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- Raising the Bar on Crop Protection Safety Standards
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Raising the Bar on Crop Protection Safety Standards
Safety is our #1 priority and is embedded in everything we do. Bayer is committed to developing and stewarding safe solutions for farmers to meet the social, environmental and economic needs of societies around the world. In the face of the growing challenges that agriculture is confronted with today, farmers need sustainable solutions to fulfill demand, and crop protection products are of central importance in this context.
We recognize that there is a public debate on the impact of pesticides on human health and the environment. While part of the debate is driven by emotions rather than facts, we acknowledge that there is always room to be even better. Driven by our vision of “Health for all, hunger for none”, we believe we can work together to address the interrelated challenges of ensuring food production and promoting sustainable agriculture. To this end, we make the following commitments.
In addition to the regulatory requirements in countries where we register our products, we apply our own internal safety standards. These standards evolve based on the latest scientific knowledge and the standards of the majority of reference authorities.
The process of developing and registering a new crop protection product is extremely rigorous. It takes 11 years on average between the first research tests and authorization, and nearly €250 million of costs are associated with the discovery, development and registration of a new active substance. For every active substance that is registered for use, there are about 160,000 potential candidates that do not make it past the research stage.
Bayer’s commitment to product safety goes beyond just meeting local regulatory requirements. In 2012, we stopped selling any World Health Organization (WHO) acute class 1 pesticides, regardless of regulatory approval status. Additionally, since 2016, we have committed to only selling products with active ingredients that have a registration for use in at least one OECD country or, for new active ingredients, have a complete OECD safety data package.
We work to continuously incorporate new scientific knowledge into our risk assessments. All new products are evaluated against our latest Bayer safety standards, leading to the constant improvement of our product portfolio. For our assessment, we apply criteria that reflect the standards of reference authorities who represent different agronomic realities and whose programs for regulating pesticides are generally well developed. These include the regulatory authorities in the US, Canada, Brazil, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China.
We will continue to enhance this approach. We will at the same time constantly review our current portfolio and make timely decisions wherever needed.
We continue our efforts relating to the safe and sustainable use of pesticides and increase our support for training farmers to comply with label requirements and best management practices.
Ensuring a pesticide’s safety starts early in its development, is pursued throughout the government registration process, and continues years after it enters the market. Our products are safe when used according to label instructions. This requires clear labels that can be easily understood and the training of farmers to comply with the label and apply best management practices.
In compliance with FAO’s Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management, Bayer trained more than one million farmers around the world in 2019, focusing on training activities in countries where there are no statutory protection requirements or certification for users regarding the safe handling of crop protection products. Bayer also organizes safety training for its own employees and contract workers from outside companies, in particular for sales force employees.
Regarding label language, we follow the FAO Guidelines on Good Labelling Practice for Pesticides and the globally harmonized system (GHS) for the classification and labelling of chemicals to compile global label references for our products. In countries in transition, our local regulatory colleagues use these references to advocate for the GHS system and achieve label improvements. Moreover, we evaluate local use scenarios to ensure products are only placed on the market when the required personal protective equipment has proven suitable for the country. At the same time, we work with industry, governments and distributors to make personal protective equipment increasingly available to farmers.
Bayer continuously monitors the use of its pesticides in all markets and conditions in order to guide decisions on more sustainable product ideas, label changes, or enhanced training and product stewardship measures to support farmers in the safe use of our products. In addition, new advancements in formulation and application technology can help reduce operator exposure and environmental impact. We foster the professional application of pesticides in areas where the use of adequate protective equipment is not common practice. In Asia, for example, where smallholder farmers have historically relied on backpack sprayers, we collaborate with drone technology providers to make pesticide application more precise and safer for smallholder farmers and the environment. In Africa we support the CropLife Africa Middle East concept of Spray Service Providers (SSPs) who are trained and certified for applying crop protection products safely. The SSP concept has been successfully introduced in 14 African countries so far, with more than 12,000 SSPs.
The continuous review and evaluation of our current commercial portfolio against relevant social, environmental and economic parameters help us to identify areas that need attention and develop action plans to encourage the development of new innovative and more sustainable solutions. We work with regulators and other stakeholders to ensure effective and predictive science- and risk-based regulatory systems that enable this innovation.
We are convinced that an innovative and well-filled toolbox for farmers – including crop protection products – is essential for increasing the sustainability of farming. Thanks to such tools, farmers are able to reduce the environmental impact, earn a decent income and contribute to local economies while providing society with affordable, high quality and safe farm products, spare land and resources.
Bayer is investing €2.3 billion annually in innovative farming solutions. With approximately 7,800 R&D employees in more than 50 countries, we aim to provide new technologies to farmers all over the world.
The continuous review and evaluation of our current commercial portfolio against relevant social, environmental and economic parameters help us to identify areas that need attention and develop action plans to encourage the development of new, innovative solutions that can contribute to sustainable farming. These action plans may include research projects, reformulations or replacing one product with an alternative product.
Bayer has also committed to collaborating with farmers to reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture. Bayer aims to reduce the field greenhouse gas emissions – per kilogram of crops produced in major agricultural markets – and the environmental impact of crop protection by 30 percent by 2030 in each case. To this end, Bayer will help farmers apply more sustainable practices, such as reducing tillage to help sequester carbon in the soil and ensuring the more precise use of crop protection and fertilizer through product innovation and digital tools.
To enable innovation and bring farmers the tools they need to farm sustainably, we continue to work with regulators and other stakeholders on predictable and effective science- and risk-based safety assessments, and we will use our safety standards to substantiate these discussions. In countries where safety standards are still in development, we engage with relevant stakeholders to support the setting up of effective safety assessments.
We aim to be more open and transparent about our safety standards and how we fulfill our commitment to applying them consistently. This is how we want to contribute to the open dialog necessary to maintaining and increasing trust in safety data, the regulatory systems that evaluate them, and the approval of crop protection products.
Over the past few years, we have intensified the dialog with critical stakeholders, and it is our shared objective to make crop protection safer for farm workers and consumers and to reduce adverse effects on the environment. By enabling access to our safety studies in the context of our Transparency program, we embarked on a path to increase societal and public understanding of the science of evaluating risk. We will follow and intensify this path when it comes to our safety standards. We believe this is necessary in times where the perception of safety is disconnected from the reality of the high level of safety we enjoy today, where an idealized view of nature undermines trust in innovation and public institutions, and where there is a growing divide between farmers and consumers.
With transparency and a willingness to engage in continually evolving safety standards, we want to help build trust in the regulatory system for the approval of pesticides. We have initiated a process to make our safety standards transparent and available to authorities around the world. On this basis, we will seek open dialog with all stakeholders involved and encourage others to join us in this effort. We expect that with openness in the debate we can increase trust and realize a high level of safety while at the same time providing farmers with the tools they need.
With these commitments, we continue to build on international standards as laid out in the pesticide Code of Conduct of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and support the work of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to improve and harmonize testing and risk assessment methodologies as well as pesticide registration processes across countries and regions.