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From July 23, 2002

Bayer and the UN Global Compact

Bayer considers itself a "founding member" of the UN Global Compact (a partnership between the United Nations and big business), but Philipp Mimkes from the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers reports its dedication to the Compact's nine human rights and environmental principles should be seen in the context of an extremely controversial corporate history.

Bayer AG, based in Leverkusen, Germany, is the third biggest manufacturer of herbicides globally, and dominates the insecticide market. Insecticides are responsible for the majority of pesticide poisoning in countries in the Global South. The World Health Organization annually counts 2 million pesticide poisonings and estimates that the number of unreported cases is probably higher than 10 million. About 200,000 people per year die from pesticide poisonings, according to the WHO.

According the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, in 1995 Bayer promised to withdraw its most toxic pesticides, but has yet to do so, and still sells pesticides rated by the WHO as 'extremely' or 'highly' hazardous. Bayer claims that it is the responsibility of pesticide users to take precautions; despite the fact that underpaid farm laborers often do not have access to health and safety information.

To "minimize the risks to humans and the environment" Bayer in Latin America has started the initiative "Agrovida." Several thousand people in the rural farming region in southern Brazil were trained in what the company considers safe pesticide use. According to Bayer the program is geared towards sustainable farming.

The Coalition Against Bayer Dangers reports even in Brazil, where Agrovida is based, Baysiston, the number one pesticide on the market, has poisoned hundreds of coffee growers, at least 30 of them fatally. The bombardment of advertisements for Baysiston camouflages the risks. Many coffee growers even believe Baysiston to be a fertilizer, which increases yields. The State Prosecutor who investigated the case complained about the publicity, which presents the product as harmless, ignoring its potential risks. Bayer stated that the company is aware of cases of Baysiston poisoning, but that these cases were not due to lack of information but to "inexpert use alone."

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