By Patpicha Tanakasempipat
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Chemicals large Bayer and the U.S. authorities cooperated carefully final 12 months to foyer Thailand to reverse its ban on glyphosate, used within the firm’s controversial weedkiller Roundup, paperwork obtained by an environmental group and reviewed by Reuters present.
The lobbying, together with U.S. commerce officers asking Bayer for info on Thailand’s deputy agriculture minister, is detailed in additional than 200 pages of partially redacted paperwork and emails, some straight between U.S. officers and a Bayer consultant.
The paperwork have been obtained underneath the U.S. Freedom of Information Act by the Tucson, Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity, which shared them with Reuters.
Thailand ultimately dropped plans to ban glyphosate a number of days earlier than the ban was on account of come into power in December 2019. It had permitted the restriction in October citing issues over the chemical’s influence on human well being.
Reuters was unable to find out the explanations for the reversal or whether or not efforts by the United States and Bayer performed a job in Thailand’s choice.
A authorities spokeswoman denied any overseas affect on the reversal of the ban.
While regulators worldwide, together with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have decided glyphosate to be protected, Bayer agreed in June to settle almost 100,000 U.S. lawsuits for $10.9 billion, denying claims that Roundup precipitated most cancers.
Thailand had initiated vital steps in August 2019 to ban glyphosate and different chemical substances extensively deemed poisonous to people. The World Health Organization’s most cancers analysis arm labeled glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in March 2015.
As Thailand thought-about the ban on glyphosate, Bayer kicked off its lobbying effort. The Germany-headquartered agency, which acquired U.S. Roundup maker Monsanto for $63 billion in 2018, made an enchantment for assist arguing towards the ban to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Sept. 18 final 12 months, the paperwork reviewed by Reuters present.
CONSISTENT WITH LAWS, RULES -BAYER
In a press release to Reuters, Bayer mentioned, “Our engagements with all those in the public sector are routine, professional, and consistent with all laws and regulations.”
“The Thai authorities’ reversal of the ban on glyphosate is consistent with the science-based determinations by regulatory bodies around the world.”
Ratchada Dhanadirek, a spokeswoman for Thailand’s authorities, mentioned the nation supported protected agriculture and prioritised farmers’ and shoppers’ well being, noting that glyphosate was extensively used internationally and there was no viable different.
The Prime Minister’s Office denied information of the U.S. or Bayer’s lobbying efforts when requested to touch upon the paperwork reviewed by Reuters.
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) didn’t reply to Reuters requests for touch upon the paperwork and its position within the reversal of the ban.
The paperwork present that deputy agriculture minister Mananya Thaiset was recognized particularly by Bayer as “seeking to dramatically accelerate the imposition of a ban” on glyphosate and different farm chemical substances.
In July, earlier than the paperwork have been shared with Reuters, Mananya mentioned she was motivated to ban glyphosate and different chemical substances after attending many farmers’ funerals in her earlier job as a mayor.
USTR officers mentioned Mananya in an inside electronic mail chain dated Oct. 22, the day that Thailand permitted plans to ban glyphosate, the paperwork present. In a separate electronic mail to Bayer, an unidentified USTR official sought extra info on her from the chemical substances firm.
“Knowing what motivates her may help with USG (U.S. government) counter-arguments” to reverse the ban, the official wrote. “She has no record of being diehard advocate of organic food and/or staunch environmentalist,” Bayer’s Senior Director for International Government Affairs and Trade, Jim Travis, replied.
Mananya could not be reached for touch upon whether or not she had been approached by Bayer or U.S. officers and her workplace declined Reuters’ requests for touch upon the paperwork.
While Bayer and the USTR sought to grasp the mindset of Mananya, whom one USTR official described as “well-connected”, the paperwork clarify their predominant goal was entry to the prime minister.
In an emailed response to the USTR on Oct. 24, Bayer’s Travis mentioned, “All efforts should be focused on the PM,” referring to Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Prayuth couldn’t be reached for touch upon the paperwork. He has not often expressed his views publicly on the chemical ban. After the glyphosate ban was reversed, he solely mentioned, he had “no problem” with the choice.
On Oct. 17, Ted McKinney, the USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, wrote to Prayuth, asking for a postponement of the ban. Prayuth repeatedly declined to touch upon McKinney’s letter when requested by reporters.
“The U.S. EPA … has found that there are no risks to human health when glyphosate is used in accordance with its current label,” a USDA spokesperson mentioned in response to Reuters’ request for touch upon the paperwork.
A ban on glyphosate would have meant grain grown utilizing it couldn’t enter Thailand, denying U.S. exporters of bulk crops – together with soybeans and wheat – entry to a market that, like others in Southeast Asia, has grown massively from 2015 to just about $1 billion in worth in 2019, U.S. knowledge exhibits.
(Graphic: U.S. crop gross sales to Thailand since 2010, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/jbyvrqzggpe/USCropSalestoThailand.png)
(Graphic: Southeast Asia has emerged as a key progress marketplace for U.S. crop exporters, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/ce/xklvynwnxpg/USBulkCropDestinations.png)
Despite the preliminary lobbying efforts, Thailand’s National Hazardous Substances Committee formally permitted the ban on Oct. 22 with an efficient begin date in December.
U.S. officers continued their efforts as late as Nov. 26, the paperwork present.
On Nov. 27, Thailand reversed course. A authorities committee introduced the nation was abandoning the ban 4 days earlier than it was on account of take impact, citing issues over overseas commerce influence, alongside the influence on farmers and meals and animal feed industries.
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Kenneth Maxwell)
Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.