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Letter to the United Nations

June 16, 2009
Coalition against Bayer Dangers (www.CBGnetwork.org)

To the UN Global Compact Office
Executive Director Georg Kell

Exclude Bayer AG from UN Global Compact

Dear Georg Kell,

the Coalition against Bayer Dangers, an international network based in Germany, has been monitoring the chemical and pharmaceutical company Bayer for more than 30 years. We´re working on a broad range of issues: emissions of Bayer plants, hazards caused by Bayer products (pesticides, pharmaceuticals, chemicals), accidents in Bayer plants, corporate influence, working conditions, etc.

We hereby want to submit a complaint dealing with Bayer´s recent serious violations of the Global Compact´s principles and integrity measures. Bayer's participation in the programme is detrimental to the reputation and the credibility of the Global Compact and its participants.

At Bayer's US facilities in Institute, West Virginia, the safety situation is highly critical. Large quantities of extremely toxic chemicals such as methyl isocyanate (MIC) and phosgene are produced and stored. Accidents occur on a regular basis. In the 1980s, the factory belonged to Union Carbide and was regarded as the "sister plant" to the infamous factory in Bhopal, India where in December 1984 thirty tons of MIC leaked and at least 15,000 people died. Today, nowhere else in the United States such large quantities of MIC are produced and stored.

At last year's shareholder meeting, Bayer CEO Werner Wenning rejected any need for action. He said that the plant conformed to the "latest safety standards" and had an "excellent incident rate". Despite these assurances, the most serious accident in the plant history ever happened just four months later, on August 28, when a storage tank exploded. Two workers lost their lives and thousands of residents were not allowed to leave their houses for several hours. The tremors were felt in a radius of more than 10 miles.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), after analyzing the incident, criticized "faulty safety systems, significant shortcomings with the emergency procedures and a lack of employee training". In total OSHA identified 13 serious violations of safety regulations.

Even worse - according to a US Congress investigation conducted in April the region narrowly escaped a catastrophe that could have surpassed the 1984 Bhopal disaster. Congress investigators found that the explosion "came dangerously close" to compromising an MIC storage tank. Had the exploded residue treater hit the MIC tank, "the consequences could have eclipsed the 1984 disaster in India."

The investigation continues: "Evidence obtained by the committee demonstrates that Bayer engaged in a campaign of secrecy by withholding critical information from local, county and state emergency responders; by restricting the use of information provided to federal investigators; by undermining news outlets and citizen groups concerned about the dangers posed by Bayer's activities; and by providing inaccurate and misleading information to the public." The committee obtained memos in which officials suggested how the plant management should deal with local citizen groups and journalists: "Our goal with People Concerned About MIC should be to marginalize them," the memo said. "Take a similar approach to The Charleston Gazette."

Bayer CropScience CEO William Buckner conceded under oath that his company used chemical plant security regulations to try to hide information about the incident and avoid a public debate over the large amounts of MIC stored at the Institute plant: "There were, of course, some business reasons that also motivated our desire for confidentiality," Buckner said. "These included a desire to limit negative publicity generally about the company or the Institute facility, to avoid public pressure to reduce the volume of MIC that is produced and stored at Institute by changing to alternative technologies, or even calls by some in our community to eliminate MIC production entirely." All documents published by the Congress Committee can be found at: http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1583&catid=133&Itemid=73

These findings prove that Bayer systematically violates various principles of the Global Compact, such as principle 7 (Precautionary environmental protection), Principle 8 (Specific commitment to environmental protection) and Principle 9 (Diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies). Bayer´s policies do not comply with the Compact's principles on human rights and the environment and thereby are harmful to the credibility of the programme. We therefore urge you to exclude Bayer from the UN Global Compact.

Bayer has started dozens of partnerships and sponsorships with medical, environmental or educational organizations - particularly in fields where the company is criticised. The involvement with the UN and the UNEP take up a lot of space on the company`s website and in numerous advertising brochures. Bayer's use of the Global Compact thus is a classic case of "bluewash" - misusing the good image of the United Nations to present a corporate humanitarian image without a commitment to changing real-world behavior.

Bayer has a long history of giving profits precedence over human rights and a sound environment. The company has only stopped the production of hazardous products when pressured to do so by the public. The Coalition against BAYER Dangers has documented hundreds of cases when Bayer´s products or factories have harmed people or the environment. Upon request we gradly provide additional evidence about Bayer´s violations of the Global Compact´s principles.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.

With Regards,

Philipp Mimkes
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)