Monsanto Fined For Illegally Keeping Tabs on Politicians, Media
(Bloomberg) -- Bayer AG’s Monsanto was fined 400,000 euros ($473,000) for violating French data protection rules by keeping tabs on more than 200 people, including politicians and journalists it was looking for help to lobby in its favor in European debates on pesticides and genetically-modified organisms.
Monsanto stored personal data of each person on its list and ranked them according to their credibility and ability to influence public debate over controversial decisions, without informing them, French privacy regulator CNIL said on Wednesday. This included measures such as the controversy over the renewal of European authorization of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s weedkiller Roundup.
Bayer AG hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP in 2019 to investigate the Monsanto tracking project that first came to light in France and spread to a half-dozen other European countries. Outrage over the revelations in the French media added to the the challenges Bayer inherited from Monsanto when it bought the U.S. agricultural chemical maker in 2018.
Monsanto had hired PR firm FleishmanHillard to help defend the company’s interests in the European debate on the use of glyphosate, which in 2016 led to the creation of the surveillance file, CNIL said. The use of the lists, called “French Monsanto stakeholders database -- cultivating trust,” and the collection of personal data and mapping key personalities in this way continued until 2019, according to the regulator.
Monsanto continued monitoring the journalists and politicians for several years and stopped “purely and only after several media organizations revealed the existence of the contested file,” CNIL said.
The French regulator concluded that Monsanto didn’t engage in any illegal lobbying, a spokesman for Bayer said.
“CNIL did not find any undue influence of regulatory processes, any personnel data which was illegally compiled and processed or any other any illegal lobbying activities,” he said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.