Jan 28, 2009, The News & Observer / McClatchy-Tribune
Group urges NCSU to end deal with Bayer
A German activist group is attacking N.C. State University for agreeing to collaborate on research with Bayer CropScience and accepting a $1 million endowment from the company to establish a chair in sustainable development.
"Bayer has a long history of giving precedence to profits over human rights and a sound environment," the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers wrote in a recent letter to university officials. "By helping this corporation to greenwash its image, you reduce the concept of sustainable development to absurdity. We therefore urge you to stop this cooperation."
Bayer CropScience's endowment and collaboration with the university's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was announced last week in conjunction with a symposium at the university titled "Stewards of the Future: Research for Global Sustainability Tomorrow."
Bayer CropScience has its U.S. headquarters in Research Triangle Park, where it employs 450 people. It's a subsidiary of Bayer AG, a corporate behemoth based in Germany whose businesses span the pharmaceutical, materials and agribusiness sectors.
The Coalition Against Bayer Dangers has been monitoring -- and criticizing -- Bayer for decades, but it has stepped up its efforts in the wake of the controversy surrounding one of Bayer's best-selling pesticides and the disappearance of millions of U.S. honeybees. In August, the group filed a complaint in Germany alleging Bayer knowingly polluted the environment. Company officials have rejected the contention that its pesticides played a role in the bees' disappearance.
Johnny Wynne, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said he has not seen the letter and knows of no reason "at this particular point" to end the collaboration.
Wynne said the school has had discussions with Bayer CropScience officials on sustainability issues such as reducing greenhouse gases, protecting water supplies and biodiversity.
"I have not had any concerns about working with them in these areas," he said.
Bayer CropScience spokesman Jack Boyne said he was unaware of the coalition's protest, but he added, "The Coalition Against Bayer Danger is an activist organization with a very clear bias against Bayer."
"The $1 million that Bayer has put forward to establish a chair of sustainable development, I think, is a very noble activity," Boyne said. "N.C. State has a very long history of collaboration with the private sector. If you look at Centennial Campus, I would say that the central focus of that is to foster this collaboration." firstname.lastname@example.org
Open Letter, January 28, 2009
Dr. Johnny Wynne, Dean N.C. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS)
Dr. Tom Rufty, Bayer CropScience Professor of Sustainable Development
Dr. James Oblinger, Chancellor North Carolina State University
Sustainable Development Chair: Reject Bayer Endowment
Dear Johnny Wynne, Tom Rufty and James Oblinger,
last week North Carolina State University announced that Bayer CropScience created a $1 million endowment and that Tom Rufty will hold the chair of sustainable development the endowment makes possible. Johnny Wynne is cited as saying: “We are honored to have Bayer as a collaborator in our research efforts to find solutions to the complex problems that issues like global climate change, population growth, and food and water shortages present.
The Coalition against BAYER Dangers, which has been monitoring Bayer for 30 years, criticises this cooperation.
Bayer has a long history of giving precedence to profits over human rights and a sound environment. The corporation has fought against almost all agreements on environmental issues, be it the Kyoto Protocol for the protection of the climate, the new European laws on chemicals, the phasing out of CFCs or recent EU efforts to reduce the use of pesticides.
Bayer started hundreds of partnerships and sponsorships with universities, medical societies, environmental groups or educational organizations - particularly in fields where the company is criticised. Bayer has been abusing these cooperations to deflect criticism by watchdog groups or the media and to exploit the good image of their partners to present a corporate humanitarian image.
Bayer CropScience´s business is especially problematic:
· Bayer CropScience continues to sell pesticides from WHO hazard classes Ia (extremely hazardous) and Ib (highly hazardous), including thiodicarb, parathion-methyl, fenamiphos, ethoprop, azinphos-methyl and triazophos. Particularly in conditions of poverty, the risk-free use of such pesticides is impossible. The company thus holds responsibility for fatal poisonings of thousands of agricultural laborers each year. In 1995 Bayer announced that it would remove all hazard class I pesticides from the market, a promise that is being continually broken.
· A Greenpeace study last year showed that Bayer CropScience pesticides pose the biggest threat to human health and the environment, compared to other international producers.
· Bayer´s facilities are highly dangerous. At Bayer CropScience´s Institute plant, large quantities of methyl isocyanate, the chemical that killed and injured over 100,000 in Bhopal/India, and phosgene, a nerve agent used in World War I are produced and stored. Last August a huge explosion occured in the plant. Two workers died, thousands of residents were at risk.
· Bayer´s herbicide glufosinate is classified as reprotoxic. The substance is on an EU black list and will not receive further approvals in Europe. Despite grave dangers to consumers and operators glufosinate is one of the best-selling herbicides in the US.
· Despite bans in more than 50 countries Bayer CropScience is still marketing endosulfan, a pesticide that is a leading cause of poisoning worldwide. Endosulfan is acutely toxic, is known to disrupt the hormone system, can damage the human reproductive system and has been linked to cancer among other human health effects.
· Last year German authorities blamed Bayer´s clothianidin for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The German government suspended the registration for eight seed treatment products, including Bayer´s clothianidin and imidacloprid. Italy and France banned the substances as well.
· Bayer CropScience is one of the few western companies that do business in Burma despite the catastrophic human rights situation there. Bayer has a subsidiary in Rangoon and is planning trials there with hybrid rice.
· Bayer CropScience has several types of rice in its product range that are resistant to glufosinate. The rice type LL 601 was present in the food chain for many years despite not being authorized for consumption anywhere in the world. The European Union and Japan imposed import bans on imports, numerous rice growers in the United States lost export markets and sued the company.
The Coalition against BAYER Dangers has documented hundreds of cases when BAYER´s products or factories have harmed people or the environment. The company has only stopped the production of hazardous products when pressured to do so by the public.
By helping this corporation to greenwash its image you reduce the concept of Sustainable Development to absurdity. We therefore urge you to stop this cooperation.
Philipp Mimkes, Hubert Ostendorf, Axel Koehler-Schnura, Jan Pehrke, Uwe Friedrich
Board of the Coalition against BAYER-dangers