Bayer

Background

Bayer is a life sciences company headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany. Bayer has three divisions: pharmaceuticals, consumer health and crop science. The Bayer Group comprises 392 consolidated companies in 87 countries.1Bayer AG (Bayn),”MarketScreener. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/B220t 2Names, Facts, Figures about Bayer,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/3afiv 

Following a 2018 deal, the pesticides giant Monsanto was folded into Bayer’s Crop Science division. Bayer’s Crop Science division lists four “fields of activity”: crop protection, seeds, digital farming and environmental science.3Organization Chart,” Bayer. September 1, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/r5peC

Agrochemicals comprise 45.5 percent of Bayer’s annual global sales revenues. In 2019, the majority of Bayer’s sales were in the United States at 31.1 percent, followed by the combined Europe, Middle East  and Africa markets at 23.7 percent, Asia-Pacific at 11.2 percent, China at 8.6 percent, Brazil at 8.1 percent, Latin America at 7.2 percent and Germany at 5.4 percent.4Bayer AG (Bayn),”MarketScreener. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/B220t  

 Bayer has reportedly received £600 million from the UK government coronavirus pandemic bailout fund.5Zach Boren. “Pesticide Giant gets £1BN bailout despite mammoth dividend plan,” Unearthed, June 4, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/lkHmh

In a March 2021 presentation titled “The Beginning of What’s Next,” Crop Science Division Head of Research & Development Bob Reiter estimated that the new plant protection products and technologies in Bayer’s production pipeline would generate €30 billion in new sales by 2030. Reiter also estimated that advanced breeding and data science technology applications for soybean and corn seeds would have a combined sales potential of around €16 billion.6The Beginning of What’s Next,” Bayer. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.
Archived November, 16, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wip/jG44Z
 

According to the presentation, Bayer plans to launch over 75 new fungicide, insecticide and herbicide formulations in the next decade. The company’s sales estimates for its fungicides, pesticides and herbicides is a total of €8 billion. As of March 2021, Bayer leads the global agribusiness industry in funding for research & development, spending €2 billion and employing over 7,000 R&D employees across 50 countries.7The Beginning of What’s Next,” Bayer. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. Archived November, 16, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wip/jG44Z

In January 2022, Claire Berringer joined Bayer as European Parliament relations manager. She was formerly a Parliamentary and Communications Adviser for the British National Farmers’ Union (NFU).8Lili Bayer. “EU Influence: Starting a consultancy during COVID — Media renews DSA blitz — Moving into Warsaw,” Politico Europe, January 21, 2022. Archived January 21, 2022. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/Fvelk

Stance on Climate Change

Bayer has committed to achieving a 30 percent reduction of “the field greenhouse gas footprint of our farming customers” by 2030. The company states, “Although agriculture is a contributor to climate change, the industry plays a role in curbing greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxide that contribute to climate change.”9Shaping Agriculture,”Bayer. Archived November 7, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/b5d3F 

On its website, Bayer references a study by Cranfield University on the carbon footprint of crop protection products, which “concluded that for one kilo of CO2 equivalent invested in the manufacture and use of pesticides, at least 10kg of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere as a result of yield increases attributed to that pesticide use.”10Crop Science // UK,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/DcqlH The study was commissioned for the Crop Protection Association and published in August 2009.11E. Audsley et al. “Estimation of the greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural pesticide manufacture and use,” Cranfield University, August 2009. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/OcI8f

Bayer encourages farmers to use “climate-smart” practices, such as no-till farming, to combat climate change. It says that soil is one of the most effective carbon sinks. The firm wants to incentivize farmers to “embrace no-till, precision nitrogen use or cover crops” to help “further sequester carbon into the soil, reduce fossil fuel usage and reduce greenhouse gases.”12Bayer takes steps to make carbon sequestration a farmer’s newest crop opportunity,” Bayer, July 21, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/ip8Zg

A 2019 video by Bayer about climate change states that farmers “are uniquely positioned” to combat climate change. Farmers can achieve this by planting genetically modified seeds, according to the video, which “[enable] farmers to use reduced tillage and no till practices, which has resulted in a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.”13Give It a Minute: Climate Change,” YouTube video uploaded by user Bayer Crop Science on February 15, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

In July 2020, Brett Begemann, chief operating officer of Bayer’s Crop Science Division, said “if anyone has a vested interest in battling climate change, it’s farmers.” Begemann praised farmers for being “passionate environmentalists and stewards of the lands they farm.”14Bayer takes steps to make carbon sequestration a farmer’s newest crop opportunity,” Bayer, July 21, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/ip8Zg

In 2020, Bayer was one of more than 60 companies to call for the German government’s pandemic-related aid to be tied to climate action. “We appeal to the federal government to closely link economic policy measures to overcome both the climate crisis and the coronavirus crisis,” the firms stated in a joint letter.15German companies call for COVID-19 aid to be tied to climate action,” Reuters, April 27, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/yDKPh

