Organic Consumers Association


Previous Page

Click here to print this page

Make a Donation!


Biotech Bully Forced to Allow Public Access to Toxicity Data onits Pesticides

From: THE
July 2 2004, Issue #357
Monitoring Corporate Agribusiness
>From a Public Interest Perspective

TO RECEIVE: Send name and address


FRIENDS OF THE EARTH: Bayer CropScience, the multi-national agro-chemical and biotech corporation, has dropped its court action against Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It had tried to prevent the environmental group from telling the public how to access safety data on pesticides --- including a weedkiller for use on GM herbicide-tolerant crops in the UK, Glufosinate Ammonium.

Bayer started legal action when Friends of the Earth said it had legally obtained copies of safety data from the Swedish pesticide regulator KEMI and said it was going to tell the public how they could obtain the information in the same way.

The information at the centre of the row is of interest to people exposed to pesticides through work, living near sprayed fields, legal representatives and academics researching the environmental and health impacts of pesticide use.

Friends of the Earth in the UK told Bayer it intended to use its website to tell people how to get data from regulators around the world, including Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and the USA. Bayer had previously taken the UK Government to court to stop them releasing the same information to Friends of the Earth

Last October Bayer applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop Friends of the Earth in the UK:

* telling people that KEMI or any other regulator held Bayer’s pesticide data;

* telling people that Friends of the Earth had obtained copies of Bayer’s pesticide data from foreign regulators;

* from making any more requests to KEMI or to any other foreign regulator for access to Bayer’s data.

Bayer has now signed up to a settlement promising never to sue Friends of the Earth again for doing these things, and in particular not to sue Friends of the Earth for telling members of the public how to access this type of data or for requesting this type of data from regulators.

A web page published today by Friends of the Earth in the UK gives advice to the public on how to make requests to international regulators to get copies of information submitted by companies as part of approval applications. The web page includes a warning that the data is subject to copyright protection and intellectual property rights.

Tony Juniper Director of Friends of the Earth in the UK said:

"This is a humiliating climb-down by Bayer, a biotech bully. Bayer tried to use its massive financial muscle to prevent members of the public having access to important health and environmental data about substances that are sprayed on our food crops every day. Bayer has gone to great lengths and expense to keep its data out of the public domain but in the end caved in because our case was right."

"Friends of the Earth’s victory is a major step towards lifting the veil of corporate secrecy that surrounds pesticide approvals. It is an important signal to big business that we will not be silenced. It’s high time the corporations making pesticides and chemicals moved into the 21st century and supported full access to information instead of resorting to bullying tactics in the courts".

Bayer market many pesticides world wide which pose a threat to the environment and health. Last month, the French Government banned Bayer’s pesticide 'Gaucho' because of the threat it poses to honey bees until the product undergoes a further EU safety review in 2006.

Other Bayer pesticides include Aldicarb, one of the most toxic chemicals still
approved --- Bayer successfully lobbied to prevent an EU wide ban last year and continues to keep the product on the market beyond 2007. The Bayer weed killer IPU is frequently detected in rivers during the winter months and has to be filtered out from water going into public at high cost to the water companies to comply with EU drinking water limits.

Friends of the Earth has been campaigning for full access to information for many years. It argues that companies that market pesticides and other potentially toxic chemicals must recognise the public has a right to know the potential impact of being exposed to them through breathing, eating and drinking. Public access is also important because it means that independent scientists can monitor the effectiveness of the regulatory process in protecting people and the environment.