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Bayer Earmarks Over $5 Billion for New Weed-Management Strategies in the Next Decade

It’s part of a Bayer transparency and sustainability initiative that aims to reduce the firm’s environmental impact globally 30% by 2030.

Farmers who are struggling with weeds during this rain-soaked spring will receive some long-term help from Bayer AG. 

The German firm is earmarking approximately 5 billion euros ($5.64 billion) for new weed-fighting tools in the next decade. It’s part of a transparency and sustainability initiative that Bayer AG announced this week to reduce its environmental impact globally by 30% by 2030. 

Bayer aims to do this through new technologies, scaling down crop-production volumes and more precise application. 

Bayer officials say it will help restore and retain biodiversity, combat climate change, and make the most efficient use of natural resources. “We’re making good progress on integrating the acquired agriculture business (Monsanto) and are now starting to implement a series of measures to drive transparency and sustainability across our business,” said Werner Baumann, Bayer AG’s chairman of the board of management, in a Bayer news release.

Given this soggy spring, Bayer is sensitive to the fact that U.S. farmers are still concentrating on planting and managing crops going in the ground, says Darren Wallis, a Bayer spokesman. Long term, though, the $5 billion-plus investment will enable Bayer to find new solutions for farmers battling weed resistance via integrated weed management, he says.

Some steps include:
• Discovering and developing new herbicide sites of action.
Bob Reiter, global head of research and development for Bayer Crop Science, has pointed out that Bayer is working on a new herbicide site of action for corn and soybeans that may debut in in the late 2020s
• New digital tools and precision application.  
• Potential new partnerships with other firms.

Wallis adds that bringing Monsanto into Bayer’s fold last year will also aid the development of weed-fighting tools to farmers. "From the very onset, we, said we could do more together faster than we could do when apart,” he says. 

Environmental Impact Quotient
Bayer will measure its environmental impact progress by comparing a measure called an environmental impact quotient (EIQ) against the current market standards. The EIQ was established in the 1990’s by Cornell University researchers. It relates product volume to toxicity. Bayer officials say it is a better measuring system than by produce volume only.

Officials for Bayer say it will improve the EIQ of its crop products by investing in:
• Seeds and trait innovation 
• Digital farming 
• Biological solutions
• Low-residue and reduced-rate application products 

Holding Firm on Glyphosate
Wallis says the initiative is not being driven by recent cancer lawsuits against Bayer relating to its glyphosate-based Roundup products. “We absolutely stand behind glyphosate and its safety profile and will continue to defend it in court,” says Wallis. “Regulatory bodies around the world have reviewed glyphosate and continue to confirm its safety and efficacy when used according to the label. Roundup and Xtend (glyphosate- and dicamba-tolerant weed-management systems) are important platforms and tools for growers. This (the initiative) is about (developing) even more tools and innovation that we will build on top of that.”

Bayer officials say the initiative also builds upon transparency efforts the firm started in 2017. That year, Bayer began releasing all of its safety-related crop science studies online. Since then, officials for Bayer say it has released hundreds of studies for nearly 30 compounds, including all 107 company-owned glyphosate studies. This initiative also includes a program inviting scientists, journalists, and NGO representatives to participate through its scientific preparation for the upcoming EU glyphosate reregistration process, which will start later this year. 

Bayer officials say the company will also continue to apply consistent safety standards to its products – even those that exceed local regulations. Since 2012, Bayer has stopped selling all products that were considered acute toxicity class 1 by the World Health Organization, regardless of whether they were allowed in a particular market. 

Bayer officials also announced the firm will only sell crop-protection products in markets that meet both the safety standards of that local market and the safety standards of a majority of countries with programs to regulate crop-protection products. 

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