In August 2020, the Science Based Targets initiative — a partnership between the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, and We Mean Business to increase corporate ambition on climate change — stated that Bayer was playing its part in limiting average global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.16Science based targets initiative endorses climate protection targets of Bayer AG,” Bayer, August 21, 2020. Archived November 19, 2020. Archive URL:  https://archive.vn/QvtOH 

In a press release following this endorsement, Werner Baumann, Bayer’s chief sustainability officer, said, “this is a crucial step as we pursue our big target of becoming climate-neutral by 2020. It shows we aim to live up to our responsibility as a leading life science company in the fields of healthcare and nutrition. Climate change poses a threat to the whole of humanity and we need to be absolutely determined in tackling it.”17Science based targets initiative endorses climate protection targets of Bayer AG,” Bayer, August 21, 2020. Archived November 19, 2020. Archive URL:  https://archive.vn/QvtOH 

In a November 2020 op-ed in The European Files, a policy magazine written for employees of  EU institutions, Volker Koch-Achelpohler, Bayer’s public affairs chief for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, wrote:18Volker Koch-Achelpohler. “A coherent European Green Deal for the next generations,” The European Files, November 25, 2020. Archived December 30, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/35xJv 

“Without modern crop protection solutions, integrated weed management, new breeding techniques, digital agriculture and carbon farming, there will be no reduction in environmental impact. On the contrary we will see an acceleration in environmental degradation, as the world population is growing and more people access the middle class.”

Digital and Precision Agriculture

Agriculture reporter Ryan Ridley has described Bayer as “taking a leadership position” in precision agriculture technology in a piece for Farms.com.19Ryan Ridley. “Bayer takes efficiency to new heights,” Farms.com, July 26, 2018. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/jpg3L

Bayer says that “digital solutions help limit the waste of resources, help improve farmers’ bottom lines and minimize agriculture’s impact on the environment,” adding that “new technologies are helping drive efficiencies on the farm.”20Enabling Farmers To Get The Most Out Of Their Fields While Using Less Land and Fewer Inputs,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/gpLPj 

Adrian Percy, the former head of research and development for Bayer’s crop science division, echoed this stance, telling Euromoney that decades of innovation have increased the effectiveness and efficiency of farming, and that the “lack of available farmland and challenges such as climate change have now brought us to a breaking point. We need new thinking, tools and products.”21Helen Avery. “Finance for a Farming Revolution,” Euromoney, October 8, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/32juC

In a 2016 article, Mother Jones reporter Tom Philpott suggested that Bayer was in the process of acquiring Monsanto because of its “heft in the data market,” including prior investments in precision agriculture and Monsanto’s acquisition of the Climate Corporation startup in 2013.22Tom Philpott. “Robots are growing tons of our food. Here’s the creepy part,” Mother Jones, September/October 2016. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/tN7HB However, a report by Lux Research argued that while Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto was a winning deal in some ways, it would weaken Bayer’s precision agriculture entity due to Monsanto’s “nonsensical” investment approach in “unproven” technologies.23Bayer-Monsanto entity will be weak in precision agriculture,” HortiDaily, January 12, 2017. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/EYFKS

In July 2020, Liam Condon, president of Bayer’s Crop Science division, said that farmers need access to technology and urged policy-makers to “ensure a predictable, science-based regulatory system across the food chain.”24Liam Condon. “Opinion: the most resilient people in the world? Farmers,” AgriPulse, July 22, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/UjRQV

In a sponsored post for Politico in November 2019, Condon argued that innovation was key to the future of farming and that new technologies, like precision agriculture and plant breeding tools, were “lessening agriculture’s ecological footprint.”25Liam Condon. “Farming’s Future Belongs to All of Us,” Politico, September 26, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/YLtuX

In 2016, Bayer’s ForwardFarming initiative, a knowledge platform that “fosters dialogue and showcases on-farm sustainable practices with farmers,” teamed up with Belgium-based Ghent University to conduct research into smart farming solutions, including precision agriculture and resource management.26Bayer ForwardFarming Initiative: Demonstrating Sustainable Agriculture in Practice,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/YBeee 27Bayer endowed Chair ForwardFarming,” Ghent University, September 10, 2019. Archived September 19, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/4fJ9G

In the run up to the 2018 World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, Bayer Climate Corporation CEO Michael Stern said that artificial intelligence was “helping shape the future of farming.”28Interview with Michael Stern – BAYER,” World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, September 15-16, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/0wiYT

In late 2017, Chemical and Engineering News reported that Bayer and American biotech firm Ginkgo Bioworks were forming a joint venture, Joyn Bio, to invest US$100 million in a farm that would “exploit the potential of synthetic biology to improve microbes that help plants grow.29”Melody M. Bomgardner. “Bayer, Ginkgo launch microbe company,” C&En, September 18, 2017. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/tIPij 

