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Bayer

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on global corporations.

Bayer AG is a global holding company for a number of health care, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, agrochemicals, plastics and other materials subsidiaries. [1] Bayer's health care division makes pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs and animal health care products. It's specialty material division makes plastics and high-performance materials. Its agricultural products division makes agrochemicals for crops and home garden care products. The company operates in the United States through the Bayer Corporation. Besides its line of Bayer aspirins, brand names include Aleve, Alka-Seltzer and One-A-Day vitamins. Its top selling pharmaceuticals include Betaseron (multiple sclerosis) and Yasmin (birth control). Overall, Bayer, also referred to as the Bayer Group, operates some 315 companies worldwide.

In the fiscal year ending in December of 2008, the company reported sales of approximately $46.4 billion dollars and had 108,600 employees.[2]

Contents

Overview & history

Bayer became a key player in the development, commercialization and sale of GMO (genetically modified organism) crops after acquiring Aventis' controversial agribusiness division. The company has a distinguished history of corporate crimes, including the manufacture and sale of controversial drugs (Heroin, Ciproxin and Baycol); the development of chemical warfare (Chlorine Gas, Zyklon B and VX); using forced labour during World War 2 and numerous incidents of drug side-effects; chemical poisoning and environmental pollution. In December of 2001, Multinational Monitor rated Bayer AG as one of their Top Ten Worst Companies of the year.[3]

Bayer AG holds key positions in four markets: healthcare (pharmaceuticals), agriculture (seeds and agrochemicals), polymers (plastics, synthetic rubber, coatings) and chemicals (raw materials and specialized chemicals). The company is something of a dinosaur in this respect. It is the only company still maintaining substantial holdings in all four areas. Until the late 90's, competitors like Monsanto, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Aventis, DuPont, Dow and BASF, accumulated holdings in the same areas to exploit the "life-sciences" concept. The idea was that profitable synergies were possible between these different sectors through biotechnology. However, the "life sciences" bubble burst and major competitors have shed holdings in one or more of sectors to focus on more defined interests. In spite of these developments, Bayer maintains a quadripedal structure, with all four divisions acting as independent corporate units owned by the Bayer AG holding company.

For over 125 years, Bayer has been a major player in the four most controversial areas of capitalism. The company's first incarnation came out of the European industries rush to develop and manufacture synthetic dyes in the second half of the 19th century. In 1863, Friedrich Bayer and Johann Friedrich Weskott opened a dye factory in Luppertal, Germany called Farbenfabriken vorm. Friedrich Bayer & Co. was launched in 1883. The company quickly diversified into other areas of chemical manufacturing, such as photography and pharmaceuticals, while Bayer established itself throughout Europe and the United States.

Early discoveries, products & WWI

Early Bayer discoveries included Antinonin (synthetic pesticide, 1892), Aspirin (1897), Heroin (1898) and Buna (synthetic rubber 1915). During World War I, Bayer and other chemical manufacturers (both Allied and German), turned their attention to chemical weapons. [4] These weapson included chlorine gas, which had horrendous effects in trench warfare. During WWI, Bayer had a close association with other German chemical companies, including BASF and Hoechst (now Sanofi-Aventis). This relationship led to the 1925 with merger of these companies, as well as AGFA, and others, to form IG Farben Trust in 1925.[5]

WWII & IG Farben

It was in World War II Nazi Germany that IG Farben (Bayer) entered into its most sinister phase. As the leading chemical company in Nazi Germany, IG Farben took over chemical plants across occupied Europe. The company used slave labor in their their factories and even operated their own concentration camp. There, the company conducted medical experiments on inmates and manufactured poison gas used to kill thousands. At the end of the war, the 1945 Potsdam Agreement called for the dismantling of IG Farben into its constituent companies. Twelve IG Farben employees and directors were jailed for war crimes at the Nuremburg Trials.

Bayer was re-established as Farbenfabriken Bayer AG in 1951. It changed its name to the current Bayer AG in 1972. Although the company is a different legal entity to IG Farben and its founding companies, a direct line of continuity can be traced to personnel, infrastructure and technology of the three incarnations.[6]

Bayer & Auschwitz

Auschwitz was the largest mass extermination factory in human history. However, few people are aware that Auschwitz was a 100% subsidiary of IG Farben. On April 14, 1941, in Ludwigshafen, Otto Armbrust, the IG Farben board member responsible for the Auschwitz project, stated to board colleagues:

"our new friendship with the SS is a blessing. We have determined all measures integrating the concentration camps to benefit our company."

Thousands of prisoners died during human experiments, drug and vaccine testing. Before longtime Bayer employee and SS Auschwitz doctor Helmut Vetter was executed for administering fatal infections, he wrote to his bosses at Bayer headquarters:

"I have thrown myself into my work wholeheartedly. Especially as I have the opportunity to test our new preparations. I feel like I am in paradise."

