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Bayer Hazard

On 23rd January 2002, around forty people blockaded the UK headquarters of the German multinational chemicals company Bayer to highlight Bayer's acquisition of Aventis Cropscience. The acquisition makes Bayer the biggest GM company in Europe, and the majority of crop trials in the UK in 2002 will be run by them.

Arriving at Bayer House in Newbury shortly after dawn, protesters used scaffold tripods and a human chain with metal arm tubes to block access to Bayer's car parks. A few of the protesters managed to enter the building but did not remain inside for long. Others managed to block both the main front and rear doorways into the offices by sitting in pairs within the revolving doors bicycle D-locked together by their necks. Bayer's staff found themselves unable to reach their offices. After completing the planned three-hour blockade, the activists left peacefully of their own accord with no arrests. www.bayerhazard.com

The late 1990s saw the formation of several huge life-science/genetics companies including Aventis, Monsanto, Astra-Zeneca and Novartis, committed to the idea of combining human healthcare and crop protection interests in one company. But despite free-trade barriers being pushed aside the whole way by the WTO, allowing these companies privileged access to all international markets, they haven't had it easy because of bad publicity, and all those pesky direct action campaigners all around the world causing trouble for them.

So these companies have gone through sell offs, mergers, name changes, and anything else their PR consultants suggest, just to survive. In October 2001 Aventis sold its CropScience division to German chemical giant Bayer for 7.25bn euros (5bn), making Bayer the second biggest pesticide producer in the world after Syngenta. They now own over half of the GM crop varieties currently seeking approval for commercial growing in the EU, including nine varieties of oilseed rape and one of maize, all of which are modified to be tolerant of the herbicide glufosinate ammonium, or Liberty (which they also own). Should the de facto EU moratorium on the commercial growing of GM crops be lifted, Bayer will be best placed to flood European fields with GM crops. They will also be responsible for the majority of GM field trials, including the controversial farmscale trials, over the coming year.

Bayer has a history of corporate crimes that makes even old-school bio-tech baddies Monsanto seem like angels. In 1925 they were one of the companies that merged to form IG Farben, and during the second world war were involved in forced labour in their factories and produced Zyklon B, the gas used in gas chambers. 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. Earlier this year they were forced to withdraw one of their leading pharmaceutical products, the anticholesterol drug Baycol or Lipobay, which was linked to over 50 deaths. And then there's the poisoned Peruvian kids and the nerve gas...

For more skeletons and background information check out www.cbgnetwork.org

See also www.bayerhazard.com