Open Letter

July 17, 2007

to Larry Selzer, President, The Conservation Fund

Dear Mr. Selzer,

We were informed of your cooperation with the chemical and pharmaceutical company, Bayer. Kathryn Brown, vice president of marketing and communications at the Conservation Fund was cited last week as being "pleased to partner with Bayer, the makers of ALEVE Liquid Gels, as this product can make it possible for more people with pain to get outside and get active."

We urge you to stop this cooperation immediately.

On your website you state that “setting aside America’s special places was not enough. To ensure their future protection, we would need to find sustainable paths for economic development and community growth.”

In our opinion your cooperation with Bayer harms these goals. Bayer sponsors more than 300 environmental and social projects all over the world. Some of these programmes may be useful, others not. What all of these partnerships have in common is that Bayer started them in order to “greenwash” their corporate image. The cooperation with environmental groups did not prevent Bayer from campaigning, directly or through its lobbyists, against most agreements on environmental issues, be it the Kyoto Protocol for the protection of the climate, the new EU laws on chemicals, the phasing out of CFCs or efforts to reduce the use of pesticides.

Bayer also produces a great number of highly dangerous substances such as insecticides, plasticisers, Bisphenol A and phosgene. Our group Coalition against BAYER Dangers, based in Germany, has been monitoring the company for 25 years. During this period we have documented hundreds of cases when Bayer´s products or factories have harmed people or the environment. For decades we have seen that Bayer only stopped the production of hazardous products when pressured to do so by the public. (For details please visit the English section of our website or read our article Bayer and the UN Global Compact).

In the case of Aleve the campaign wants to conceal the heavy criticism the drug is facing. In 2005 Bayer was required to stop all advertising for Aleve that carried the tagline "Prescription strength relief without a prescription." The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus had judged that "Bayer Healthcare's evidence was insufficient to provide a reasonable basis for its performance claim". Even worse: in 2004 the National Institutes of Health found that patients taking Aleve had a 50 percent greater incidence of cardiovascular events - heart attack or stroke - than patients taking a placebo. The FDA demanded clear warnings on Aleve packages.

In a cynical switch the campaign in which you are engaging also pretends to protect freedom of speech. Players of the online game Aleviator are “assisting to restore the flow of information online” and to “uncover a vast conspiracy by P.A.I.N. (People Against Internet Networking) to shut down critical Web sites used for social networking”.

Our group has experienced Bayer´s perception of free speech when the company forced us to remove a critical homepage from the Internet by threatening us with heavy court costs. We had registered the domain BayerWatch, similar to other group names such as MonsantoWatch, AOLwatch and Human Rights Watch. Bayer forced our group to cancel the domain and the related trademark by threatening us with a court case which would have led to costs well over 100,000 US$. We had no other choice but to concede by canceling the trademark and the homepage.

Bayer has been using partnerships with environmental groups to try to deflect criticism by watchdog groups or the media and to use the good image of partners, such as your organization, to present a corporate humanitarian image without a commitment to changing real-world behavior. Therefore it is a set-back for efforts to assure environmental protection if corporations such as Bayer are allowed to associate themselves with the Conservation Fund. We therefore ask you to publicly stop this partnership.

Awaiting your answer,

Philipp Mimkes
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)