After WWII, IG Farben attempted to shake its abominable image through corporate restructuring and renaming. So great has been their success that the public has no idea that it many of the men responsible for such atrocities, were able to carry on their work even after the collapse of the Nazi regime. Namely a medical paradigm that relies almost exclusively highly toxic drugs. Such men were in control of the large chemical and pharmaceutical companies, both well before and after Hitler. The Nuremberg Tribunal convicted 24 IG Farben board members and executives on the basis of mass murder, slavery and other crimes. Incredibly, most of them had been released by 1951 and continued to consult with German corporations. The Nuremberg Tribunal dissolved IG Farben into Bayer, Hoechst and BASF, each company 20 times as large as IG Farben in 1944. For almost three decades after WWII, BASF, Bayer and Hoechst (Aventis) filled their highest position, chairman of the board, with former members of the Nazi regime. Bayer has been sued by survivors of medical experiments such as Eva Kor who, along with her sister, survived experiments at the hands of Dr. Josef Mengele.[7] See also Pharmaceutical industry.

Animal testing

Bayer does animal testing.

Animals by species, numbers & location (United States)

  • Berkeley, California [8]
  • Elkhart, Indiana [9]
  • West Haven, Connecticut [10]

Numbers of primates being used & held (United States)

  • Bayer Corporation, Berkeley, California [11]

Facility information, progress reports & USDA-APHIS reports

For copies of this facility's U.S. Department of Agriculture-Animal Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) reports, other information and links, see also Stop Animal Experimentation Now!: Facility Reports and Information. This site lists each of the 50 states; each state's name links to biomedical research facilities in that state, and to PDF copies of government documents where the facilities must report their animal usage.

Contract testing

Bayer contract tests out to Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS). [12] Huntingdon Life Sciences is the 3rd largest contract research organization (CRO) in the world and the largest animal testing facility in all of Europe. Firms hire CROs to conduct animal toxicity tests for agrochemicals, petrochemicals, household products, pharmaceutical drugs and toxins. HLS has a long history of gross animal welfare violations. See also Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Drug safety issues

Ambien

Ambien - is a prescription medicine prescribed for insomnia. According to research studies, side effects from Ambien are experienced by up to up to 4% of patients. The most common side effects are daytime drowsiness, diarrhea and coordination problems. Side effects range from mild to dangerous, such as vision changes, depression and hallucinations. Other of side effects of Ambien, as well as other sedative/hypnotic medicines are addiction adn abuse; "sleep-driving," "sleep-eating," and rebound insomnia after discontinuing use. [13]

Sleep walking, talking, driving & eating

Of the strange nocturnal behaviors reported, sleep walking, talking and even driving, is far more common than sleep-eating. Though the side effect is rare, most sleep doctors are familiar with patient stories of night time refrigerator raids, ovens left on at night and food appearing in the bedroom. While many sleep-eating patients were prescribed Ambien, it is not clear whether it is more likely to cause sleep eating than other sleep medications. [14]

In some states, Ambien has made it onto the lists of the top ten drugs found in impaired motorists. Motorists driving under the influence of Ambien have smashed into parked cars; driven the wrong way down busy highway and woven in between lanes. According to reports, the drivers sometimes have no recollection of getting behind the wheel, after being pulled over. According to Laura Liddicoat, a toxicologist at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene in a March of 2006 interview on Good Morning America:

"It certainly seems to me that the warnings are not sufficiently clear to the general public."

According to a report on drivers arrested in Wisconsin in the previous 5 years, 187 had Ambien in their bloodstream. [15]

Baycol

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled Baycol (cerivastatin) off the market after the drug was linked to at least 100 fatal adverse drug reactions (ADS). Baycol was a cholesterol-lowering drug, purported to reduce the risk of heart attacks. The drug was prescribed to approximately 700,000 Americans. FDA physicians linked the drug to a rare muscle side effect which destroyed tissue and released it into the blood stream. Patients commonly suffered severe muscle pain in the lower back and calf muscles. In the most severe cases, condition led to kidney failure and death. [16]

The drug was pulled from the market in August 2001 due to its muscle-weakening side effects. In January of 2007, the Houston Business Journal reported that Bayer would pay out 8 million dollars spread over 30 states. The settlements included $200,000 to Texas, over the companies failure to fully disclose health risks to patients with specific conditions. The terms also extended to the disclosure of clinical studies involving other Bayer drugs with possible health risks. According to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott:

"Texans deserve to be fully informed about the adverse effects of their medications. This agreement ensures that patients have access to the information they need to make educated health care decisions."

