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CO2 emissions, hazardous drugs and GM contamination under fire / Protests in April 30 meeting

Countermotions Introduced to Bayer´s Annual Shareholder Meeting

AUTHOR:   CBG Coordination gegen BAYER-Gefahren/Coalition against BAYER-Dangers

The Coalition against BAYER Dangers has introduced countermotions to Bayer´s Annual Shareholder Meeting in Cologne/Germany. The Coalition and several environmental and social justice groups will discuss the proposals within the meeting on April 30. Main topics will be accidents in Bayer plants, CO2 emissions, Yaz side effects, hazardous pesticides and GM contamination.

The company has now published the countermotions on their website: www.asm2010.bayer.com/en/countermotions.aspx (“Download”).

The complete countermotions:


Countermotion to Item 2: The actions of the members of the Board of Management are not ratified

Reasoning: The BAYER Group continues to violate the rules of responsible corporate management. The Board of Management bears responsibility for this. A selection of the most recent examples:

• Bayer likes to present itself as a company committed to environmental protection, particularly where climate protection is concerned. However, the Group's annual carbon dioxide emissions are still very high, at just under 8 million metric tons, and are unlikely to fall by the year 2020. Emissions of this magnitude are incompatible with effective climate protection. Worse still, at several Bayer plants, there are plans to build coal and garbage-fueled power plants that will have an unacceptable impact on the environment, emitting noxious substances and millions of tons of CO2. Bayer's argument that it is not responsible for these investments is very dubious: although the power plants are being built by utility companies, Bayer will provide the land and intends to buy a large proportion of the generated energy. It is even intended that the coal power plant in Krefeld-Uerdingen, which would emit more than 4 million tons of CO2 per year, should be operated by the Bayer subsidiary Currenta. With a service life of over 50 years, these power plants would severely impact the climate and the environment until well into the second half of the century and also block necessary investment in energy-saving measures (avoidance of energy-intensive production processes, increasing the utilization of waste heat) and the use of renewable energy sources. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is calling for a drastic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions. In the industrialized countries, says the IPCC, an 80-95 % reduction of emissions is needed by the year 2050 to limit the global temperature rise to 2 °C. Only in this way will it be possible to prevent the most dramatic effects of climate change such as the melting of the Greenland ice cap. This means Bayer must perform a credible energy turnaround. What is needed is a wide-ranging program to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 80% by the year 2050, but without employing high-risk technologies such as carbon capture and storage (CCS). Bayer must also halt the construction of coal and garbage-fueled power plants at all its sites, refuse the use of electricity generated in lignite power plants, and publish the energy mix and emissions for each Bayer site separately (including suppliers).

• One of the most terrible scandals in Bayer's history is the knowing infection of thousands of hemophiliacs with HIV. Hemophiliacs were infected by blood products from Bayer until 1986 even though methods had been available since 1982 for rendering the virus harmless through heat treatment. Even after the ban on untreated batches in Europe, they were exported to Asia. Since the victims have survived for a fairly long time, the compensation fund set up by the German government, federal states and industry is now running out. Bayer and the other companies involved do not want to top up the fund accordingly; instead, they want the general public to bear the main burden. As the principal party responsible, Bayer should assume the cost of continuing the fund. The victims, who have never received compensation from Bayer, must at least be enabled to live in dignity.

• Bayer is still involved in price fixing. For this reason, the Romanian authorities had Bayer offices searched in the fall. In Italy, there are also fresh investigations against Bayer. The Coalition against Bayer Dangers has published a list of antitrust cases involving Bayer at www.cbgnetwork.de/2355.html (in German). The list contains information about the payment of fines and the duration of the various price-fixing agreements.

• Recently, the number of complaints made by Bayer against operators of Internet forums has increased. The editors of the online magazine LifeGen, for example, were threatened with court action for reprinting a report by the Coalition against Bayer Dangers on excessive side-effects of Bayer's birth-control pills. Despite being massively threatened (“with criminal and civil law proceedings”), LifeGen stood its ground and refused to remove the article from its website. Legal proceedings were never instigated, so Bayer’s action was merely intended to threaten the editors. Other operators on the Internet, however, often submit to such threats for fear of the possible costs. This is a clear attack on the freedom of the press aimed at putting a stop to critical reporting.

• There are hazardous contaminated sites left by the Bayer Group all over the world. At the present time, a landfill/dump site is being cleaned up in the US State of Oregon where several million liters of herbicides have been stored for forty years. Bayer will assume only a quarter of the remediation costs of 2.4 million dollars (see www.cbgnetwork.org/3070.html). As with the Dhünnaue in Leverkusen, the general public will have to bear a large proportion of the costs.

