"Bayer respects totally the rights of groups or individuals to promote the discussion of current issues of general interest, such as GM organisms, but wishes to ensure that any protesting activity stays within the law and does not involve the harassment or intimidation of its employees." – Bayer Spokesman
Bayer, the biggest company involved in the development of genetically modified crops in the UK has won an injunction against a number of groups and individuals who have been campaigning against them. They have been granted an injunction by the High Court which seriously limits the right to protest and is a direct attack on freedom of speech.
Bayer have an interim injunction (until 11th February) under the terms of the Protection from Harassment Act (which was originally trumpeted as a way to protect women from stalkers, but was first used against animal rights protesters, see SchNEWS 126). The injunction places severe restrictions on certain group’s and individual’s right to protest and their freedom of expression. These injunctions have been used against animal rights campaigners to restrict the right to protest which has caused some problems for the protesters although the use of imaginative tactics have kept the campaigns alive. However this is the first time the Act has been used against anti-GM campaigners. Anti-GM campaigners are merely trying to enforce what the public want, which according to the government’s own research, is no GM crops grown in Britain (SchNEWS 425). It is Bayer that is harassing the public by forcing GM crops on an unwilling public.
So do we feel sorry for Bayer who supposedly have been harassed by "green terrorists"? Well no. They weren’t exactly honest when they got the injunction. When you apply for an injunction you must go to the courts with "clean hands", but Bayer’s hands are dirty - they failed to mention that there are a number of outstanding court cases against them… not exactly honest.
Bayer for Blood
So with the exception of GM crops, what other harassment has Bayer dished out to the general public? First here’s a history lesson…
Bayer has its origins in Nazi Germany, as part of the IG Farben cartel who built a rubber and oil plant complex at the site of the Auschwitz concentration camp, the inmates worked as slave labor for Farben. When they were too weak to work they were killed in gas chambers, with Farben making Zyklon B gas. In 1948 twelve Farben executives were given sentences for mass murder, the longest was a mere seven years for Dr. Fritz ter Meer. On 1st August 1963 IG Farben was split into the three separate corporations which had once together formed its core: Bayer, Hoechst and BASF. This was Bayer’s 100th anniversary and the opening speech was given by mass murderer Dr. Fritz ter Meer, who was elevated to the position of Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Bayer.
Since then Bayer has produced a whole string of dodgy chemicals and drugs. In the 1980s, 6,000 people became infected with HIV through the use of blood coagulants for haemophiliacs, Bayer and other companies failed to take the simple precaution of conducting tests and heating the blood - but these steps weren’t taken because they would have cut into profits. After the products were withdrawn from America and Europe Bayer continued to sell the unsafe product in Asia for a further year, despite knowing it was unsafe, to preserve the profits from "several large fixed-price contracts". This was defended by Bayer who said they "behaved responsibly, ethically and humanely" in selling the old product overseas! They have now offered $600m compensation to victims in the USA.
More recently, Bayer was one of a group of pharmaceutical companies who took the South African government to court for allowing the production of cheap generic versions of HIV drugs (see SchNEWS 290).
In Peru, Bayer is being taken to court for the deaths of 24 school children who drank milk mixed with Folidol, the Bayer brand name for methyl-parathion, which is an extremely hazardous pesticide. It is responsible for a disproportionately large share of pesticide poisonings in Latin America. Bayer widely promoted its methyl parathion formulation without alerting users as to the product’s grave risks to human health and the environment. The pesticide was marketed specifically for use in Andean crops, but only carried information in Spanish and not the native Quechua and had no warning symbols, only pictures of healthy carrots and potatoes.
In 2001 Bayer were forced to withdraw one of their leading pharmaceutical products, the anticholesterol drug Baycol or Lipobay, which was linked to over 50 deaths and muscle wasting syndrome; they have so far paid out £395m to settle 1,811 lawsuits, with a further 11,459 still outstanding!!
Bayer produce a number of household products, like Alka-Seltzer, Germoloids ("For hemorrhoids, think Germoloids" is their slogan), Baby Bio and Phostrogen fertilsers, and Autan. Autan, the number one insect repellent in Europe has been banned by the Danish Government, because it contains diethyl-toluamide, which is suspected of being carcinogenic... More court cases on the way?
Why should a company as dodgy as Bayer be offered protection by the courts? Surely sensitive issues such as GM crops need a proper open debate, rather than legal intimidation. This ruling could have wider implications, the next time you don’t agree with a corporation that’s selling you dangerous junk, and try to complain or protest - you could get done for harassment.
For more skeletons in Bayer’s closet and background information on Bayer check out http://www.cbgnetwork.org and http://www.bayerhazard.com
For more information about the campaign against Bayer’s GM crops see http://www.stopbayergm.org