Corporate Europe Observatory

Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU

Private letters reveal Syngenta and Bayer's furious lobbying against bee pesticide ban

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Biotech and pesticides giants Syngenta and Bayer are waging an all-out lobbying war against an upcoming vote on a limited ban on three of their pesticides1. The European Commission (EC) proposed this ban following very critical conclusions by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) based on new scientific evidence. Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) had access to private letters and emails sent by these two companies and allied lobby groups to the EC as well as EFSA, which displayed their strong-arm tactics to try to avoid the ban.

CEO's report “Pesticides against Pollinators”2 exposes their lobbying strategy including attempts to change the EFSA press release. Syngenta had access to this document before its publication and immediately sent EFSA an extremely aggressive letter demanding the text be changed and issuing legal threats against the agency and its director.

Their tactics to prevent a ban against their products also include:

  • use of for-hire scientists to defend their point of view and spread doubt about scientific studies' evidence about the pesticides' effect on bees (including a re-analysis of EFSA's conclusions);

  • misinformation and scaremongering (making unsubstantiated economic and scientific claims) ;

  • attempts to impress the European Commission with boasts about science being on their side, and their powerful political connections with for example Obama and Hollande;

  • putting the blame for possible damage on bees on farmers mishandling their pesticides.

The EC has already put the ban to the vote within the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health last March 15, but no qualified majority could be found either for or against the proposal. With the next round of vote in Appeal Committee expected for end of April or early May, corporate lobbying on Member States is intensifying, with large public campaigns in the media in several EU countries, including the UK and Germany3.

CEO researcher and campaigner David Sanchez said: “Although publicly calling for science-based decisions, industry's strategy is to attack scientists when science is not on their side. Bee health is crucial for European´s environment, agriculture and economy, while neonicotinoid pesticides are a huge business only for a few large companies. National governments will have to choose between protecting corporate interests and surrender to their lobby campaign, or taking real action to face one of the main environmental problems Europe is facing.”

CEO researcher and campaigner Martin Pigeon said: “The brutal tactics used by industry against EFSA show that this agency remains an absolutely key element within the EU's food safety system. While it courageously resisted industry pressure on this very symbolic dossier, it remains too weak and under-resourced to sustain this level of independence from industry in the long run. The European Parliament must help the agency build on this important precedent when it votes its budget discharge in plenary vote next week”.

 
The new European Parliament is only weeks old and already three ex-MEPs from perhaps its most important committee have taken a spin in the revolving door to join the private sector. It's clear that the code of conduct for MEPs needs urgent reform.
CEO submission to the European Ombudsman Consultation on the composition of Commission expert groups
Scientific advice should be transparent, objective and independent, and there should be more science and more diverse expertise available to the European Commission’s President, a coalition of 28 international and national NGOs wrote in a letter addressed to President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker today (1).
A few observations on the debate sparked by our open letter on the position of Chief Scientific Advisor to the President of the European Commission, and on the need for proper scientific advice to EU legislators.

Corporate Europe Forum