To make sure that crop protection products and technologies we introduced to the market are harmless to people and animals and can be used without causing unjustifiable burden on the environment., we test products in compliance with the applicable official regulations and perform extensive risk assessments. We also observe the import regulations for the importing countries and acquire product approvals in countries in which the products are due to be marketed.
We have specified our principles of responsible product management in our new Product Stewardship Commitment, Principles and Key Requirements guideline. These principles are based on established and internationally recognized standards such as the code of conduct on the handling of pesticides issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the specifications for crop protection products of the association CropLife International, and the guidelines of the industry initiative Excellence Through Stewardship (ETS) for seeds and traits.
Research and Development
We use the latest technologies to develop products and services so that we can optimize their efficacy, productivity and safety for people and the environment.
As part of the testing process, chemical and biological crop protection products are examined early in the development phase with regard to their mode of action, their (eco)toxicological properties and the extent of potential residues in plants and the environment to ensure that only those products with the best safety profile are developed further.
The development of genetically modified seeds is also subject to stringent international and national laws and regulations. We have specified internal processes in a corporate policy to ensure a responsible approach to biotechnologically manufactured products throughout their life cycle.
Processes in Plant Biotechnology
In the cultivation of new crops, Crop Science uses both conventional and new targeted cultivation techniques to develop robust, high-quality plants that deliver high yields even under difficult conditions. We want to provide farmers with innovative solutions that enable them to produce more food for a growing population and at the same time reduce the environmental impact of our products. We also support the responsible use of different cultivation techniques.
Biotechnology helps us to develop solutions that strengthen plants’ resistance to insects, weeds and other environmental stresses such as drought in a targeted manner. Using a variety of molecular approaches, including new gene editing tools like CRISPR, we transfer beneficial traits, such as the ability to resist a pest or to use water more efficiently, to a crop plant so that it can better survive in its environment. Biotechnology enables more productive farming and increases the sustainability of agriculture by, for example, facilitating minimum tillage practices which preserve topsoil and reduce CO2 emissions.
Transparency in Marketing, Sales and Distribution
In its distribution of crop protection products and technologies, Crop Science observes the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. We have also made relevant voluntary commitments. Since 2016, we have marketed only those crop protection products that are registered in at least one OECD country, and only new active ingredients for which an OECD data package has been compiled. In the future we aim to set even higher standards and are reviewing new procedures to introduce crop protection products in emerging markets only if they satisfy both the local safety standards in the respective country and the requirements of leading relevant regulatory authorities.
Bayer aims to strengthen our customers’ and stakeholders’ confidence in our products through transparency, which is very important to our company. We have made safety-related data on our crop protection products transparent. More than 230 summaries of scientific studies submitted to the European Food Safety Authority in connection with the registration procedures for 28 of our active ingredients in the European Union are already available on an online platform. These documents include information on toxicological and ecotoxicological studies and investigations into degradability.
More on voluntary commitments and on transparency
Responsibility for Customers and Partners
The application of crop protection products requires the greatest possible care. Supporting our customers and partners in the proper and safe handling of our seed and crop protection products is therefore a focus of our product stewardship.
Through targeted training courses, we teach farmers, seed treatment professionals and dealers how to use our products both effectively, to increase the yield and quality of their harvested goods, and also safely, with regard to human health and the environment.
In 2019, Crop Science trained more than a million farmers in the safe use of our products, mainly during customer events. We focus our safe use training activities on countries where there are no statutory certification requirements for the handling of crop protection products. We conduct training both independently, and in cooperation with local, regional and international associations.
As a member of CropLife International, we help to train nearly four million farmers in this association in 82 countries in the responsible and appropriate use of crop protection products.
Environmental Safety – Crop Protection Products in the Environment
Responsible Care is extremely important in all areas of agriculture to minimize possible effects and the discharge of crop protection products outside of the treated crops. Protecting good surface and groundwater quality are cornerstones of the responsible use of water as a natural resource. Therefore, the application of crop protection products is subject to national water protection regulations, including in Europe the requirements of the Water Framework Directive.
We place particular importance on water protection and support agriculture in environmentally friendly land cultivation and the disposal of residual liquids following the application of crop protection products in order to avoid surface or even groundwater contamination.
In this context we promote the biological remediation system Phytobac™ to our customers. This system is designed to prevent water contamination with residues of crop protection chemicals generated during the filling and cleaning of spraying devices or the disposal of residual liquids.
New technologies not only enable crop production to be increased, but also promote the safe and responsible use of crop protection products. This includes the targeted application of crop protection products using data from satellites and drones.
Protection of Bees and Other Pollinators
Bees and other pollinators are hugely important for sustainable food production. Our pollinator research activities support farmers in food production while at the same time contributing to the health, safety and biodiversity of pollinators. To minimize potential risks posed to bees by our crop protection products, initial tests to measure bee toxicity are carried out already at an early development stage. The goal here is to ensure that only products with a pollinator-safe environmental profile are developed further.
Neonicotinoids are the subject of controversial debate with regard to bee safety. These highly effective insecticides protect plants from a broad array of pests and are therefore widespread. The effects observed under laboratory conditions did not harm bee colonies under realistic field conditions when the products were used properly.
Product Stewardship for Glyphosate
Glyphosate has a 40-year history of safe use when used according to label directions. This is confirmed by science-based evaluations conducted by regulatory bodies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and other leading regulatory authorities such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Canadian Department of Health, Health Canada. Extensive information on the public debate surrounding the safety of glyphosate for users and the environment is available on our website. For information on the lawsuits against Bayer in the United States, please see the Notes to the Consolidated Financial Statements in Bayer's 2019 Annual Report.