BANGKOK (Reuters) – Chemical giant Bayer and the US government worked closely together last year to pressure Thailand to reverse its ban on glyphosate, used in the controversial roundup of the evil killing company herbs, documents obtained by an environmental group and reviewed by Reuters.
The lobby, including U.S. trade officials requesting information from Bayer about Thailand’s deputy agriculture minister, is detailed in more than 200 pages of partially drafted documents and emails, some directly between U.S. officials and a Bayer representative. .
The documents were obtained under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act by the Center for Biological Diversity in Tucson, Arizona, which shared them with Reuters.
Thailand finally withdrew plans to ban glyphosate a few days before the ban went into effect in December 2019. It had approved the restriction in October alleging concerns about the chemical’s impact on human health.
Reuters could not determine the reasons for the reversal or whether the efforts of the United States and Bayer played a role in Thailand’s decision.
A government spokeswoman denied any foreign influence in reversing the ban.
Although regulators around the world, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have determined that glyphosate is safe, Bayer agreed in June to resolve nearly 100,000 U.S. lawsuits for $ 10.9 billion , denying claims that Roundup caused cancer.
Thailand had initiated significant measures in August 2019 to ban glyphosate and other chemicals considered widely toxic to humans. The World Health Organization’s cancer research group classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in March 2015.
While Thailand considered banning glyphosate, Bayer began its lobbying effort. The Germany-based firm, which acquired U.S. manufacturer Monsanto for $ 63 billion in 2018, called for help against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) ban on Sept. 18. from last year, they show documents reviewed by Reuters.
CONSISTING OF LAWS, RULES -BAYER
In a statement to Reuters, Bayer said: “Our commitments to all those in the public sector are routine, professional and consistent with all laws and regulations.”
“The reversal of glyphosate bans by Thai authorities is consistent with science-based determinations by regulatory bodies around the world.”
Ratchada Dhanadirek, a spokesman for the Thai government, said the country supported safe agriculture and prioritized the health of farmers and consumers, noting that glyphosate was widely used internationally and that there was no viable alternative. .
The prime minister’s office denied knowledge of U.S. or Bayer’s pressure efforts when asked to comment on documents reviewed by Reuters.
The U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the documents and their role in reversing the ban.
‘FOCUS ON PM’
The documents show that Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mananya Thaiset was identified in particular by Bayer as “trying to drastically speed up the imposition of the ban” on glyphosate and other farm chemicals.
In July, before sharing the documents with Reuters, Mananya said she was motivated to ban glyphosate and other chemicals after attending the funerals of many farmers in her previous job as mayor.
USTR officials discussed Mananya in an internal email chain on Oct. 22, the day Thailand approved plans to ban glyphosate, according to documents. In a separate email to Bayer, an unidentified USTR official sought further information about her from the chemical company.
“Knowing what the motive can help with the counterarguments of the USG (US government)” to reverse the ban, the official wrote. “She has no record of being a staunch advocate of organic food and / or a staunch environmentalist,” said Jim Travis, Bayer International’s chief executive of Affairs and Trade.
Mananya could not be contacted to comment on whether she had been contacted by Bayer or US officials and her office rejected Reuters’ requests for comments on the documents.
While Bayer and the USTR were trying to understand Mananya’s mindset, which a USTR official described as “well-connected,” the documents make it clear that their main goal was access to the prime minister.
In an emailed response to the USTR on Oct. 24, Bayer Travis said, “All efforts should focus on the prime minister,” referring to Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Prayuth could not be reached for comment. He has rarely publicly expressed his views on the ban on chemicals. After reversing the glyphosate ban, he only said he had “no problem” with the decision.
On October 17, Ted McKinney, the USDA’s Undersecretary of Commerce and Agricultural Affairs, wrote to Prayuth asking for the ban to be postponed. Prayuth repeatedly refused to comment on McKinney’s letter when reporters asked him.
“The US EPA … has found that there are no risks to human health when glyphosate is used according to its current label,” a USDA spokesman said in response to the request. Reuters’ ability to comment on documents.
The ban on glyphosate would have meant that grain grown using it could not enter Thailand, which would deny U.S. exporters of bulk crops (including soybeans and wheat) access to a market that, like others in Southeast Asia, has grown massively since 2015 to nearly $ 1 billion. value of 2019, US data are shown.
(Chart: Crop sales in the US in Thailand since 2010)
(Chart: Southeast Asia has become a key growth market for U.S. crop exporters).
Despite initial pressure efforts, Thailand’s National Hazardous Substances Committee formally approved the ban on October 22 with an effective start date in December.
American documents continued their efforts until November 26.
On November 27, Thailand reversed course. A government committee announced that the country would drop the ban four days before it came into force, citing concerns about the impact of foreign trade, along with the impact on farmers and the food and feed industries.
Reports by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Edited by Matthew Tostevin and Kenneth Maxwell