Press Release, 18 February 2014
Chemical corporation BAYER approaches its critics:
First offer of talks in 35 years
Herbert Heitmann, new head of communications at BAYER, has invited the Coalition against BAYER Dangers (CBG) to a meeting. Heitmann wants to find out “what your aims are“ and “how we could work together where appropriate“. It is the first time since 1979 that the corporation has offered talks. Before that it was common practice of BAYER to intimidate and silence critics, including CBG, which was sued, spied on and discredited.
Axel Koehler-Schnura, founder member of CBG said: “Of course we are available for talks, like we have been for 35 years. As BAYER has been damaging people, communities and the environment for 150 years, confidential talks are out of the question. The meetings have to be transparent for the general public.“ Moreover, the exchange would only be meaningful, if it led to solving current problems such as dangerous drugs like the oral contraceptive Yaz/Yasmin: “Since we founded our organisation in 1978 on the occasion of major accidents at the BAYER plants in Wuppertal and Dormagen, we continously found that problems were not cleared but whitewashed with multi billion propaganda campaigns and armies of lawyers“, according to Koehler-Schnura.
The Coalition against BAYER Dangers is active in all areas of BAYER's business operations and in doing so it cooperates with environmentalists, trade unionists and victims in over 40 countries. The most recent campaigns are on bee deaths due to BAYER pesticides, the history of the corporation during the Third Reich, patents on GMOs, BAYER's war against trade unions, the use of antibiotics in farm animals and the risks of anti-coagulants and oral contraceptives.
Since the early 80s the Coalition has been submitting countermotions to BAYER shareholder meetings to hold the board of managers accountable for the dark side of the billions in profits. Also, CBG makes it possible for victims from around the world to directly address the managers.
So far the corporation's handling of its critics has been relentless. For example, it has taken legal action against the Coalition several times. The longest legal case began in 1987: BAYER sought a declaration of discontinuance because of a quote in a flyer (“In its limitless addiction to profits BAYER is violating democratic principles, human rights and political fairness. Unpopular critics are pressurised, rightwing and compliant politicians are supported and financed“) – threatening “detention up to a period of six months or a fine up to 500,000 German marks“. Despite the high costs CBG risked a trial up to the highest level. Their risk was rewarded: in 1992 the German Supreme Court under Roman Herzog (who later became federal president) overturned the previous verdicts and CBG won (see here for the English translation of the judgement).
How the corporation responds to unwelcome criticism also became evident in an internal strategy paper confiscated in 2009 in the course of an investigation by the US Congress. It outlines how BAYER wanted to “marginalise” and portray as “irrelevant” unwanted critics and journalists after a fatal incident. The US Congress concluded: “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“.