Joyn Bio in 2019 expanded to include another partner, NewLeaf Symbiotics, which specializes in products involving nitrogen-fixing microbes. “The potential to pair our platform for microbial engineering with NewLeaf’s microbes will bring unprecedented performance to biological agriculture solutions,” said Joyn CEO Mike Miille.30Melody M. Bomgardner. “Ginkgo, Bayer venture taps NewLeaf for plant microbes,” C&En, July 22, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/tIPij 

In 2020, Bayer participated in Internet of Food and Farm, an EU-funded project which aims to “make precision farming a reality” with the help of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.31The precision agriculture revolution is here- see it in action!AgNews, May 3, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/fHfOd 32Introducing Internet of Food and Farm 2020,” IOF2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/k22Fj 

In early 2020, Bayer’s Climate Corporation and Tillable, a farming lease and rental management platform, faced social media backlash after farmers raised concerns about data sharing between the two companies.33Emiko Terazono. “Bayer Ends Digital Farming Agreement After Twitter Backlash,” The Financial Times, February 16, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/LQZkS

Jason Davidson of Friends of the Earth has criticized Bayer’s digital platform, describing it as “another attempt to sell more toxic products, monetize farmer data and maintain control of our food system.”34Jason Davidson. “Following $10 BN roundup settlement, Bayer uses climate program as front to lock in control of farmer data and sell more roundup,” Friends of the Earth, August 17, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020, Archive URL: https://archive.vn/mNR9f

Subsequently, Bayer’s Climate Corporation was forced to end its partnership with Tillable. Mike Stern, chief executive of the group, said at the time, “we have not, do not and will not share or sell our customers’ personal information or farm data.”35Emiko Terazono. “Bayer Ends Digital Farming Agreement After Twitter Backlash,” The Financial Times, February 16, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/LQZkS

In September 2021, Bayer sponsored Politico Europe’s Future of Food & Farming Summit. In his opening remarks, Bruno Tremblay, Bayer’s regional head of Europe, Middle East and Africa for the crop science division, said: “We fully support the Green Deal climate targets, but we also believe that making Europe the first climate positive continent with resilient food systems can only work if every farmer in the European Union gets access to climate smart tools and get rewarded for implementing them for agriculture to leap forward.”36Opening Session & Interview with Tom. J. Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture | FFFS,” YouTube video uploaded by user Politico Europe, September 24, 2021. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.


Read more: Digital and Precision Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Regenerative Agriculture

Bayer says on its website that regenerative agriculture techniques such as reducing tillage can be used to reduce agriculture’s impact on climate change. “With better weed-control solutions, farmers reduce the need to till, decreasing tractor passes over the field and allowing for less soil disruption.” This technique “curbs greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel use” and helps sequester carbon, as “when soil is left untilled it is better able to store carbon, as well as nutrients and water.”37Crop Science // UK,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/DcqlH

In July 2020, Bayer launched a carbon capture program for U.S. and Brazilian farmers. The program reportedly “requires that farmers enroll in [Bayer’s] Climate FieldView digital farming platform, where growers would log data about their eco-friendly farming practices such as no-till farming or planting cover crops.”38Karl Plume. “Bayer launches carbon capture programme for U.S. and Brazil farmers,” Reuters, July 21, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/GToXG

Speaking about the program, Begemann told Reuters, “if farmers are sequestering carbon to the benefit of society and the planet, they should be rewarded for it.”39Karl Plume. “Bayer launches carbon capture programme for U.S. and Brazil farmers,” Reuters, July 21, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/GToXG

According to Bayer, “Soil is one of the most effective ways of sequestering carbon. Incentivizing farmers to embrace no-till, precision nitrogen use or cover crops helps further sequester carbon into the soil, reduce fossil fuel usage and reduce greenhouse gases. While today farmers get rewarded solely for their food, feed and fiber production, those participating in the Bayer Carbon Initiative will have the opportunity to be rewarded for their best farm management practices and other sustainability efforts as well.”40Bayer takes steps to make carbon sequestration a farmer’s newest crop opportunity,” Bayer, July 21, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/ip8Zg

However, Food Tank, a non-profit organization that works to reform the food system, has said that the company is “cashing in on the interest” of soil carbon sequestration and regenerative agriculture methods.“41Opinion: Why talk of regenerative agriculture should include pesticide reduction,” FoodTalk, September 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/P5lj6

Kendra Klein, senior staff scientist at Friends of the Earth, told Civil Eats, a news site that focuses on the American food system, that Bayer’s co-opting of regenerative farming concepts is a “cover for continuing a very resource-intensive, energy- and greenhouse gas-intensive form of agriculture.”42Gosia Wozniacka. “With Regenerative Agriculture Booming, the Question of Pesticides Looms Large,” Civil Eats, September 5, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/RViMo

Klein argues that the company is promoting the controversial herbicide Roundup as a way to reduce tillage. She writes that “these practices will only go so far toward building a sustainable food system if we don’t include pesticide reduction as a fundamental goal.”43Opinion: Why talk of regenerative agriculture should include pesticide reduction,” FoodTalk, September 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/P5lj6

In July 2020, Bayer launched the European segment of its global Carbon Initiative with the goal of achieving “decarbonization of the food value chain focusing on farmers’ activities for a more resilient and sustainable food system.” The program claims to be “in line with the political objectives of the EU Green Deal,” and includes 25 participating farmers from France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.44“Bayer launches its decarbonization program for agriculture in Europe,” Bayer, June 29, 2021. Archived July 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/gxWVD

Bayer said of the program:

“The new European Carbon Program recognizes the pivotal role growers and their land can play in helping to create lasting, positive environmental impacts and is an integral part of Bayer’s sustainability commitments specifically aimed at reducing field greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by 30 [percent] in 2030.”