Countermotion to Item 3: The actions of the members of the Supervisory Board are not ratified

Reasoning: The Supervisory Board does not adequately fulfill its functions of overseeing the work of the Board of Management, and its actions should therefore not be ratified. Below are some examples of the irresponsible corporate policy that is tolerated by the Supervisory Board:

• At its Krefeld site, Bayer is still producing chlorine gas by the outdated amalgam process, in which highly toxic mercury is released. Nearly all other producers switched over a long time ago to processes that have less of an impact on the environment. In fact, under the Ospar Convention, all mercury emissions should have been halted by 2010. It will now be impossible to keep to this deadline. Bayer is finally relenting: production by the amalgam process is to be phased out in the coming years and will end by 2014. However, this is happening at least ten years too late. Furthermore, even a modernized chlorine plant is highly problematical, as most of the gas goes into phosgene production. This highly toxic phosgene is, in turn, used in Krefeld for the production of polycarbonates, although phosgene-free processes have been available for years. Bayer has so far refused to switch to safe production methods that do not involve phosgene.

• Bayer has been forced on several occasions to pay millions of dollars in fines in the United States because of the contamination of rice harvests with genetically engineered varieties. In all, 3,000 farmers are seeking compensation. The rice variety LL601, which is tolerant to Bayer's herbicide glufosinate, entered the world market in 2006 although it had not been approved. The damage is put at more than a billion dollars. Despite this, Bayer refuses to compensate all those affected. Even worse: Bayer is continuing with its application for approval of the LL62 variety, which is also tolerant to glufosinate, in the E.U. The LL rice is intended to be grown primarily in Asia, where the contamination and displacement of traditional rice varieties would be inevitable. Biodiversity and food security would be at risk. Cultivation over a large area would also result in more pests and the increased use of dangerous pesticides (more info: www.cbgnetwork.org/3193.html).

• Pain killers like Aspirin have many serious side-effects. In the United States alone, 16,500 people die every year from stomach bleeding after taking pain relievers. Because of these risks, the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Products has recommended introducing compulsory prescriptions for large packs of Aspirin. A regulation of this kind is already in force for paracetamol. Bayer is trying to prevent this regulation and is canvassing for support among pharmacies and customers so that it can be allowed to continue selling 60-tablet packs without a prescription.

• The Pentagon buys drugs worth seven billion dollars every year. Bayer therefore regularly invites employees of the U.S. military to congresses and training events. The U.S. organization Public Integrity has now published a report detailing trips made by Pentagon employees. In the last ten years, 22,000 trips of this kind were paid for by corporations, 40 % of them in the pharmaceutical industry. In the list of expenditures by pharmaceutical companies, Bayer takes 10th place. Marketing of this kind should not be acceptable. A company such as Bayer, which has an unfortunate tradition as an inventor of chemical warfare agents, should not do business with armies (see www.publicintegrity.org/projects/entry/1421).

• The planned CO pipeline which traverses the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia harbors serious risks for nearby residents. No evidence has been provided that the project serves the public good. It has also emerged that Bayer has repeatedly failed to meet requirements stated in the planning approval notice. For example, construction was started despite the absence of certificates that the land was free of warfare agents, and thinner-walled pipes were used that were made of non-approved grades of steel. The Geological Service of NRW also holds the view that the earthquake resistance of the pipeline "has not yet been adequately proven". The higher administrative court of Münster and the administrative court of Düsseldorf have both identified significant shortcomings of the project and have so far prevented the pipeline from going into operation. Bayer must at last bury the project and build a modern CO production plant in Krefeld. This would completely avoid any risk to the population along the route of the pipeline. The principle that hazardous substances should only be produced at their place of use must be adhered to under all circumstances (more info: www.cbgnetwork.org/2405.html).

• In a factory operated by Bayer CropScience in Ankleshwar, India, there was a serious accident at the beginning of March 2010. Following a fire, highly toxic gases were released and an engineer died. The incident occurred in a plant in which the highly toxic pesticide Ethoprop is produced. The WHO describes Ethoprop as "extremely hazardous" (hazard class 1). Bayer announced back in 1995 that it would remove all class 1 active ingredients from the market, but has failed to keep its promise. Safe use of highly hazardous active ingredients like Ethoprop is impossible, particularly in many countries in the southern hemisphere. The WHO estimates the annual number of pesticide poisonings at between 3 and 25 million. The Bayer plants in India, particularly those in Vapi, are renowned for their high pollutant emissions (see also: www.cbgnetwork.org/3296.html).

Please contact us for more information: CBGnetwork@aol.com

Source:  Press Release from Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany) BAYER-Hauptversammlung: Kritiker reichen Gegenanträge ein

Original article published on March 24, 2010 

About the author

The Coalition against BAYER Dangers is a partner of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity. This release may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source and author are cited.

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