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Daily News Blog

23
Sep

Bayer Coordinated with U.S. Government on Pressure Campaign to Stop Thailand from Banning Glyphosate

(Beyond Pesticides, September 23, 2020) Multinational agrichemical corporation Bayer coordinated with the U.S. government to pressure Thailand to drop plans to ban glyphosate use, according to documents obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD). CBD is now suing the Trump Administration after it refused to release additional documents pertaining to the pressure campaign. The incident is the latest example of an administration that has allowed corporate interests to dictate American governmental action on toxic pesticides.

The documents reveal that the October 2019 letter that U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary Ted McKinney sent to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha pushing back on the country’s plan to ban glyphosate came shortly after emails Bayer sent to U.S. officials. In September and October 2019, Bayer’s Jim Travis asked the U.S. to act on its behalf in defense of the company’s glyphosate products. Emails reveal that Mr. Travis also collected intelligence on the personal motivations of Thailand’s deputy agriculture minister, including whether she was “a diehard advocate of organic food; and/or staunch environmentalist who eschews all synthetic chemical applications.”

Reports indicate that the U.S. government brought up the issue of glyphosate during trade talks in the context of considerations to revoke Thailand’s trade preferences. The White House specifically created talking points to refute any “concern that action related to Thailand has another cause.”

A draft of a letter sent to USDA Secretary Sonny Purdue two days before Thailand’s reversal on glyphosate is part of CBD’s legal complaint, as it is was completely redacted by the U.S. government.

Bayer asserted to Reuters that its public sector engagements are “routine, professional, and consistent with all laws and regulations.” The paper reports that Thailand’s action would have prohibited US exports from reaching Thailand, a market worth roughly $1 billion dollars.

As Thailand reversed its decision on glyphosate, it continues to come under pressure for targeting two other highly toxic pesticides, chlorpyrifos and paraquat. In the case of those chemicals, the U.S. and Brazil each launched separate complaints to the World Trade Organization. Like the Trump administration, the Bolsonaro administration has been accused of corrupt practices in favor of the agrichemcial industry.

Using the weight of the US government to intervene in foreign countries on behalf of chemical companies would be a scandal even if taken by itself. But the Trump administration has made practices like these standard. The list of incidents is nauseating: from former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Dow Chemical inspired chlorpyrios reversal, delay of farmworker protections, cuts to EPA staff, reversal of bee-toxic pesticide restrictions on wildlife refuges, lack of EPA enforcement, allowance to let Bayer Monsanto write the rules on dicamba, the registration of new bee-toxic pesticides opposed by beekeepers, cuts to independent scientific research, weakening of pesticide protections for endangered species, weakening of pesticide protections for the nation’s waterways, and proposal to plant genetically engineered crops on National Wildlife Refuges. These are just a small sample of the actions the Trump Administration has taken over the last four years – all of them have the potential to increase the profits of the agrichemical industry. Yesterday, Beyond Pesticides reported that EPA will reregister the potent endocrine disruptor atrazine despite significant hazards from its use, and long-established bans in developed countries like the EU.

Opening up the government to act only for the most moneyed, and powerful corporate interests is a concern not only for our health and environment, but the future of our democracy. EPA received over 280,000 comments on its decision to reregister glyphosate, with the vast majority opposed. It is critical that those concerned about continued use of toxic chemicals in our environment continue to exercise their democratic right to petition their government. Beyond Pesticides is suing EPA over this decision.

Bayer knows the dangers its glyphosate products pose to its bottom line, and recently agreed to settle with cancer victims with the creation a $10 billion fund. It, alongside industry umbrella groups like Croplife America, will continue to do everything possible to leverage a pliant administration to protect its products. Meanwhile countries like Mexico show that glyphosate use can and should be eliminated. Keep up pressure on EPA and the federal government, but also advocate for protections from toxic pesticides in your own state and community. The more land under organic management and production, the more straightforward it will be to eliminate the use of toxic and unnecessary chemicals like glyphosate, both here at home and abroad. See Beyond Pesticides’ organic program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Center Biological Diversity, Reuters

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  • Archives

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