In May 2021, Bayer joined the newly-founded “European Carbon+Farming Coalition,” which aimed to accelerate decarbonization of food systems by taking a “farmer-centric approach” focused on “increasing the uptake of regenerative and climate-smart agriculture practices, identifying the roadblocks to adoption, [and] designing solutions with economic, practical and ecological benefits to farmers.” The program is particularly focused on curbing carbon emissions due to disturbance of farmland soils, and sequestering carbon in these soils. Other partners in the initiative include chemicals giant BASF and fertilizer and agricultural products company Yara International ASA.45New Coalition Announces Bold Plan to Decarbonize Europe’s Food System,” EITFood, May 4, 2021. Archived July 22, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/f0Mit 


In September 2021, in opening remarks at the Bayer-sponsored POLITICO Future of Food & Farming Summit, Tremblay said that Bayer is supporting soil health and carbon farming by “working directly with companies and organizations across the food value chain” to create “carbon farming models that work for farmers and other stakeholders in the food chain for moving towards climate neutrality.”46Opening Session & Interview with Tom. J. Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture | FFFS,” YouTube video uploaded by user Politico Europe. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.


Read more: Regenerative Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Genetically Modified Organisms 

Gene editing in agriculture is the process of adding, enhancing or removing specific traits from the DNA of an organism. Genetic modification can make organisms more resistant to certain environmental conditions, including pests, chemicals, diseases and weather.47Nicholas G. Karavolias, Wilson Horner, Modesta N. Abugu, and Sarah N. Evanega. “Application of Gene Editing for Climate Change in Agriculture,” Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, September 7, 2021. Archived November 4, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/kZlE6 

Some studies show that the adoption of genetic modifications to make crops more insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant has reduced farmers’ need to spray pesticides, thereby decreasing the environmental impact associated with herbicide and insecticide use on these crops.48Graham Brookes and Simon Barfoot. “Environmental impacts of genetically modified (GM) crop use 1996-2016: Impacts on pesticide use and carbon emissions,” GM Crops & Food, Archived April 16, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

But other studies suggest that while the widespread adoption of genetically modified crops has decreased the use of insecticides, it has also increased the need for herbicides as weeds become more resistant to the substances.49Caroline Newman. “Largest-Ever Study Reveals Environmental Impact of Genetically Modified Crops,” UVATODAY, September 14, 2016. Archived October 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/BAPXC 

Many studies conclude that there is still not enough data in order to assess the long term safety of such new crops, nor their environmental impact.50Aristidis M. Tsatsakis, Muhammad Amjad Nawaz, Demetrios Kouretas, Georgios Balias, Kai Savolainen, Victor A. Tutelyan, Kirill S. Golokhvast, Jeong Dong Lee, Seung Hwan Yang, Gyuhwa Chung. “Environmental impacts of genetically modified plants: A review,” Environmental Research, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2017.03.011.

A 2021 survey by Ipsos found that a majority of European citizens want compulsory labeling on food products that indicates the presence of genetically modified ingredients.51Natasha Foote. “Report: majority of consumers want compulsory labelling on all genetically modified food,” EURACTIV, April 7, 2021. Archived August 17, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/doeah 

In July 2018, the European Court of Justice confirmed that gene-edited organisms created through new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs) fell under the EU’s GMO regulations and therefore were not allowed to be commercialized in Europe.52Document 62016CJ0528,” EUR-Lex, July 25, 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.  Archive URL: https://archive.ph/77oaC In a 2018 EURACTIV article reporting on the decision, József Máté, Corporate Communications Leader at Corteva, commented that the decision was a “bad day” for the agri-food sector. According to EURACTIV, environmental groups welcomed the news, saying the court had prevented “new GMOs” from entering the European market.53Sarantis Michalopoulos. “Industry shocked by EU Court decision to put gene editing technique under GM law,” EURACTIV, July 25, 2018. Archived April 30, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/Y3VBP 

A 2021 investigation by Corporate Europe Observatory looked into lobbying by companies including Bayer to water down the regulation of new GMOs, and lower standards for risk assessment, monitoring and labelling requirements. The investigation also detailed lobbying efforts by groups that represent agribusiness companies including Corteva, BASF and Syngenta.54Derailing EU Rules on New GMOs,” Corporate Europe Observatory, March 29, 2021. Archived October 9, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/ES6n6 

