Bayer

Background

Bayer is a German Life Sciences company headquartered in Leverkusen, Germany. Following a 2018 deal, the pesticides giant Monsanto was folded into Bayer’s Crop Science Division. (Bayer’s overall company divisions are: pharmaceuticals, consumer health and crop science). Bayer’s Crop Science division includes: crop protection, seeds, digital farming and environmental science. [1]  

Bayer AG’s main sales come from agrochemicals (45.5%). Bayer’s highest net sales are in the United States (31.1%), followed by Europe, Middle East, and Africa (23.7%), Asia-Pacific (11.2%), China (8.6%), Brazil (8.1%), Latin America (7.2%), and Germany (5.4%). The Bayer Group comprises 392 consolidated companies in 87 countries. [2][3]

Bayer has reportedly received £600 million from the UK government coronavirus bailout fund. [4]

Stance on Climate Change

Bayer has committed to achieving a 30% reduction “of the field greenhouse gas footprint of our farming customers” by 2030. The company says: “Although agriculture is a contributor to climate change, the industry plays a role in curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions like carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxide that contribute to climate change.” [5]

On its website Bayer references a study by Cranfield University on crop protection contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, which it says “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.” The study was commissioned for the Crop Protection Association, published in August 2009. [6][7]

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 ways of sequestering carbon and 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.” [8]

A 2019 video by Bayer on climate change says that farmers “are uniquely positioned” to combat climate change. It says farmers can achieve this by planting genetically modified seeds which “enables farmers to use reduced tillage and no till practices, which has resulted in a substantial reduction in carbon dioxide emissions”. [9]

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,” praising them for being “passionate environmentalists and stewards of the lands they farm.” [8]

During the coronavirus pandemic, Bayer was one of more than 60 companies to call for pandemic-related German aid to be tied to climate action in a joint letter which wrote, “we appeal to the federal government to closely link economic policy measures to overcome both the climate crisis and the coronavirus crisis.” [10]

In August 2020, the Science Based Targets initiative — a partnership between CDP, the UN Global Compact, the World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, and We Mean Business, intending to increase corporate ambition on climate change — said that Bayer was playing its part in limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius. [11]

In a press release reacting to the 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.” [11]

Digital and Precision Agriculture

Farming journalist Ryan Ridley has described Bayer as “taking a leadership position” in precision agriculture technology. [12]

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.” [13]

Adrian Percy, the former head of research and development for Bayer’s crop science division, echoed this telling Euromoney that decades of innovation has 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.” [14]

In 2016, Tom Philpott, a reporter at Mother Jones, suggested that Bayer was in the process of acquiring Monsanto because of Monsanto’s “heft in the data market”, including prior investments in precision agriculture and its subsequent Climate Corporation startup. But a report by Lux Research argued an alternative theory and suggested that while Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto was a winning deal in some parts, it would make its precision agriculture entity weak due to Monsanto’s “nonsensical” investment approach in “unproven” technologies. [15][16]

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.” [17]

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.” [18]

In 2016, Bayer’s ForwardFarming initiative, a knowledge platform that “fosters dialogue and showcases on-farm sustainable practices with farmers,” teamed up with Belgium’s Ghent University to conduct research in smart farming solutions including precision agriculture and resource management. [19][20]

In the run up to the 2018 World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, Michael Stern, chief executive of Bayer’s Climate Corporation, said that artificial intelligence was “helping shape the future of farming.” [21]

In late 2017, Chemical and Engineering News reported that Bayer and American biotech company Ginkgo Bioworks were partnering in a joint venture called Joyn Bio to invest $100 million in a farm that would “exploit the potential of synthetic biology to improve microbes that help plants grow.” [22]

Joyn Bio in 2019 introduced another partner, NewLeaf Symbiotics, in its aim to develop microbes that fix nitrogen for crops. “The potential to pair our platform for microbial engineering with NewLeaf’s microbes will bring unprecedented performance to biological agriculture solutions,” said Joyn’s CEO Mike Miille. [23]

Bayer also participated in the Internet of Food and Farm 2020 programme, an EU-funded project which aims to “make precision farming a reality” with the help of IoT (internet of things) solutions. [24][25]

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 partnership of the two companies. [26]

Jason Davidson of Friends of the Earth has criticised Bayer’s digital platform which he has described as “another attempt to sell more toxic products, monetize farmer data and maintain control of our food system.” [27]

Subsequently, Bayer’s Climate Corp was forced to end its partnership with Tillable but Mike Stern, chief executive of the group said, “we have not, do not and will not share or sell our customers’ personal information or farm data.” [26]


Read more: Digital and Precision Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Regenerative Agriculture

Bayer says regenerative agriculture techniques such as reducing tillage can be used to reduce agriculture’s impact on climate change. It says: “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, it says, “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”. [6]

In July 2020, Bayer launched a carbon capture program for US and Brazilian farmers. The program reportedly “requires that farmers enroll in its 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.” [28]