The terms required Bayer to register the results of its clinical studies on the internet. Also, that marketing, sale and promotion of Bayer pharmaceutical and biological products must comply with the law and not include false or misleading claims. In 1997, the FDA approved Baycol, which Bayer began marketing in May 1998. While patients taking statin drugs frequently experience muscle-weakening, Bayer did not disclose that the product posed significantly greater than normal side effects. Concealing risks in the name of profit, violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. [17]

Food safety issues

Global GMO & herbicide market

The top biotechnology companies are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Bayer. (Syngenta is a subsidiary of parent companies AstraZeneca and Novartis. Aventis' agribusiness division was bought out by Bayer.) They account for almost 100% of the genetically engineered seed and 60% of the global pesticide market. Thanks to recent acquisitions, they also own 23% of the commercial seed market. In 1999, almost 80% of total global transgenic acreage was planted in GMO soy, corn, cotton and canola. Until then, farmers could spray herbicides before planting, but not after, as herbicides would kill the intended crop. The other 20% of genetically modified acreage is planted with crops that produce pesticides. Monsanto’s "New Leaf" potato kills potato beetles, but is itself registered as a pesticide with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The five largest biotech companies in the world are also the five largest herbicide companies. GMOs ensure a continuous and ever-expanding market for their agrochemicals. [18]

GMO soy beans are altered to enable plants to withstand weedkillers, particularly Monsanto's Roundup. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tripled the allowable limit for residues of Roundup's active ingredients on harvested crops. Many scientists protested allowing increased residues to support the biotechnology industry. Even after Monsanto's own research raised safety concerns for Roundup Ready soybeans, the FDA did not call for further testing. Half the soybeans grown in the U.S. are Roundup Ready. According to Monsanto, they contain 29% less of the brain nutrient choline and 27% more trypsin inhibitor, a potential allergen. Soy is often prescribed and consumed for its phytoestrogen content; however, GMO soy beans have lower levels of phenylalanine, an essential amino acid that affects levels of phytoestrogens. Lectin levels, the usual culprit in soy allergies, are nearly double in GMO soybeans. [19]

Under current policy, the government provides large subsidies to farmers to produce grains, in particularly corn and soybeans. Livestock producers use corn and soy as a base for animal feed as they are protein rich and fatten up the animals. They are also cheap (due to government subsidies.) Livestock consumes 47% of the soy and 60% of the corn produced in the US. [20]

Political contributions

Bayer gave $319,482.000 to federal candidates in the 2008 election through its political action committee - 42% to Democrats and 58% to Republicans. [21]

Lobbying

Bayer spent $8,498,512 for lobbying in 2009 in the U.S. Seven lobbying firms were used, however, themajority was spent on in-house lobbyists. [22]

Personnel

  • Manfred Schneider - Chairman
  • Hermann Strenger - Honorary Chairman
  • Thomas de Win - Deputy Chairman [23]

Bayer Health care

Contact

Headquarters
Bayerwerk, Gebäude W11
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Allee
51368 Leverkusen, Germany

Phone: +49-214-30-1

Fax: +49-214-30-663-28

U.S. Office
100 Bayer Road
Pittsburgh, PA 15205

Phone: 412-777-2000

Fax: 412-777-2034

Web address: http://www.bayerus.com

Web address: http://www.bayerhealthcare.com/scripts/pages/en/index.php

Web address: Web: http://www.bayercropscienceus.com

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles

References

  1. Bayer: Science for a Better Life, Bayer, accessed February 2010
  2. Company Description: Bayer AG, Hoovers, accessed February 2010
  3. Russel Mokhiber, Robert Weissman Corporations Behaving Badly: The Ten Worst Corporations of 2001, Multinational Monitor, Volume 22, Number 12, December 2001, pg. 8-19
  4. L.F. Haber The Chemical Industry: 1900-1930 International Growth and Technological Change, 1971 Oxford University Press, pg 209
  5. Hermann Levy Industrial Germany: A study of its Monopoly Organisations and their Control by the State, pg. 65-66, Routledge, November 4 1966, (first published, 1935), ISBN 978-0714613369
  6. Bayer AG: A Corporate Profile, Corporate Watch, March 2002
  7. Mark Sircus Pharmaceutical Terrorism: The Backbone of Modern Medicine, rawfoodinfo.com, accessed March 2010
  8. Research Facilities: Berkley, California, Humane Society of the United States, accessed February 2009
  9. Research Facilities: Elkhart, Indiana, HSUS, accessed February 2009
  10. Research Facilities: West Haven, Connecticut, HSUS, accessed February 2009
  11. Numbers of Nonhuman Primates at U.S. Research Facilities, HSUS, accessed December 2009
  12. Inside Customers, SHAC.net, accessed December 2009
  13. Kristi Monson, PharmD; Arthur Schoenstadt, MD Ambien Dangers, Med TV, June 2009
  14. Ambien Sleep Walking Turned Me Into a Midnight Binge Eater, Health.com, May 9, 2008
  15. Kennedy's Crash Highlights Dangers of Ambien: The Prescription Drug Often Found in Bloodstream of Disoriented Drivers, ABC News, May 5, 2006
  16. Baycol, Healthdangers.com, 2003 - 2008
  17. Bayer reaches settlement over drug disclosure, Houston Business Journal, January 23, 2007
  18. John Robbins Genetic Engineering, Part I, The Food Revolution, accessed December 2009
  19. John Robbins What About Soy: Frankenfood Soy?, The Food Revolution, accessed December 2009
  20. The Issues: Corn and Soy, Sustainable Table, accessed December 2009
  21. 2008 PAC Summary Data, Open Secrets, accessed February 2010
  22. Bayer lobbying expenses, Open Secrets, accessed February 2010
  23. Company Description: Bayer AG, Hoovers, accessed February 2010

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