For several months now I — and the rest of the agricultural community — have followed the “open warfare” being waged on key products in the public sector. In particular, glyphosate has been getting plenty of attention, as jury trials have ruled in favor of plaintiffs who claim use of the herbicide had given them some form of cancer.
To date, more than $150 million in damages have been awarded to these individuals — and there are more than 11,000 such cases pending. Furthermore, as a direct result of these verdicts, certain countries around the world, such as Vietnam, have banned the import of glyphosate into their territories.
As each of these stories has broken, I’ve received “gloating” emails from modern agriculture opponents touting “the end of Big Agriculture’s war on an unknowing public.” For more than a year now I’ve been warning the industry that this chemical warfare was beginning to heat up. I’ve also recommended that the agriculture companies themselves begin fighting back in the public arena. And I’m happy to report that agriculture appears to be going on the offensive!
Bayer (which owns the highest profile glyphosate manufacturer in the world, thanks to its acquisition of Monsanto) in December released to the public 300 glyphosate safety study summaries submitted under the European Union’s (EU) substance authorization process. In April the company released an additional 107 Bayer-owned safety studies submitted to the European Food Safety Authority as part of its transparency platform.
“Transparency is a catalyst for trust, so more transparency is a good thing for consumers, policymakers, and businesses,” Bayer Crop Science Division President Liam Condon said. “By making our detailed scientific safety data available, we encourage anyone interested to see for themselves how comprehensive our approach to safety is. We embrace the opportunity to engage in dialogue so we can build more trust in sound science.”
In a similar move, Syngenta has announced plans to accelerate its market innovations by working more closely with society, growers, academia, and environmental groups as it introduces new products for agriculture. The company plans to report transparently on the progress and outcomes of these investments.
“There is a clear call for innovation and more action to address these challenges in ways where everybody wins — from growers to consumers and the environment,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Alexandra Brand. “There is an undeniable demand for a shift in our industry. We will put our innovations more strongly in service of helping farms become resilient to changing climate and better able to adapt to consumer requirements.”
And it’s about time! Hopefully, these are only the first of many such industry attempts to fight back against the anti-agriculture movement.