Operations SARL,” Lobby Facts. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo http://archive.today/KsI0v

  28. Client Profile: Corteva Agriscience,” Open Secrets. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/RsC00

  29. Agencies Lobbied By Corteva Agriscience, 2019,” Open Secrets. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/e87cB

  30. Lobbying Report,Corteva Inc. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/LaTtK

  31. Charlie Pinkerton. “Lobby Wrap: Post-COVID-19 recovery top of mind,iPolitics, August 25, 2020. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/W5ntm

  32. Karen Perry Stillerman. “At the Trump USDA, the “D” Stands for “Dow”,” Union of Concerned Scientists, August 3, 2018. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/kUlsA

  33. Trump 2017 Inauguration Contributions,OpenSecrets.org. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/Vffz8

  34. Eric Lipton. “Interior Nominee Intervened to Block Report on Endangered Species,” New York Times, March 26, 2019. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/dbzKx

  35. Corteva Agriscience Joins American Chemistry Council (ACC),Corteva, August 6, 2019. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/rpvEU

  36. Corteva Agriscience/DuPont International Operations SARL,” LobbyFacts. Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/KsI0v

  37. LEAF and Corte­va team up to nur­ture emerg­ing lead­ers in sus­tain­able farming,” Linking Environment and Farming, Archived September 11, 2020. Archive.fo https://archive.fo/yfaoG

  38. Rachel Sherrington. “Government Appoints Lobbyists with US Agribusiness Ties to Trade and Agriculture Commission,” DeSmog,  July 15, 2020. 

  39. Institute of Economic Affairs,” DeSmog

  40. Nathanial Rich, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont's Nightmare”, New York Times, Archived on September 17, 2020. Archive.fo http://archive.today/xjPiD

  41. “Our Action Networks”, US Farmers and Ranchers in Action, Archived September 18, 2020. Archive.fo http://archive.today/m865y

  42. Partners and Supporters”, International Food Information Council, Archived September 1, 2020. Archive.fo http://archive.today/GYUq4

  43.  Senator Braun, Senator Stabenow, Senator Graham, & Senator Whitehouse, The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020. Archived September 18, 2020. Archive.fo http://archive.today/x7Yc2