Press Release, March 30, 2011
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)
BAYER Shareholder Meeting on April 29 in Cologne:
Coalition introduces Countermotions
Hazardous drugs, accidents in BAYER plants and bee-killing pesticides under fire
The Coalition against BAYER Dangers has introduced countermotions to BAYER´s Annual Shareholder Meeting on April 29. Environmental and social justice organizations announced to discuss the proposals within the meeting. About 4,000 shareholders are expected to attend.
Beekeepers from all over Germany will conduct a rally at the entrance of the Cologne Fair to protest against BAYER´s bee-killing pesticides clothianidin and imidacloprid. Additional topics of the protests will be deformities caused by the hormone pregnancy test Primodos, accidents in BAYER plants, union busting and layoffs, side effects of the birth control pill Yaz, BAYER´s advocacy for nuclear power and the contamination of conventional rice by genetically modified strains.
The Coalition against Bayer-Dangers has been monitoring BAYER for more than 30 years. The company has published the countermotions on their website: http://www.asm2011.bayer.com/en/countermotions.aspx (“Download).
The complete countermotions (original motions in German; English translation by Bayer):
Countermotion: The actions of the members of the Board of Management are not ratified
Reasoning: The BAYER Group is responsible for massive environmental and social problems. The Board of Management is accountable for this. The following is a selection of current problem areas.
The BAYER Group was one of the driving forces behind the introduction of nuclear power in Germany. BAYER was already represented on the Executive Committee of the Deutsches Atomforum at the end of the 1950s, when the nuclear program was devised. Werner Wenning remained true to this tradition when last August he signed the appeal to the German government to extend the lifetimes of the countrys nuclear power plants. These were drastically extended just a few months later as a result of the pressure from industry. Wenning, who has since stepped down as Chairman of the Bayer Board of Management, therefore shares responsibility for the continued use of this irresponsible technology.
BAYER is systematically pushing the unions out of its U.S. plants. Numerous factories with unionized workforces have been closed. Only one seventh of the U.S. workforce is covered by any collective agreement. And the unions now retain representation at only a handful of the approximately 50 U.S. plants. Last year again saw layoffs at Berkeley, although the surrounding cities had recently granted millions of dollars in subsidies. This pattern is now being repeated on the east coast of the United States, where several plants are being closed. Despite its anti-union actions, BAYER is receiving high tax incentives to keep the remaining sites going (more information).
Despite increased profits, Marijn Dekkers, the new chairman of the BAYER Board of Management, has announced that some 4,500 jobs will be destroyed. The burden on employees is already well above the pain threshold. Even safety-relevant areas are not exempted from the continuous job cuts.
In the fall, BAYER established provisions of 386 million. This money is intended for compensation payments to U.S. farmers whose crops were contaminated by genetically modified rice. Although this late admission of guilt is to be welcomed, it was not voluntary but was forced upon the company by a series of court cases that BAYER lost without exception. On March 18, 2011, BAYER was ordered to pay punitive damages of $136 million solely as a result of the proceedings initiated by the RiceLand cooperative.
The Board of Management nevertheless remains committed to its plan to import genetically modified rice into the E.U. However, the contamination in the United States shows once again that the cultivation of genetically modified rice inevitably leads to outbreeding; the risks of large-scale cultivation would be simply incalculable. Importing it into the E.U. as planned would involve inestimable risks to humans and the environment and must therefore be stopped (more information).
One of the most terrible scandals in BAYERs history is the deliberate infection of thousands of hemophiliacs with HIV. Hemophiliacs were infected by BAYER blood products until 1986 although methods to render the virus harmless had been available since 1982. Untreated batches continued to be exported to Asia after being banned in Europe.
In January, the Coalition against BAYER Dangers revealed that Bayer and three other companies were paying tens of millions in compensation to hemophiliacs from 22 countries. This is the result of a settlement reached in the United States at the end of last year. Several thousand hemophiliacs infected with HIV and hepatitis C had previously sued the companies in federal court in Chicago. Amazingly, no reference is made to these payments in the BAYER Annual Report 2010, although company spokespersons had no choice but to confirm the settlement in response to news agencies inquiries. The Coalition against BAYER Dangers demands that criminal proceedings be instituted against those responsible (more information).
