Bayer Tries to Polish up its Image after Glyphosate Waves

17.06.2019 -

As lawsuits claiming that Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup causes cancer – more than 14,000 to date – keep flooding in, and all jury trials so far have gone against it, Bayer has launched a  campaign to shore up its sagging image and in particular its share price, which has fallen by 44% amid the discussion.

On Jun. 14, Bayer announced that its investment in developing new crop protectants would total €5 billion over the next decade, without stretching its regular R&D budget. At the same time, it said it would reduce the environmental impact of its products by 30% up to 2030 while increasing transparency and sustainability.

Bayer has quantified its herbicide budget at about one-fifth of its overall spending on agriculture R&D and said the pledged sum will include chemical research and regulatory expenses as well as new computer-driven farm-management services.

The agrochemicals market leader since its $63 billion acquisition of Monsanto last year will focus its research on developing new technologies, while also scaling back the volume of chemicals used to treat crops. It will also reformulate end-products to require less spraying – all for the purpose of helping to restore biodiversity, combat climate change and make the most of natural resources.

The German group said it intends to measure its progress by comparing its standards with the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ, which was established by the US Cornell University and relates volume to toxicity. It will also invite “global experts and stakeholders” to participate in a sustainability council.

Further, Bayer will apply “consistent safety standards” to its products, “even exceeding local regulations.”  In developing countries, it said it plans to sell only crop protection products that meet both the safety standards of the local market and those of “a majority of countries with well developed regulatory standards. “

No plans to end glyphosate production

Amid promises aimed at regaining consumer confidence, Bayer underscored that it will not take the step that would guarantee it achieves this, while also reducing financial risks. There are no plans to phase out the use of glyphosate; on the contrary, the chemical will “continue to play an important role” both in agriculture and in its own portfolio, It said.

US authorities recently greenlighted the continued use of glyphosate, along with dicamba, another controversial herbicide in Monsanto’s portfolio, but the battle to keep Roundup’s active ingredient on the European market will be tougher. Bayer is steeling itself to deflect any negative blows.

With glyphosate’s re-registration scheduled to come up for an EU vote at the end of 2022 at the latest, Austria and France – which have already decided to end its use – will surely vote against it. Germany is still internally divided, and the UK – which strongly favored the renewal in 2017 – may no longer be in the union.

As the vote could go either way, Bayer has invited scientists, journalists and NGO representatives, along with regulatory agencies and the political sector, to “participate in the scientific preparation for the upcoming EU glyphosate re-registration process.” Toward this goal, management said it would “evolve” its engagement policies