Understanding Branded vs. Generic Crop Protection Products

FBN Network

Dec 02, 2022

Whether you’re looking to buy peanut butter, pain relievers, or crop protection chemicals, a branded product from a company you know over a low-cost, no-name generic feels like the safe choice. But what’s the real difference between generic and branded crop protection products?

If the branded product is 3x more expensive, is it 3x more effective? As a farmer, having a firm grasp on your input costs allows for greater profitability and long term viability. 

What is a Generic Crop Protection Product?

A generic crop protection product is manufactured and sold by a company other than the original manufacturer, but contains the same Active Ingredient(s) (A.I.). Generic chemicals usually enter the market 12 -20 years after the initial discovery of the active ingredient(s) once the original product’s patent expires.

Most major crop protection molecules available today have had their initial patents expire and farmers have more choice than ever with all of the generics entering the market. We’ve pooled this resource to help answer farmers’ most common questions on understanding and using generics.

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Are Generic Products Held to the Same Level of Regulatory Scrutiny as Branded Products?

Yes! Whether you are an Australian, Canadian or American farmer, the regulatory agencies follow the same regulation, guidelines and review process for a  generic product or for the original branded product registration. 

In fact, exacerbated by the global supply disruption many branded crop protection companies are registering and purchasing active ingredients  from generic manufacturers of their A.I.s  to make up shortfalls from their own production facilities due to the Russian gas crisis, hurricane related plant closures and overall supply chain flexibility.

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Do Generic Products Work as Well as the Equivalent Branded Products?

From a regulatory standpoint, generic versions of branded products must have the same A.I. components to be registered by the government regulator. The A.I. that carries the pesticidal activity  but the co-formulants including surfactants and adjuvants have a big impact on performance e.g. by improving the penetration of the pesticide, allowing targeted application, etc. 

To ensure our product efficacy and performance is as good or better than the branded product, we invest millions of dollars every year conducting laboratory (stability studies, physico-chemical testing (e.g. viscosity, pH, density, etc.), formulation testing (e.g. emulsion stability, persistent foaming  pourability, suspensibility, etc.) and field trials comparing an FBN product to its branded counterpart. Figure 1 below shows some of the results of those trials. Ensuring our product recipe is close to the branded product also makes it easier to receive registration for a product.

Figure 1

Source: FBN Canada field trials conducted with 3rd Party contract research organizations in 2022

Why Are Generic Products Priced Lower Than Branded Products?

Generic products are generally priced lower than their branded counterparts for several reasons, including:

  • Branded manufacturers predominantly are large multinational corporations. Funding all of those people, facilities and R&D require them to extract greater revenue from their products through higher prices. As well, it requires a lot of R&D and failed attempts to develop even one successful product. 

  • It costs >$260M USD and takes over 11 years (2) to bring an active ingredient to market. To justify such a substantial investment, branded companies need to extract high prices and profits.

  • By making our own products, FBN cuts out several middlemen within the value chain passing that savings on to our farmers.

  • Generic manufacturers typically do not have rebate programs. Instead, they pass those savings up-front in the price rather than as an end of season payment.

  • Branded products often will charge a brand premium for their products extracting extra value for the recognition of their company and their product.

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Are Generic Products Identical to the Branded Products?

Not always. Generic products usually mirror branded products as closely as they can. However, they are not always identical and can have different uses on the label, different concentrations of A.I. and other differences.

The label is the best place to find the specifics on a product. Compare more branded and generic products labels for free with CDMS Label Database or on FBN.com.

Here are the basics on generics vs branded products:

  • A generic product usually is a similar product as a branded product but made by a different company.

  • Generic active ingredients are held to the same regulatory standards as branded active ingredients.

  • Branded companies may purchase a.i. from the same manufacturing plant as generic companies.

  • FBN invests in field trials and lab work striving for  efficacy and performance to match or exceed that of the branded product.

  • Generic chemicals tend to cost less than their branded equivalents.

  • Competition is good for farmers! Generic products give farmers more options and lead to lower input prices.

When choosing to use generic products as opposed to branded products it's about understanding what you get for the higher price you pay. Is the brand premium you pay worth the extra cost for you? If you’re interested in exploring cost-saving and performance-enhancing strategies and don’t want manufacturer bundles, generics might be for you.

The number one rule of thumb when considering generics: read your labels (you can find thousands of chemical labels here). Knowing what’s in your products will give you the information you need to pay for ingredients, not logos.

[READ: Selecting and Purchasing Crop Protection Products That Work for You]

FBN Crop Protection Generic Alternatives

Learn more about some of the generic alternatives we offer on FBN Direct®:

Click here to enlarge the image.

Click here to enlarge the image.

Selecting Crop Protection Products for the 2023 Season

Here are a few ways to get started with crop protection products for the upcoming season:

* This is an updated post originally published in 2016 with new content written by Rob McClinton, Director of Product Development - Global Crop Protection at FBN on December 2, 2022.


1. Siekman, Darrel & Lowell, Sandell. “Comparing Generics vs Name Brand Pesticides”. University of Nebraska: Cropwatch Extension. 10/27/2008. Available here: http://cropwatch.unl.edu/archive/-/asset_publisher/VHeSpfv0Agju/content/888243


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FBN Direct products and services and other products distributed by FBN Direct in the United States are offered by FBN Inputs, LLC and are available only in states where FBN Inputs, LLC is licensed and where those products are registered for sale or use, if applicable. FBN Direct products and services and other products distributed by FBN Direct in Canada are offered by Farmer's Business Network Canada, Inc. and are available only in provinces where Farmer's Business Network Canada, Inc. is licensed and where those products are registered for sale or use, if applicable. Not available in Quebec. Nothing contained on this page should be construed as an offer for sale, or a sale of products. All products and prices are subject to change at any time and without notice. Terms and conditions apply.

ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS. It is a violation of federal, state and provincial law to use any pesticide product other than in accordance with its label. The distribution, sale and use of an unregistered pesticide is a violation of federal, provincial and/or state law and is strictly prohibited. It is your responsibility to confirm prior to purchase and use that a product is labeled for your specific purposes, including, but not limited to, your target crop or pest and its compatibility with other products in a tank mix and that the usage of a product is otherwise consistent with federal, state, provincial, and local laws.  In all applicable jurisdictions, you must have a valid applicator license and/or be a certified farmer to use restricted use pesticides.  

All product recommendations and other information provided is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for consulting the product label or for specific agronomic, business, or professional advice. Where specific advice is necessary or appropriate, consult with a qualified advisor.

FBN Network

Dec 02, 2022

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