Court Action Dropped Against Friends of the Earth
From: Robina Suwol
Date: 01 Jul 2004
Remote Name: 188.8.131.52
Jun 30 2004
Bayer CropScience, the multi-national agro-chemical and biotech corporation,
has dropped its court action against Friends of the Earth. It had tried to
prevent the environmental group from telling the public how to access safety
data on pesticides - including a weedkiller for use on GM herbicide-tolerant
crops in the UK, Glufosinate Ammonium.
Bayer started legal action when Friends of the Earth said it had legally
obtained copies of safety data from the Swedish pesticide regulator KEMI and
said it was going to tell the public how they could obtain the information in
the same way.
The information at the centre of the row is of interest to people exposed to
pesticides through work, living near sprayed fields, legal representatives and
academics researching the environmental and health impacts of pesticide use.
Friends of the Earth told Bayer it intended to use its website to tell people
how to get data from regulators around the world, including Sweden, Denmark,
Ireland and the USA. Bayer had previously taken the UK Government to court to
stop them releasing the same information to Friends of the Earth .
Last October Bayer applied to the High Court for an injunction to stop Friends
of the Earth:
telling people that KEMI or any other regulator held Bayer's pesticide data;
telling people that Friends of the Earth had obtained copies of Bayer's
pesticide data from foreign regulators;
from making any more requests to KEMI or to any other foreign regulator for
access to Bayer's data.
Bayer has now signed up to a settlement promising never to sue Friends of the
Earth again for doing these things, and in particular not to sue Friends of
the Earth for telling members of the public how to access this type of data or
for requesting this type of data from regulators .
A web page  published today by Friends of the Earth gives advice to the
public on how to make requests to international regulators to get copies of
information submitted by companies as part of approval applications. The web
page includes a warning that the data is subject to copyright protection and
intellectual property rights .
Tony Juniper Director of Friends of the Earth said:
"This is a humiliating climb-down by Bayer, a biotech bully. Bayer tried to
use its massive financial muscle to prevent members of the public having
access to important health and environmental data about substances that are
sprayed on our food crops every day. Bayer has gone to great lengths and
expense to keep its data out of the public domain but in the end caved in
because our case was right."
"Friends of the Earth's victory is a major step towards lifting the veil of
corporate secrecy that surrounds pesticide approvals. It is an important
signal to big business that we will not be silenced. It's high time the
corporations making pesticides and chemicals moved into the 21st century and
supported full access to information instead of resorting to bullying tactics
in the courts".
Bayer market many pesticides world wide which pose a threat to the environment
and health . Last month, the French Government banned Bayer's pesticide
Gaucho because of the threat it poses to honey bees  until the product
undergoes a further EU safety review in 2006. Other Bayer pesticides include
Aldicarb, one of the most toxic chemicals still approved - Bayer successfully
lobbied to prevent an EU wide ban last year and continues to keep the product
on the market beyond 2007. The Bayer weed killer IPU is frequently detected in
rivers during the winter months and has to be filtered out from water going
into public at high cost to the water companies to comply with EU drinking
Friends of the Earth has been campaigning for full access to information for
many years. It argues that companies that market pesticides and other
potentially toxic chemicals must recognise the public has a right to know the
potential impact of being exposed to them through breathing, eating and
drinking. Public access is also important because it means that independent
scientists can monitor the effectiveness of the regulatory process in
protecting people and the environment.
1. In 2000 Friends of the Earth asked the Pesticides Safety Directorate for
copies of data supporting Bayer's application to use their weed killer
glufosinate ammonium on GM crops in the Government sponsored farm scale
evaluations. PSD eventually agreed to release the documents at which point
Bayer sought a judicial review to prevent them releasing the information.
After a two day hearing in May 2003, Bayer agreed to an out of court
settlement which allowed Friends of the Earth to have "read-only" access to
the data. In the meantime, Friends of the Earth established that copies of
some of the data being denied them in the UK was available from other
pesticide regulators around the world. Copies of some documents were obtained
from the Swedish regulator KEMI and from the USA's EPA and also from the
Danish Environmental Protection Agency.
3. Please note that the owner of the data retains proprietary rights in
respect of information contained in documents obtained from regulatory
authorities which also may be subject to copyright protection and other
intellectual property rights (including the protection of confidential
information). Making further copies, distributing or publishing the documents
whether for commercial purposes or otherwise, or permitting or assisting any
third party to do so, outside the terms of relevant national legislation
(being the national legislation of the country in which the copy documents
have been obtained or received) may give rise to criminal or civil liability.
4. Media Briefing on pesticides
5 Bayer acts to keep Temik available to vegetable growers. Grower. December 11
Additional information - Friends of the Earth's proposals for access to
information on pesticides available on request.
Friends of the Earth
26-28 Underwood St.
Tel: 020 7490 1555
Fax: 020 7490 0881
Last changed: March 14, 2006