Begemann, Bayer’s Crop Science division CEO, defended the programme, telling Reuters, “if farmers are sequestering carbon to the benefit of society and the planet, they should be rewarded for it.” [28]

Bayer says: “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.” [8]

But Food Tank, a non-profit organisation which highlights ways to reform the food system, has said that the company is “cashing in on the interest” of soil carbon sequestration and regenerative agriculture methods. [29]

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 concept is a “cover for continuing a very resource-intensive, energy- and greenhouse gas-intensive form of agriculture.” [30]

Klein argues that the company is promoting Roundup, the toxic herbicide, as a way to reduce tillage. She writes, “these practices will only go so far toward building a sustainable food system if we don’t include pesticide reduction as a fundamental goal.” [29]


Read more: Regenerative Agriculture – Criticisms and Concerns


Role in Pesticides Controversy

Bayer, along with Syngenta, were criticised in 2016 after unpublished field trials “show[ed] their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels”, according to the Guardian. 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”. [31][32]

In 2018, Bayer acquired Monsanto into its crop science division. In May it was reported by Bloomberg that Bayer paid $39.5 million to settle its Roundup false-advertising lawsuits. Bayer is also reportedly going to pay $10 billion to “to settle tens of thousands of claims while continuing to sell the product without adding warning labels about its safety” according to the New York Times. [33][34]

In July 2019, the Financial Times reported that the number of lawsuits against Bayer alleging a link between the company’s pesticide product Roundup and cancer jumped from 13,400 to 18,400 in three months.  [35]

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 have been ordered to pay the farmer $15m in actual damages and $250m in fines, the BBC reported in February 2020. [36]

Pesticides containing neonicotinoids were banned in Europe for two years in 2013 over fears they were contributing to a decline in bee health. According to the New York Times, Bayer CropScience and Syngenta – the two pesticide companies that make the pesticide in Europe – said they “ “were willing to finance additional research, but that the current data do not justify a ban.” In 2018 the EU voted for a total ban on using the pesticide in fields that came into action at the end of that year. [37][38]

Lobbying

According to OpenSecrets, Bayer reported $9,140,000 in lobbying expenses in the US in 2019; down from $12,310,000 in 2018, and $13,740,000 in 2017. US agencies listed to have been lobbied by Bayer on OpenSecrets in 2019 are: [39]

As part of the company’s overview of Political Engagement, Bayer states that it does not make any direct donations to political parties, politicians, or candidates, however goes on to write that “some associations of which the Group is a member make donations on their initiative.” [40]

Bayer acknowledges that it engages politically in the following topicsIP, Policymaking, Post-Clinical-Trial-Access, and Trade. [40]

Bayer AG is registered on the EU transparency register for lobbying, which says the organisation’s fields of interest include Climate Action.  [41]

A 2017 report by Influence Map tracked 50 large corporations most influential in shaping climate policy globally and found that of the 50, 35 were actively lobbying against climate policy. Bayer was included in the list, sitting alongside other corporations including Koch Industries, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, and Dow Chemical. [42]

Glyphosate Lobbying

Much of Bayer’s lobbying has been to defend glyphosate, the main chemical in Roundup (the product 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 who in 2016 declared a lobbying spend of between €600,000 – €700,000 and “aggressively pushes for weak regulation of pesticides and GMOs”. The ECPA and Bayer have lobbied against EU action on neonicotinoid pesticides. Monsanto have also spent hundreds of thousands in defending glyphosate use and one of the company’s lobbyists, Richard Garnett, is the chair of the industry lobby platform, the Glyphosate Task Force. [43]

In late 2019, Bayer’s Head of Public and Government Affair, Matthias Berninger, reportedly told German business newspaper Handelsblatt that glyphosate was “good for the climate”. Berninger was a member of The Greens 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”. [44], [45]

Affiliations

Bayer 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. 

According to the EU Transparency Register Bayer AG is a member of the following trade associations:  [41]

  • 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),
  • European Seeds Association (ESA)
  • AnimalHealth Europe

Bayer is also a member of the American Chemistry Council and a member of the UK‘s Crop Protection Association. [46][47]

Bayer formed the Young Food Policy Network with farmers associations COPACOGECA. [48]

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. [49]

References

  1. Organization Chart,” Bayer. September 1, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/r5peC 
  2. Bayer AG (Bayn),”MarketScreener. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/B220t  

  3. Names, Facts, Figures about Bayer,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/3afiv 

  4. Zach Boren. “Pesticide Giant gets £1BN bailout despite mammoth dividend plan,” Unearthed, June 4, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/lkHmh 

  5. Shaping Agriculture,”Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/b5d3F 

  6. Crop Science // UK,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/DcqlH 

  7. E. Audsley et al. “Estimation of the greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural pesticide manufacture and use,” Cranfield University, August 2009. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/OcI8f 

  8. Bayer takes steps to make carbon sequestration a farmer’s newest crop opportunity,” Bayer, July 21, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/ip8Zg 

  9. Give It a Minute: Climate Change,” YouTube video uploaded by user Bayer Crop Science on February 15, 2019. Archived .mp4 on file at Desmog. 

