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Pesticides and Politics

Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network
916-216-1082 (cell)

December 21, 2011

Pesticides and Politics

Public Interest Group Outlines Influence of the “Big 6” Pesticide Manufacturers on Laws & Elections

San Francisco, CA
– With the Iowa caucuses looming, Pesticide Action Network conducted a review of federal candidate contributions and direct lobbying by the world’s largest pesticide and biotechnology manufacturers in 2011. The findings cast new light on the reach of corporations, despite increased concerns from health professionals and farmers about the products they sell and market.  

“The reach of the world’s largest pesticide manufacturers is dramatic,” said Kristin Schafer, Senior Policy Analyst at Pesticide Action Network. “We know pesticide corporations lobby elected officials directly on a regular basis. This new research shows that they also contribute tremendous sums of money in a variety of ways, including contributions from senior executives, through political action committees, and through other industry trade groups.”  

The six largest pesticide corporations – Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow and DuPont – collectively known as the “Big 6,” actively lobby on behalf of pesticide products known to cause cancer, reproductive harm, developmental delays in children and water contamination.

The influence of the “Big 6” is pervasive in federal politics. The corporations spent over $15 million in direct lobbying to win over elected officials, and have contributed even more to candidates in numerous races across the country, including to many of those they have been actively lobbying while in office.

More details on the political spending and influence of the “Big 6:”

#1 Bayer. The corporation spent over $4.9 million in direct lobbying, with $20,000 from its Crop Science division, focusing on pesticide applications near waterways and antibiotics in animals. The corporation contributed to races across the country, with the largest contributions going to candidates in South Carolina, Wyoming, Utah and Pennsylvania. The employee PAC alone has spent over $225,000 on federal candidates in 2012 races. 

#2 Syngenta. The corporation spent $410,000 in direct lobbying in 2011, focusing on re-writing federal pesticide laws, promoting genetically modified seeds and crops, and stalling EPA’s review of the company’s atrazine product, a major water contaminant in the Midwest. The company has contributed to several federal candidates, with the largest contributions going to members in Oklahoma, Illinois, Minnesota and Georgia. The employee PAC contributed over $90,000 to candidates.

#3 Monsanto.The corporation spent over $5 million in direct federal lobbying on agricultural issues, including promoting federal approval of genetically engineered Roundup Ready Sugarbeets and Roundup Ready Alfalfa, both crops that rely on use of the company’s Roundup herbicide. Monsanto has already contributed to more than thirty federal candidates running in 2012, with the largest contributions going to candidates from the company’s home state of Missouri, but large contributions also going to members in Iowa and Georgia. It’s employee PAC has contributed over $215,000 to candidates to date.

#4 BASF.The corporation spent close to $1 million in direct federal lobbying on federal issues, including patents on genetically modified crops and legalizing pesticide applications near waterways. Its top contributions in the House and Senate races have gone to candidates in the Midwest and South, and the employee PAC contributed almost $125,000 to 2012 federal candidates.

#5 Dow AgroSciencies. Dow spent over $6.5 million in direct lobbying, with over $670,000 from the AgroSciences division, focused on pesticide applications near waterways and stalling EPA’s phaseout of company’s sulfuryl fluoride product, a pesticide that builds up as residue on food and poses threats to children. The employee PAC spent over $190,000, and AgroSciences PAC spent over $25,000 on federal candidates running in 2012.

#6 DuPont. The company spent over $3.6 million in direct lobbying on federal issues, focused on relaxing rules on competition in agriculture and rules on biotechnology in agriculture. Some of its top contributions went to candidates in Delaware and Iowa. The company’s PAC spent over $125,000 on candidates running in the 2012 elections.

Except for the most direct contributions to candidates and direct lobbying, corporate expenditures are difficult to track. The “Big 6” also make contributions through various other trade associations, PACs, and “astro turf” organizations. These include trade organizations like CropLife America, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, and The Fertilizer Institute. CropLife has already spent over $1.5 million in direct lobbying and contributed over $100,000 to candidates in 2012 elections. In addition, aggressive new multi-million dollar public relations campaigns attempt to frame use of the industry’s products in a positive light.

And a lot is at stake. The global agrichemical industry is valued at over $42 billion. Over 355,000 people die from pesticide poisoning each year, and hundreds of thousands more are made ill. In addition, these pesticide corporations have put countless livelihoods and jobs in jeopardy, including those of farmers and beekeepers.

The “Big 6” haven’t totally escaped scrutiny. Earlier this month, an international jury convicted the pesticide manufacturers of violations of human rights, including rights to health, life and livelihood. The jury urged governments to prosecute corporations for their criminal liability, and to prevent the corporations from harassing scientists and farmers.

And that verdict may be just the beginning. While the companies continue to lobby for the continued use of their products in DC, federal officials are under increased pressure from communities across the country and globe to take action to protect human health and the environment.

A summary of information on corporate consolidation and control in the pesticide and biotechnology industries can be found here.



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