In 2020, NGOs and green groups including Corporate Europe Observatory and Greenpeace claimed that the agribusiness industry made up a majority of invited stakeholders to a meeting about an EU consultation regarding regulations for new gene editing techniques. Corporate Europe Observatory’s Nina Holland told Politico Europe that 70 percent of the invited organizations represented food and farming interests, while NGOs accounted for only 12 percent. Franziska Achterberg, EU food policy director for Greenpeace, told Politico Europe that the consultation had “multipl[ied] the voices of those most invested in new [genetically modified] technology, like Bayer, Syngenta and Corteva, who are simultaneously members of several invited groups.”55Cristina Gonzalez. “POLITICO EU Influence: Steel lobby mystery — Gene editing row — Croatian transparency update,” Politico Europe, February 14, 2020. Archived April 18, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/rK01m 

In March 2021, the European Commission recommended that EU GMO regulations should be updated to allow “targeted gene editing” in crops.56Florin Zubașcu. “Scientists and industry cheer outcome of Commission study on gene editing,” Science | Business, May 4, 2021. Archived My 18, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/4bgT7 The commission’s report, which was “welcomed” by industry, stated that the commission was in favor of reversing a 2018 ruling by the European Court of Justice which banned GMOs within Europe. In response to the report, Friends of the Earth Europe claimed that the related European Consultation on future legislation of GMOs, had “prioritize[d] the interests of the biotech sector.”57Green light for new GMOs?,” Friends of the Earth Europe. March 2021. Archived August 18, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/mQOjV 

Following the publication of the commission’s report, an article in Science | Business headlined “Biotech lobbies gear up for gene editing regulation battle,”58Florin Zubașcu. “Biotech lobbies gear up for gene editing regulation battle,” Science | Business, May 18, 2021. Archived May 18, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/UsPgq reported that Euroseeds, a trade association representing the European seed sector,59Who We Are,Euroseeds. Archived August 13, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/5rmzS had commissioned a report from German research group HFFA Research, which calls itself an “independent scientific consultancy on key issues in global agriculture, environment and development.” The report claimed that over the past two decades, plant breeding has contributed 66 percent of annual productivity growth in agriculture, and estimated that without plant breeding, crop yields in the EU would have been 20.6 percent lower.60Steffen Noleppa, Matti Cartsburg. “The socio-economic and environmental values of plant breeding in the EU and for selected EU member states,” HFFA Research, 2021. Archived October 21, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. HFFA Research also works with BASF, Bayer, UPL Ltd, NuFarm, CropLife International and Fertilizers Europe.61Clients,” HFFA Research. Archived August 13, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/MYbrK

According to a page titled “agriculture’s role in addressing a changing climate” on its website, Bayer is investing in plant breeding technologies as part of its development of “climate-smart” agricultural solutions.62Agriculture’s role in addressing climate change,Bayer. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/SFFUN Bayer echoes that idea in a podcast episode about gene editing, claiming the technology “has the potential to solve real challenges for farmers and the planet, like reducing the need for pesticides and the use of energy, land, and water.”63Designing the Needle: How Gene Editing Can Transform Our Health and Planet,” Podcast episode uploaded by Bayer, July 2, 2020. Archived April 21, 2021. Archived .mp3 on file at DeSmog.

In a sponsored post on Politico Europe in 2020, Bayer regional head for Europe, the Middle East and Africa Bruno Tremblay, said that gene editing was both safe and “fundamental” for achieving the goals of the EU Green Deal. He added: “The EU needs to find a balanced policy and reverse legislation that blocks new plant breeding tools. Otherwise, Europe could miss out on one of the most promising innovations of our lifetime to enable more sustainable resilient food systems.”64Bruno Tremblay. “Smart and sustainable food systems,Politico Europe, December 9, 2020. Archived October 6, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/aJfc6 

In an October 2021 article, Farmers Guardian reported that according to Liam Condon, president of crop science at Bayer, the company is “very actively” trying to change the EU’s GMO regulations. Condon added that the company is “promoting very strongly that regulations should catch up with technology and allow this technology to be used, [not only] for the benefit of Europeans, but also for the benefit of others all over the world who look to Europe for regulations.”65Alice Dyer. “Plant breeders engaging ‘very actively’ for gene editing regulations to change in Europe,” October 15, 2020. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In September 2021, Tremblay gave opening remarks for the Politico Europe Future of Food & Farming Summit, which Bayer sponsored as leading partner. Tremblay said that “Bayer wants to encourage the conversation around entities. And regulations should ensure that it is fit for purpose.” He also said that Bayer’s “new genomic techniques” could “contribute to the Green Deal’s objective by enabling and accelerating the development of more resilient seed varieties.”66Opening Session & Interview with Tom. J. Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture | FFFS,” YouTube video uploaded by user Politico Europe. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