In the fall, the BAYER Group paid 3.3 million dollars as a result of false claims made in advertisements for vitamin products. These claimed that the addition of selenium and zinc could lower the risk of prostate cancer. In an action brought by various U.S. states, however, it was argued that “BAYER knew, or should have known, that large doses of zinc and selenium can raise the risk of the formation of aggressive and fatal prostate tumors. The lawsuit describes the advertising as “misleading and unethical. Bayer repeatedly uses unfair advertising methods, whether for contraceptives, painkiller tablets, or now for vitamin pills. In this way the group knowingly endangers the health of patients and consumers (more information).
Countermotion to Item 3: The actions of the members of the Supervisory Board are not ratified
Reasoning: The Supervisory Board does not adequately perform its supervisory role, and its actions therefore should not be ratified. The following are examples of irresponsible policies supported by the Supervisory Board:
In December, the BAYER Group sold the age-old pesticides Nemacur and Mocap to the U.S. company Amvac. The WHO classifies the two active ingredients as “extremely dangerous (hazard class I). These agrochemicals are responsible for many cases of poisoning. Nemacur and Mocap were banned in Germany long ago. Since the 1980s, the Coalition against BAYER Dangers has been calling for production of both active ingredients to be halted and for sales of all class I pesticides to cease. BAYER should have discontinued production long ago instead of now selling off these superpoisons at a profit. Incidentally, the use of Nemacur is one of the probable causes of the “toxic oil syndrome that claimed at least 300 lives and resulted in serious health problems for thousands of victims in Spain in 1981.
In January, the U.S. oversight authority, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB), published the report of its investigation into the serious incident at the facility in Institute in 2008. The CSB ruled that a serious lack of safety measures led to the explosion. Two employees were killed in the incident, which shook an area of 10km around the plant. The factory was regarded as a “sister plant of Bhopal, as the toxic gas MIC released at Bhopal is produced and stored there in large quantities.
According to the CSB, the safety systems had been deliberately deactivated when a production facility was started up. The CSB said that only fortunate circumstances had prevented damage to an MIC tank nearby. “A release of significant quantities of MIC could have had fatal consequences. This concern had been legitimately expressed by local residents for decades, says Dr. Rafael Moure-Eraso, chairman of the CSB. Dr. Moure-Eraso describes the deaths of the workers as “all the more tragic because they could have been prevented if BAYER had conscientiously provided training for staff and performed the proper checks on the plant prior to startup. The investigation report also notes that the MIC measuring equipment at the facility was not working.
The Coalition against BAYER Dangers (CBG) had already called for an end to MIC production at BAYERs Annual Stockholders Meeting four months before the explosion. The BAYER Board of Management had rejected this request. Bayer did not finally stop using MIC at the Institute facility until March 18, 2011, following legal action by local residents.
Overall, the CSB report sheds revealing light on the safety situation at many BAYER sites. Owing to the high risks, BAYER must completely abandon the industrial use of highly toxic chemicals such as MIC and phosgene. Operating the carbon monoxide pipeline that runs right across North Rhine-Westphalia would also be irresponsible (more information).
In the elections to the U.S. Congress at the start of November, donations from large companies went mainly to candidates who reject any requirements for reducing emissions. Of the European companies, none was as generous as BAYER – not even oil companies such as BP. Greg Babe, boss of Bayer USA, personally featured among the donors. The support from politicians who deny climate change shows once again that the BAYER Climate Program and the BAYER Climate Award merely serve as fig leaves.
A gigantic coal-fired power plant is due to be built at BAYERs site in Krefeld. This climate killer is to be operated by BAYER subsidiary Currenta. Annual emissions of the climate killer carbon dioxide alone would be 4.4 million metric tons. Over 22,000 objections to the project were submitted last year. BAYER nevertheless remains committed to it.
BAYER also refuses to compensate the victims of the hormonal pregnancy test Duogynon / Primodos. Thousands of children suffered serious deformities in the 1960s and 1970s due to this product. Der SPIEGEL has now published documents showing that warnings had been given within the company at an early stage. A British employee wrote the following to the company headquarters in 1967: “The obvious correlation between the increase in congenital deformities and the sale of the pregnancy test appears quite alarming. “We need to be extremely careful, he wrote, regarding the use of the product by pregnant women. Shamefully, BAYER rejects the claims by victims, alleging they are time-barred (more information).
The BAYER Group is one of the largest manufacturers of bisphenol A. It has been known for decades that this chemical can damage the hormone system. The Coalition against BAYER Dangers has long called for a ban on high-risk applications, e.g. in food packaging, water bottles and childrens toys. The E.U. finally banned the use of Bisphenol A in babies feeding bottles from the beginning of March. BAYER nevertheless continues to deny the risks posed by the chemical, and many dangerous applications remain on the market.