Environmentalists say withdrawal because of economic viability
On September 16, German chemical giant Bayer CropScience announced it would withdraw all the toxic pesticides from the markets. The phasing out would be completed by the end of 2012. "With this commitment we fulfil our promise to end the production and marketing of class I pesticides," said Sandra E Peterson, CEO of Bayer CropScience, in a press release.
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies active ingredients in pesticides according to their acute toxicity; class I pesticides are classified as extremely hazardous. Peterson says these pesticides will be replaced by more modern, targeted and environment-friendly formulations. Bayer has 20 per cent share in world pesticides market. According to WHO, 25 million people are poisoned by pesticides every year.
Environmental groups have welcomed the move, but say the company withdrew the pesticides because of economic viability, and not over health concerns. “This is an important success for environmental organisations all over the world that have fought against the deadly pesticides for decades," says Philipp Mimkes from the Coalition against BAYER Dangers. “But we must not forget that Bayer broke their original promise to withdraw all class I products by the year 2000. Many lives could have been saved. The company stopped sales only because the profit margins of these products have fallen,” he adds. Eleven years ago, Bayer had promised to “replace the toxic pesticides with products of lower toxicity” within five years. It failed to keep its promise and continued selling the products that contained active ingredients like thiodicarb, fenamiphos, aldicarb and ethoprophos.
Kavitha Kuruganti, national convener of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), a nationwide network of more than 400 organisations in India, says the withdrawal was long overdue. “We have enough evidence to prove that we don't need hazardous pesticides in farming. Non pesticide management of crops is fast-spreading in different parts of India and data shows the incomes of farmers improve when they eliminate pesticides from their agricultural practices," Kuruganti says.
The Coalition against BAYER Dangers has demanded an immediate ban on the herbicide glufosinate and suspension of all approvals of glufosinate-resistant crops. Basta and Liberty are the trade names for Bayer's glufosinate herbicide. An evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority states that glufosinate poses high risk to mammals. The substance is classified as reprotoxic, with laboratory experiments showing premature birth, intra-uterine deaths and abortions in rats.