In 2012, Bayer, BASF, Corteva and Syngenta founded the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) in the United Kingdom with the goal to “provide factual information and education about the agricultural use of GM technology in the UK.”67About ABC,” Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Archived January 21, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/qB0XO 

Ahead of the November 2021 international climate conference, COP26, ABC chair Mark Buckingham said, “As all of us deal with the impact of climate change and environmental extremes, it is vital that we are equipped to access all the tools available. If UK food production is to remain both resilient and sustainable farmers must have access to technologies like gene editing.”68BRITONS WANT FARMING ON THE AGENDA FOR COP26 – AND WANT FARMERS TO HAVE ACCESS TO AGRICULTURAL INNOVATIONS TO RESPOND TO CLIMATE CRISIS,” Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Archived September 21, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/cjtSs

Role in Pesticides Controversy

Bayer, along with Syngenta, was criticized in 2016 after unpublished field trials “show[ed] their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels,” according to the Guardian.69Damian Carrington. “Pesticide manufacturer’s own tests reveal serious harm to honeybees,” The Guardian, September 22, 2016. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/bTWKu The companies both went to the European Court of Justice to get the restrictions overturned. The court ruled that the EU had correctly applied its “precautionary principle.”70Bee crisis: EU backs near-total neonicotinoids ban,” BBC News, May 17, 2018. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/QVZAY

In 2018, Bayer acquired Monsanto into its crop science division, and in the process acquired the globe’s best-known herbicide. In March 2020,  Bloomberg reported that Bayer would pay US$39.5 million to settle lawsuits regarding false advertising about Roundup.71Jef Feeley. “Bayer Pays $39.5 Million to Settle Roundup false-Ad Lawsuits,” Bloomberg, March 30, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/QLKkf In June 2020, Bayer agreed to pay US$10 billion to “to settle tens of thousands of claims” that Roundup causes cancer, “while continuing to sell the product without adding warning labels about its safety” according to The New York Times.72Patricia Cohen. “Roundup Maker to pay $10 Billion to settle cancer suits,” New York Times, June 24, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/qfCEV 

In July 2019, the Financial Times reported that the number of lawsuits against Bayer alleging a link between Roundup and cancer had jumped from 13,400 to 18,400 in three months.73Tobias Buck. “Bayer faces 5,000 new lawsuits over pesticide cancer claims,”Financial Times, July 30, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL:  https://archive.vn/VdlYh 

Bayer, along with BASF, was sued by a farmer who alleged that his peach orchard was destroyed after dicamba weedkiller drifted over from nearby fields. The companies were  ordered to pay the farmer US$15 million in actual damages and US$250 million in fines, the BBC reported in February 2020.74German firms Bayer and BASF fight $265 Million U.S. fine over weedkiller,” BBC News, February 17, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/Fpbw9

Pesticides containing neonicotinoids were banned in Europe for two years in 2013 over fears these substances were contributing to declining bee populations. According to The New York Times, Bayer and Syngenta – the two pesticide companies that make neonicotinoids in Europe – said they “were willing to finance additional research, but that the current data do not justify a ban.”75David Jolly. “Europe bans pesticides thought harmful to bees,” The New York Times, April 29, 2013. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/8iYMd In 2018 the EU voted for a total ban on use of neonicotinoids.76Damian Carrington. “EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides,” The Guardian, April 27, 2018. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/lutrO

In March 2020, Bayer published a position paper responding to the 50 percent pesticide reduction targets set in the European Green Deal’s Farm to Fork strategy,77Farm to Fork Strategy: Bayer’s contribution to the Roadmap public consultation,” Bayer, March 16, 2020. Archived November 29, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog. as well as the  strategy’s goal of reserving  25 percent of agricultural land for organic farming.78What’s in the EU’s new agri-food, biodiversity policy,” EU Observer, May 20, 2021. Archived November 30, 2021, Archive URL: https://archive.ph/wip/8Lgsk

The paper stated that Bayer “believe[s] that the sustainable use of pesticides should focus on reducing the risk and impact of their usage on the environment rather than reducing their use.” Bayer added that it has “made a commitment reduce the environmental impact of crop protection” by 30 percent by 2030, saying it would achieve this commitment with “a combination of innovative tools including – but not limited to – modern application technologies, mitigation measures (reducing off-target effects of pesticides), compounds with better environmental profiles as well as the increased use of biologics and breeding.”79Farm to Fork Strategy: Bayer’s contribution to the Roadmap public consultation,” Bayer, March 16, 2020. Archived November 29, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.  

In October 2020, an investigation by Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) claimed that Bayer was one of several corporations actively engaging with member states and European Parliament members in attempts to water down the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform.80CAP vs Farm to Fork: Will we pay billions to destroy, or to support biodiversity, climate, and farmers?,Corporate Europe Observatory, October 12, 2020. Archived September 4,, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/erl3Y Advocates, including Corporate Europe Observatory, had hoped that the CAP would be brought into alignment with Farm to Fork targets and the Biodiversity Strategy.

