Environment Agency pension funds are invested in companies that make pesticides banned in the UK and Europe due to the harm they cause to bee populations
EXCERPT: Companies the EA has direct investments in include German multinational Bayer, a manufacturer of neonicotinoids, which are banned in the UK and Europe due to the harm they cause to bee populations. Bayer is also the manufacturer of RoundUp, the branded herbicide made with glyphosate which is not banned in the UK but is increasingly controversial to use.
Environment Agency pension fund invested in manufacturers of toxic weedkillers
By Madeleine Cuff, Nicole Pihan, Jan Goodey
iNews, Apr 4, 2021
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* Environment Agency pension funds are invested in companies that make pesticides banned in the UK and Europe due to the harm they cause to bee populations.
The Environment Agency, the body charged with protecting the English countryside from pollution, has millions of pounds invested in agrochemical giants that make toxic chemicals including banned pesticides.
The investments, made via its pension fund, total at least £2.35m as of the last financial year, according to analysis of pension fund data carried out by i.
Companies the EA has direct investments in include German multinational Bayer, a manufacturer of neonicotinoids, which are banned in the UK and Europe due to the harm they cause to bee populations. Bayer is also the manufacturer of RoundUp, the branded herbicide made with glyphosate which is not banned in the UK but is increasingly controversial to use.
The EA fund also holds investment in Corteva, a major US producer of agricultural chemicals. In March 2019 a Humane Society investigation revealed fungicides developed by Corteva were being tested on beagle dogs. Corteva said the tests were required by the Brazilian authorities, and were stopped as soon as authorities waived the requirement.
Meanwhile, more than £1.56m is invested in Dow Chemical, Dow, and DuPont, which until 2019 were one conglomerate known as DowDuPont. These firms are embroiled in multiple environmental law suits over their use of PFAS, a group of chemicals known as ‘forever chemicals’ because they hardly degrade in the natural environment, leading to ever-increasing pollution levels.
Earlier this month the UK government announced it would investigate the threat PFAS pose to public health, with the Environment Agency set to play a key role in the investigation.
The revelations have sparked concerns that the investments could amount to a conflict of interest for the Environment Agency. The body is in charge of monitoring chemical pollution in England, and is expected to levy fines against companies or individuals causing significant harm to the environment.
Nick Mole, policy officer at the Pesticide Action Network, told i: “At best there is a distinct double standard and at worst a serious conflict of interest.”
“The main purpose of the EA is to protect the environment with a key focus on stopping pollution,” he continued. “For them to be invested in companies that produce some of the most pernicious environmental pollutants is simply outrageous. PAN UK is calling on the EA to divest its pension portfolios of all connections to the pesticide industry.”
Greenpeace said it “would be wise” for the Environment Agency to move its investments. “Intensive agriculture and the use of pesticides is widely acknowledged as being a significant contributor to nature’s decline, so it is surprising and disappointing to find manufacturers of these chemicals on the list of those in whom Environment Agency is investing,” the charity’s policy director Dr Doug Parr told i.
The widespread use of pesticides has been found to cause harm to a wide range of insect life, from honey bees to dung beetles. Meanwhile, some PFAS have been found to be toxic to human health, and have been banned under the Stockholm Convention.
The Environment Agency confirmed to i the holdings were accurate as of March 2020. But it stressed they only represent a tiny fraction of its total pension portfolio.
“The holdings in these companies equates to 0.07 per cent of our total portfolio, with the choice of individual stocks undertaken by our asset managers,” a spokesperson said. “All but one of these investments are also in our MSCI World Low Carbon portfolio, which tilts towards supporting businesses committed to reducing their carbon footprint.”
It also said it also holds direct investments in firms targeted for their sustainability, including Apeel, a firm which manufacturers non-toxic chemical coatings to extend the freshness of fruit and vegetables.
“We have an excellent track record of investing in assets which deliver for our natural environment, wider society and employees – with the United Nations recognising us as a global leader in responsible investment,” the spokesperson added.