News broke in May when French media outlet “Le Monde” reported that they had access to a document drawn up at the end of 2016 by a lobbying firm for Monsanto.
Le Monde writes:
“Two hundred names. Political leaders and officials, journalists, leaders of professional organizations and public organizations, and even scientists. Line after line, their identities and opinions on glyphosate, pesticides or GMOs are ginned in two carefully-tabulated tables.
This file, which Le Monde and France 2 obtained, comes from a leak of a major lobbying and public relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard, mandated by Monsanto to assist in its defense of glyphosate.
The penal code prohibits the constitution of any personal database “revealing the political and philosophical opinions of a person without his consent”: the question of the legality of this file is therefore clearly problematic.“
Bayer responded shortly after by acknowledging its Monsanto unit, which was being investigated by French prosecutors for compiling the files, likely did the same across Europe, suggesting a potentially wider problem.
French prosecutors had opened an inquiry on the strength of Le Monde’s complaint filed alleging that Monsanto had kept a file of 200 names, including journalists and lawmakers in hopes of influencing positions on pesticides.
Bayer acknowledged the existence of the files, saying it does not believe any laws were broken but that it will ask an external law firm to investigate.
“It’s safe to say that other countries in Europe were affected by lists … I assume that all EU member states could potentially be affected,” Matthias Berninger, Bayer’s head of public affairs and sustainability, told journalists on Monday.
Bayer further disclosed that FleishmanHillard, an outside public relations firm hired by Monsanto before Bayer acquired the fertilizer maker, had drawn up lists of “stakeholders in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and United Kingdom” according to a statement released by the company . It described the stakeholders as “journalists, politicians and other interest groups” who had a position on pesticides.
Bayer is now saying that people on the French and German “watch lists” had been notified they had been monitored by FleishmanHillard. “By the end of last week, everyone on the German and French lists had been notified. This process will soon be completed in the remaining countries,” Bayer said in a statement. The list currently is comprised of 600 people.