In May 2021, The European Court of Justice dismissed Bayer’s appeal of a 2018 ruling which restricted the use of three active substances used in neonicotinoids: imidacloprid, developed by Bayer; clothianidin, developed by Takeda Chemical Industries and Bayer; and thiamethoxam, developed by Syngenta.81Kate Abnett. “EU top court upholds ban on Bayer pesticides linked to harming bees,” Reuters, May 6, 2021. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/9Ubip 

In response to the dismissal, Bayer said that while it accepted the 2018 decision to broadly restrict the use of certain neonicotinoids in agriculture, it “stands by the safety of its products” and “reiterates the value that these products have for farmers in managing pests effectively.” A spokesperson for Bayer added that the decision “seems to allow the [European] Commission almost carte blanche to review existing approvals upon the slightest evidence, which need not even be new scientific data.”82Stephanie Bodoni. “Bayer Loses Fight Over Chemicals EU Blamed for Killing Bees,” Bloomberg, May 6, 2021. Archived May 6, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/LrF4M

Lobbying

According to OpenSecrets, Bayer reported US$9,140,000 in lobbying expenses in the U.S. in 2019. This was down from US$12,310,000 in 2018, and US$13,740,000 in 2017. U.S. agencies listed to have been lobbied by Bayer on OpenSecrets in 2019 are:83Client Profile: Bayer AG,” OpenSecrets. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/S0X4v

As part of the company’s overview of its political engagement, Bayer states that it does not make any direct donations to political parties, politicians, or candidates. However, the overview notes that “some associations of which [Bayer] is a member make donations on their initiative.”84Our Political Principles and Positions,” Bayer Global. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/I2hE5 

Bayer acknowledges that it engages politically on the following topics: intellectual property, policymaking, post-clinical-trial access, and trade.85Our Political Principles and Positions,” Bayer Global. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/I2hE5

Bayer is registered on the EU transparency register for lobbying, which states that the organization’s fields of interest include climate action.86Transparency Register,” Europa, December 17, 2008. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/estSR 

According to the Transparency Register, Bayer spent between €4,250,000 – €4,499,999 in 2020.87Bayer AG,” European Transparency Register. Archived November 22, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/R4oS0 

Bayer is a client of lobby consultancies registered within the European Union. In 2020, Bayer spent between €100,000 and €199,999 on the services of FIPRA International SRL, between €200,000 – €299,999 on the services of EPPA S.A, , and between €500,000 – €599,999 on the services of Rud Pedersen Consulting.

A 2017 report by Influence Map tracked 50 large corporations judged most influential in shaping climate policy globally. The project found that 35 of the 50 were actively lobbying against policies to act on climate change. Bayer was included on the list alongside other corporations including Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Dow Chemical.88Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint,” InfluenceMap, September 2017. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/tNNTz

Glyphosate Lobbying

Much of Bayer’s lobbying has involved defense of glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup, the herbicide that has led to thousands of lawsuits against Bayer and Monsanto.

According to the European Trade Union Institute, Bayer has been represented by the European Crop Protection Association (since renamed CropLife Europe), which “aggressively pushes for weak regulation of pesticides and GMOs.” In 2016 the ECPA declared a lobbying spend of between €600,000 – €700,000. The ECPA and Bayer have lobbied against EU action on neonicotinoid pesticides. Monsanto has also spent hundreds of thousands on defending glyphosate use. One of the company’s lobbyists, Richard Garnett, was the chair of the Glyphosate Task Force, an industry lobby group, which has since been renamed the Glyphosate Renewal Group (GRG).89Olivier Hoedeman. “The world of EU lobbying in Brussels,” HesaMag. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/x6VJY

In late 2019, Bayer Head of Public and Government Affairs Matthias Berninger reportedly told German business newspaper Handelsblatt that glyphosate was “good for the climate.”90Helen Buyniski. “Bayer-Monsanto’s secret weapon: Ex-Green lobbyist to tell the world its cancer-linked weedkiller will save the climate,” RT, January 8, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/BrlNB Berninger was a member of The Greens, a green political party in Germany, from 1990 to 2007, and from 2001 to 2005 served as Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. A subsequent article by RT described Berninger an “ex-Green lobbyist” and Bayer and Monsanto’s “secret weapon”.91Matthias Berninger Alliance 90/The Greens,” The Bundestag. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/0QtIj#selection-1384.0-1394.0 

In 2019, ​​Bob Reiter, Bayer’s head of research, told EURACTIV that glyphosate might be a “once in a lifetime product” and no “magical” alternative to glyphosate is going to appear in the market.92Sarantis Michalopoulos. “No ‘magical’ alternative to glyphosate in the next 5 years, Bayer official says,” EURACTIV, October 2, 2019. Archived August 24, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/LWUCt 

In 2017, the European Commission granted a five-year approval for glyphosate, ending in December 2022.93Document 32017R2324,” EurLex. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/Ag56f

Bayer is a member of the Glyphosate Renewal Group, a coalition of European agrochemical companies lobbying the EU to renew its authorization of glyphosate.94What is the Glyphosate Renewal Group,” Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived December 7, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/53rmx 

