BANGKOK (Reuters) – The chemical giant Bayer and the US government closely collaborated last year to ban Thailand’s lobby, used in the company’s controversial Weidkiller roundup, documents obtained by an environmental group and reviewed by Reuters show .
Lobbying, including US business officials asking Bayer for information about Thailand’s deputy agriculture minister, is detailed in more than 200 pages of partially redacted documents and emails, some directly between US officials and a Bayer representative.
The documents were obtained by the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity under the American Freedom of Information Act, which shared them with Reuters.
Thailand finally dropped its plan to ban glyphosate in December 2019, days before the ban came into force. It approved the ban in October citing concerns over the chemical effect on human health.
Reuters was unable to determine the reasons for the vicissitudes or the efforts of the United States and Bayer played a role in Thailand’s decision.
A government spokesman denied any foreign influence on the reversal of the ban.
While regulators around the world, including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), determined glyphosate to be safe, Bayer agreed to settle nearly 100,000 US lawsuits in June for $ 10.9 billion, claiming that Roundup Caused cancer.
Thailand took important steps in August 2019 to ban glyphosate and other chemicals widely considered toxic to humans. The Cancer Research arm of the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in March 2015.
As Thailand considered a ban on glyphosate, Bayer turned down its lobbying effort. The German-headquartered firm, which acquired US roundup producer Monsanto for $ 63 billion in 2018, made an appeal to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on September 18 last year to help argue against the ban, Reuters reviewed the show. .
LAWS, RELATIONSHIP WITH RULE -BAYER
In a statement to Reuters, Bayer said, “Our engagement with all public sector people is regular, professional and consistent with all laws and regulations.”
“The Thai authorities’ reversal of the ban on glyphosate is consistent with a science-based determination by regulatory bodies around the world.”
Thailand’s government spokesman Ratchada Dhandirek said the country supported safe agriculture and the health of priority farmers and consumers, noting that glyphosate was widely used internationally and there was no viable alternative.
The Prime Minister’s Office denied knowledge of the US or Bayer’s lobbying efforts when asked to comment on documents reviewed by Reuters.
The US Trade Representative (USTR) office did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on the documents and its role in reversing the ban.
‘Focus on the Prime Minister’
The documents reveal that Deputy Agriculture Minister Mananya Theisset was specifically identified by Bayer as “seeking to dramatically accelerate the ban on glyphosate and other agricultural chemicals”.
In July, before sharing the documents with Reuters, Manyya said she was inspired to ban glyphosate and other chemicals after attending the funeral of several farmers in her previous job as mayor.
USTR officials discussed Mannaiah on an internal email series dated October 22, the day Thailand approved a plan to ban glyphosate, documents show. In a separate email to Bayer, an unknown USTR official asked the chemical company for more information about him.
The official wrote, “After knowing what motivates him to help the USG (US government) in retaliating, the ban can be imposed.” Senior Director of International Government Affairs and Trade, Jim Travis, said, “He has no record of being an advocate of organic food and / or staunch environmentalist.”
Manya could not be reached to comment on whether he was contacted by Bayer or US officials and his office declined Reuters’ request for comment on the documents.
While Bayer and USTR tried to understand Mananya’s mindset, described by a USTR official as “well-connected”, the documents make clear that their main objective was access to the Prime Minister.
In response to an email on USTR on October 24, Bayer’s Travis said “all efforts should be focused on the PM,” referring to Thailand’s Prime Minister, Pruthuth Chan-ogha.
The application for comment on the documents could not be reached. He has rarely expressed his views publicly on the chemical ban. After the glyphosate ban was reversed, he said only, he had “no problem” with the decision.
On October 17, Ted McKinney, USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agriculture Affairs, wrote to Pruth, asking for the postponement of the ban. When asked by journalists, Prakutha refused to comment on McKinney’s letter repeatedly.
A USA spokesperson said in response to Reuters’ request for comment on the documents, “The US EPA … has found that there is no risk to human health when glyphosate is used according to its current label.”
A ban on glyphosate would mean that grains could not be entered into Thailand using them, denying American exporters of bulk crops – including soybeans and wheat – access to a market that others in Southeast Asia Like in 2015, the value has increased massively by about $ 1 billion in 2019, US data shows.
(Graphic: US crop sales in Thailand, since 2010)
(Graphic: Southeast Asia has emerged as a major growth market for American crop exporters)
Despite initial lobbying efforts, Thailand’s National Hazardous Substances Committee formally approved the ban with an effective start date of December 22.
US officials continued their efforts until late November 26, documents show.
On 27 November, Thailand reversed course. A government committee announced that the country was left with a ban four days ago, because it was effective, citing concerns over foreign trade impact, with effects on farmers and the food and animal feed industries.
Reporting by Patpika Tancasampt; Editing by Matthew Tostwin and Kenneth Maxwell