Bayers Wants Human Pesticide Tests
UPdate Fall 2002

Bruce Turnbull was one of the 50 Scottish volunteers in a human pesticide test conducted by Bayers, the German drug and chemical giant, in 1998. Turnbull is now 51 and suffering ill health he believes is connected to the test. The subjects were given a single dose of azinphos-methyl (AM) and then observed for seven days. They have not been offered follow-up examinations to test for long-term effects of exposure to AM. What they were not told at the time was that the chemical, which they were given in minute doses, was a pesticide deemed 'highly hazardous' by the
World Health Organization. They were told the substance was a "drug", not a pesticide.

The tests have come under heavy criticism from the US Natural Resources Defense Council. A spokesperson for the council stated, "There is strong evidence that Bayer did not obtain fully informed consent because the subjects lacked knowledge and comprehension of the goals and risks." 

The key finding of the study -- that the pesticide test had "no effect" on humans -- is now Bayer's key weapon in its battle to raise the safety limit on the use of the pesticide by US farmers. The company is believed to be a central force behind efforts to persuade  the Environmental Protection Agency to reverse its long standing ban on accepting data from human studies. The ban has been in place as a result of the post WWII Nuremberg Code and various federal laws. 

Bayer's chief motive for pushing to end the ban is that it would loosen safety thresholds on pesticides. Bayer's efforts are also understood to be linked to its considerable interests in genetically modified crops. Bayers is now one of the world's largest producers of GM foods.