  10. German companies call for COVID-19 aid to be tied to climate action,” Reuters, April 27, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/yDKPh 

  11. Science based targets initiative endorses climate protection targets of Bayer AG,” Bayer, August 21, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URLhttps://archive.vn/QvtOH 

  12. Bayer takes efficiency to new heights,” Bayer, July 26, 2018. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/jpg3L 

  13. Enabling Farmers To Get The Most Out Of Their Fields While Using Less Land and Fewer Inputs,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/gpLPj 

  14. Helen Avery. “Finance for a Farming Revolution,” Euromoney, October 8, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/32juC 

  15. Tom Philpott. “Robots are growing tons of our food. Here’s the creepy part,” Mother Jones, September/October 2016. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/tN7HB 

  16. Bayer-Monsanto entity will be weak in precision agriculture,” HortiDaily, January 12, 2017. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/EYFKS 

  17. Liam Condon. “Opinion: the most resilient people in the world? Farmers,” AgriPulse, July 22, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/UjRQV 

  18. Liam Condon. “Farming’s Future Belongs to All of Us,” Politico, September 26, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/YLtuX 

  19. Bayer ForwardFarming Initiative: Demonstrating Sustainable Agriculture in Practice,” Bayer. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/YBeee 

  20. Bayer endowed Chair ForwardFarming,” Ghent University, September 10, 2019. Archived September 19, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/4fJ9G

  21. Interview with Michael Stern – BAYER,” World Agri-Tech Innovation Summit, September 15-16, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/0wiYT

  22. Melody M. Bomgardner. “Bayer, Ginkgo launch microbe company,” C&En, September 18, 2017. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/tIPij 

  23. Melody M. Bomgardner. “Ginkgo, Bayer venture taps NewLeaf for plant microbes,” C&En, July 22, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/tIPij 

  24. The precision agriculture revolution is here- see it in action!AgNews, May 3, 2019. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/fHfOd 

  25. Introducing Internet of Food and Farm 2020,” IOF2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/k22Fj 

  26. Emiko Terazono. “Bayer Ends Digital Farming Agreement After Twitter Backlash,” The Financial Times, February 16, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/LQZkS

  27. Jason 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.vn URL: https://archive.vn/mNR9f 

  28. Karl Plume. “Bayer launches carbon capture programme for U.S. and Brazil farmers,” Reuters, July 21, 2020. Archived November 9, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/GToXG 

  29. Opinion: Why talk of regenerative agriculture should include pesticide reduction,” FoodTalk, September 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/P5lj6 

  30. Gosia Wozniacka. “With Regenerative Agriculture Booming, the Question of Pesticides Looms Large,” Civil Eats, September 5, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/RViMo 

  31. Damian Carrington. “Pesticide manufacturer’s own tests reveal serious harm to honeybees,” The Guardian, September 22, 2016. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/bTWKu 

  32. Bee crisis: EU backs near-total neonicotinoids ban,” BBC News, May 17, 2018. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/QVZAY 

  33. Jef Feeley. “Bayer Pays $39.5 Million to Settle Roundup false-Ad Lawsuits,” Bloomberg, March 30, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/QLKkf 

  34. Patricia Cohen. “Roundup Maker to pay $10 Billion to settle cancer suits,” New York Times, June 24, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/qfCEV 

  35. Tobias Buck. “Bayer faces 5,000 new lawsuits over pesticide cancer claims,”Financial Times, July 30, 2019. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URLhttps://archive.vn/VdlYh 

  36. German firms Bayer and BASF fight $265 Million U.S. fine over weedkiller,” BBC News, February 17, 2020. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/Fpbw9 

  37. David Jolly. “Europe bans pesticides thought harmful to bees,” The New York Times, April 29, 2013. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/8iYMd 

  38. Damian Carrington. “EU agrees total ban on bee-harming pesticides,” The Guardian, April 27, 2018. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/lutrO 

  39. Client Profile: Bayer AG,” OpenSecrets. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/S0X4v 

  40. Our Political Principles and Positions,” Bayer Global. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/I2hE5 

  41. Transparency Register,” Europa, December 17, 2008. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/estSR 

  42. Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint,” InfluenceMap, September 2017. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/tNNTz 

  43. Olivier Hoedeman. “The world of EU lobbying in Brussels,” HesaMag. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/x6VJY 

  44. Helen 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.vn URL: https://archive.vn/BrlNB 

  45. Matthias Berninger Alliance 90/The Greens,” The Bundestag. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/0QtIj#selection-1384.0-1394.0 

  46. Member Companies,” American Chemistry Council. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/jP5B8 

  47. Who We Are,” Crop Protection Association. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/oDGer 

  48. Matt 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.vn URL: https://archive.vn/82Lnl 

  49. Senator Braun et al. “The Growing Climate Solutions Act of 2020,” United States Senate. Archived November 10, 2020. Archive.vn URL: https://archive.vn/x7Yc2 

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