January 28 2002

GM protesters blockade Bayer on day of Wall Street launch

Anti-genetic modification (GM) protesters have blockaded the UK headquarters of German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer on the day the company floats on the New York Stock Exchange. Bayer are being targeted for their ongoing takeover of Aventis CropScience, the company behind most of the UK's controversial GM crop trials. The activists accuse crop science companies of ignoring public concern about GM crops and using their size and power to manipulate governments and farmers.

Around 60 protesters blocked entrances to the carparks at Bayer's Newbury headquarters using a scaffold tripod and a human chain of people padlocked together, and hung banners outside the building to highlight Bayer´s recently acquired status of Europe's biggest GM research company.
After a blockade of the site lasting six hours, activists left peacefully, of their own accord, without arrest and having made their point.

The Wall Street launch is important for Bayer as the company is attempting to raise capital to fund the Aventis CropScience takeover and its internal restructuring. The launch had to be delayed from last year after Bayer's share price plummeted following revelations that one of its core products, the anti-cholesterol drug Baycol, had been linked to almost 100 deaths.

David Locke, one of the protesters, said, 'Bayer has a long history of neglecting public safety in order to safeguard its profits. Given the fears over the possible danger of GM crops, is this a company you want to trust to provide your food?' The majority of crop trials in the UK this year will be run by Bayer. The inconvenience caused to the company displayed the concerns of people around the world who believe that GM food is neither needed nor wanted. In addition to genetics, Bayer have a number of questionable activities in the chemical and pharmaceutical sectors.