(Beyond Pesticides, January 13, 2011) Bayer CropScience finally announced on January 11 that it would stop producing the toxic chemical methyl isocyanate (MIC), 26 years after it killed thousands and contaminated the community of Bhopal, India. MIC is used to produce carbamate pesticides. Bayer also announced it would stop production of two highly toxic pesticides, aldicarb and carbaryl, which are both products in the carbamate family of pesticides.
“This is an important success after a quarter-century campaign! The company now has to ensure that all workers are offered adequate new jobs,” says Philipp Mmikes from the Coalition against Bayer Dangers (CBG). CBG, based in Germany, introduced several countermotions to Bayer ´s Annual Stockholders ´ Meetings, demanding that MIC stockpiles at a production plant in Institute WV are dismantled and the frequent spills of hazardous substances stopped.
According to a Bayer press release, the company will be shutting down its Woodbine, Georgia formulation facility and will be closing manufacturing facilities dedicated to carbamate pesticides in Institute. The production operations, which include the manufacture of MIC, will be phased out over the next 18 months and shut down in mid-2012. Though the company denies any connection, the U.S. Chemical Safety board is scheduled to release its final report on the 2008 explosion at the Institute plant next week.
Maya Nye, a spokewoman for the group People Concerned About MIC, told the Charleston Gazette that she was concerned Bayer’s announcement would be depicted as a case of environmental and public safety protections costing jobs. Ms. Nye said, “Instead of taking the opportunity to lead the industry in developing safer technologies, [Bayer] has chosen to take a backseat to its competitors while taking the people of this valley as economic hostages.”
In August 2009, the company announced plans to reduce the storage of MIC in Institute by 80%, a year after two workers were killed when the chemical exploded at the plant. Even with the reduction however, 50,000 pounds of the chemical would still be allowed on site. This is similar to the amount of the chemical that was present in the 1984 Union Carbide-owned plant explosion in Bhopal, India.
Bayer plans to stop producing carbaryl by June 2011. In May of last year, EPA announced that it would impose limits on carbaryl and several other pesticides to protect salmon. However, several groups sued EPA back in December for failing to restrict the pesticides from entering the salmon habitat, and for violating the Endangered Species Act.
EPA announced in August an agreement with Bayer on aldicarb in which it said it would voluntarily cancel the pesticide. This followed the completion of an EPA revised risk assessment indicating that the pesticide did not meet the agency’s food safety standards. In October EPA announced, “To address the most significant risks, Bayer has agreed to first end aldicarb use on citrus and potatoes, and will adopt risk mitigation measures for other uses to protect groundwater resources. The company will voluntarily phase out production of aldicarb by December 31, 2014. All remaining aldicarb uses will end no later than August 2018.”
This new announcement by Bayer suggests that company’s timetable for ending aldicarb product sales will be shortened from the initial EPA deadline of 2016. Without the production of MIC and with the closure of part of the Institute site by mid 2012, Bayer plans to stop selling products containing aldicarb by the end of 2014.
For more information, see Coalition Against Bayer Dangers