07:08 GMT14 July 2020
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    Bayer has hired law firm Sidley Austin to investigate the lists and determine whether they extend to other countries - individuals named will also be contacted and apprised of what data was collected on them no later than 31st May.

    German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer has announced controversial US seeds and pesticides maker Monsanto, which it bought last year, maintained lists of key pro- or anti-pesticide voices in at least seven European Union member states.

    PR agency FleishmanHillard "drew up lists of stakeholders in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain and United Kingdom, as well as regarding stakeholders related to EU institutions" on behalf of the company, Bayer said in a statement. The lists are primarily comprised of journalists, politicians and members of key interest groups.

    The group promised transparency over the lists earlier in May, after it was revealed in France files on prominent backers and opponents of pesticides and genetically modified crops were compiled at Monsanto's behest. AFP has filed a complaint with French regulatory body Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertes because some of its journalists were listed. 

    Bayer's takeover of Monsanto for US$63 billion was one of the largest in German corporate history, but their new possession has proven to be a massive millstone — on top of the surveillance issues, the group faces over 13,000 lawsuits from plaintiffs alleging their illnesses, including many cancers, were caused by flagship Monsanto weedkiller Roundup, due to chemical glyphosate. Three juries have so far ordered Monsanto to pay sufferers massive fines, with the latest award for US$2 billion to a couple in California.

    Bayer is appealing the cases and stands by its position that regulatory authorities around the world consider glyphosate-based herbicides safe when used as directed.

    History of Infiltration

    In a sense, Monsanto's surveillance of pro- and anti-pesticide campaigners isn't particularly surprising. In 2010, investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill revealed Monsanto had employed Total Intelligence, a shell company created by highly controversial private mercenary firm Blackwater, to to collect intelligence on activists rallying against GMO crops and other Monsanto activities, among other services.

    Monsanto claims it hired the firm to collect publicly available information on groups and individuals that could pose a potential risk to company personnel or operations around the world. However, documents seen by Scahill indicate the pesticide giant was in fact keen for Blackwater operatives to infiltrate anti-Monsanto organisations. 


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    spying on activists, corporate espionage, activism, spying, pesticides, Blackwater, Monsanto, Europe
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