In August 2021, Bayer lost its third appeal of a U.S. federal court ruling that awarded damages to customers charging that exposure to Bayer’s glyphosate-based weedkiller Roundup had caused their cancers.95Bayer loses third appeals case over glyphosate weedkiller,Reuters, August 10, 2021. Archived September 13, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/KOno3 

In 2021, the Institute of Cancer Research at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria issued the results of a study that reviewed more than 50 glyphosate-related safety studies submitted to regulators by large chemical companies, including Syngenta and Bayer. Speaking to The Guardian about the findings of the study, the lead author said that the “quality” of “many of the studies” analyzed was “very poor”. In response to the findings, Bayer said that the package of studies submitted to regulators is “one of the most extensive scientific dossiers ever compiled for a pesticide active ingredient.”96Carey Gillam. “Corporate studies asserting herbicide safety show many flaws, new analysis finds,The Guardian, July 2, 2021. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/WsitV

In March 2020, the Guardian revealed that Monsanto had secretly funded academic studies on glyphosate that claimed “very severe impacts” on farming would result if glyphosate was banned. According to the Guardian, Monsanto funded the studies before it was acquired by Bayer. Bayer stated that “the studies’ failure to disclose their funding broke [its] principles.”97Damian Carrington. “Revealed: Monsanto’s secret funding for weedkiller studies,” The Guardian, March 12, 2020. Archived November 28, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/gGRuA 

In November 2021, the Glyphosate Renewal Group organized an event titled “Can glyphosate play a role in achieving greater biodiversity?” with EURACTIV.98Policy Dialogue: Can Glyphosate play a role in achieving greater biodiversity?,” EURACTIV, November 4, 2021. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog. The event featured Bayer Head of Environmental Safety Virginie Ducrot, who stated that all studies provided to the EFSA and other regulatory bodies involved in the reassessment of glyphosate were available on the Glyphosate Renewal Group’s website.99Our commitment to transparency,Glyphosate Renewal Group. Archived December 1, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.ph/lFrYS 

In August 2021, Bayer stated that it would be willing to remove glyphosate from the U.S. lawn and garden market. The company stated that a new version of the weedkiller Roundup, which has historically contained glyphosate, would rely on “alternative active ingredients,” which would need to be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.100Tim Loh and Jef Feeley. “Bayer’s Roundup Costs Could Top US$16 Billion as Provisions Mount,” Bloomberg, July 29, 2021. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

In September 2020, Reuters reported that Bayer and the U.S. government had cooperated  in late 2019 to lobby Thailand to reverse its ban on glyphosate.101Patpicha Tanakasempipat. “Exclusive: In the weeds – How Bayer, U.S. government teamed up against Thailand’s glyphosate ban,” September 17, 2020. Archived November 29, 2021. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/f25ub 

In February 2021, the Guardian revealed that Bayer and trade association CropLife America had been working with U.S. officials to pressure Mexico into abandoning its intended ban on glyphosate.Carey Gillam.102Revealed: Monsanto owner and US officials pressured Mexico to drop glyphosate ban,” The Guardian, February 16, 2021. Archived November 29, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.fo/pzwn3

Affiliations

Bayer is a member of CropLife International, which has described itself 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 UPL

According to the EU Transparency Register, Bayer is a member of the following trade associations:103Transparency Register,” Europa, December 17, 2008. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/estSR

  • BusinessEurope
  • European Chemical Industry Council (CEFIC)
  • European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries Association (EFPIA),
  • the Association of the European Self-Medication Industry (AEGSP)
  • European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio)
  • European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) (Since CropLife Europe)
  • European Seeds Association (ESA)
  • AnimalHealth Europe
  • Cosmetics Europe
  • DIGITALEUROPE
  • Verband der Chemischen Industrie (VCI)
  • Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie / Förderkreis der Deutschen Industrie (BDI)
  • Deutsches Aktieninstitut (DAI) 

Bayer is also a member of the American Chemistry Council, a U.S. chemical industry lobbying organization.104Member Companies,” American Chemistry Council. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/jP5B8 The firm is also a member of the UK’s Crop Protection Association.105Who We Are,” Crop Protection Association. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/oDGer 

In 2019, The New York Times reported that “Staff members from Copa-Cogeca, the agricultural company Bayer and the European Commission formed a group called the Young Food Policy Network, which hosts happy hours for government and business officials.”106Matt Apuzzo and Salem Gebrekidan. “Who Keeps Europe’s Farm Billions Flowing: Often Those Who Benefit,” The New York Times, December 11, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/82Lnl 

In June 2020, an American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) logo was featured on a one-pager for a U.S. Department of Agriculture carbon credit certification program bill, alongside the logos of a number of agribusinesses including Bayer, Syngenta, and Corteva.107Senator Braun et al. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020,” United States Senate. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive URL: https://archive.vn/x7Yc2

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