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Bayer bailout protester bailed as XR targets glyphosate use



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Standing up for bees. Picture: Kay Goodridge
Standing up for bees. Picture: Kay Goodridge

A Cambridge man appeared in court today (August 25) following a protest on Cambridge Science Park yesterday.

Christopher Court-Dobson, 31, pleaded not guilty at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court when charged with criminal damage.

The charge relates to a slogan being spray-painted on the Bayer Crop Science building when Extinction Rebellion (XR) East of England marched to the pesticide manufacturer’s Cambridge base to denounce the £600m government bailout received by the company.

The action was an escalation of XR East of England’s Breaking Free campaign, which addresses the lack of sustainability in food production.

“It was a great event,” said XR Cambridge campaigner Kay Goodridge. “There was a samba band, some great costumes, a die-in, good messaging, a bit of swarming [stopping traffic] which was unplanned. It happened when someone walked into the road with a banner. One of the drivers was absolutely lived, but we all know lots of people had a terrible time during lockdown.”

Extinction Rebellion East of England on Cambridge Science Park. Picture: Kay Goodridge
Extinction Rebellion East of England on Cambridge Science Park. Picture: Kay Goodridge

The campaigners have recently focused on Bayer’s RoundUp weed killer; its active ingredient glyphosate was labelled as “probably carcinogenic in humans” by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer in 2015. RoundUp was purchased by Bayer from Monsanto in 2018. While Bayer admits no liability or wrongdoing, it recently reached a $10.9bn settlement for 95,000 US cancer patients who claim their disease was caused by RoundUp.

Glyphosate is also used in other brands of weedkiller marketed for home use, as well as widely used in agriculture and urban weed killing. The glyphosate-based product has been subject to 125,000 lawsuits over its allegedly carcinogenic effects.

As well as the human risk, glyphosate has been shown to impact the development and immune system of bees, and could contribute to the failure and death of bee colonies.

With the global population of bees in decline, glyphosate is one of a number of chemicals widely used in agriculture that are suspected to be responsible. It is estimated that 35 per cent of crop production depends on animal pollinators such as bees: their decline could have catastrophic consequences for food production.

Red Rebels outside Bayer Crop Science. Picture: Kay Goodridge
Red Rebels outside Bayer Crop Science. Picture: Kay Goodridge

One member of XR East of England said: “It is appalling that our government is willing to give such enormous bailouts to environmentally devastating companies such Bayer. This disregard for the climate and ecological emergency demonstrates their prioritisation of profit over the health of their people and planet.

“The ecological emergency is driven by habitat destruction, unsustainable farming techniques and the overuse of chemicals in the production of our food. Here in the UK, and globally, bees are facing many threats, including habitat loss, climate change, toxic pesticides and disease. The interaction between these creates an unpredictable future for bees and other pollinators. Why bail out a company that is already morally bankrupt?”

Over the previous nine days, members of XR have protested sales of RoundUp in garden centres in Luton and Waveney Valley.

Spontaneous swarming at protest outside Bayer Crop Science. Picture: Kay Goodridge
Spontaneous swarming at protest outside Bayer Crop Science. Picture: Kay Goodridge

Bayer Crop Science was contacted for comment.

The protest comes shortly before Extinction Rebellion East of England begins four days of “rebelling across the region” over the August Bank Holiday weekend, leading into nationally-coordinated protests timed to coincide with the reopening of Parliament on September 1.

On Friday (August 28) there is an ‘Oily Handed March’ in Cambridge, starting at 2.30pm outside Senate House, ‘Shoes of the Missing’ on Saturday starts on King’s Parade at 11am, and ‘Ocean March - Protect What You Love’ takes place from 1-3pm on Bank Holiday Monday.

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