BERLIN – Germany’s Bayer apologized Sunday after revelations in France that its subsidiary Monsanto had a PR agency collate lists of politicians, scientists and journalists and their views on pesticides and GM crops.
The German agro-chemicals and drugs giant, which finalized the acquisition of the U.S. company Monsanto last year, said that “following an initial review, we understand that this initiative has raised concerns and criticism.
“This is not the way Bayer seeks dialogue with society and stakeholders. We apologize for this behavior,” it said in a statement, adding that it had no indication that the lists had “violated any legal provisions.
French authorities have opened a preliminary inquiry into claims Monsanto had information illegally collected on the views and pliability of hundreds of high-profile figures and media outlets.
Monsanto allegedly had public relations agency FleishmanHillard draw up files on their opinions on the controversial weedkiller glyphosate and on genetically modified crops.
Bayer said it had suspended cooperation with the external service provider for now. It also pledged to ask a law firm to evaluate the allegations, to fully inform all the persons involved, and to “fully support” the French public prosecutor’s office.
Paris judicial police has said it would carry out the probe following a complaint by the daily Le Monde and one of its journalists, whose names appear on the list, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
Two anti-pesticide NGOs — Foodwatch and Generations Futures — were also preparing to lodge legal complaints.
The investigators will look into the possible “collection of personal information by fraudulent, unfair or illicit means.
Information was collected on their views on pesticides and on Monsanto as well as their leisure pursuits, addresses and phone numbers, according to the France 2 public television.
Glyphosate developer Monsanto was convicted in the United States in 2018 and 2019 of not taking necessary steps to warn of the potential risks of Roundup — their weedkiller containing the chemical, which two California juries found caused cancer in two users.
Bayer announced last month that over 13,000 lawsuits related to the weedkiller had been launched in the U.S.