Bayer Science, a global biotech company, values the importance of children. Now their subsidiary Currenta is gifting a specially produced hidden object book titled Max and Marie Visit the Chemical Industry.
Is this a blatant strategy on the minds of the young?
Currenta commissioned an illustrator to portray the chemical company as a cheerful place with crane drivers, visitors from all over the world, clowns, and colorful balloons. They’ve been distributing the book to schools located near the chempark sites in Leverkusen, Dormagen, and Krefeld-Uerdingen, Germany. For example, they gave the book to kindergartners at Christmas. Additionally, in the past years, Currenta has organized projects for elementary schools near the vicinity of Bayer’s sites.
“It is a scandal that Currenta and Bayer are invading the sheltered kindergarten environment,” says Philipp Mimkes from the Coalition against Bayer Dangers. “Young children cannot understand the risks of chemical factories, and are defenseless against corporate propaganda. We’re demanding an effective ban on all forms of advertising in educational establishments.”
Bayer, as mentioned, has specifically targeted children in the past. For instance, they operate a mobile chemistry laboratory “to make the subject more appealing” to young people. Bayer also offers training days for teachers and publication materials free of charge. These promotions cover controversial subjects such as bee mortality and genetic engineering. For instance, they released a children’s book titled Toby and the Bees to spread misinformation with regard to why bees are dying.
In this children’s book, the friendly neighborhood beekeeper tells “Toby” that the bees are getting sick, but “not to worry” — it’s just a problem with mites, he says. There’s no mention of systemic pesticides tied to the global bee die-off.
At present there have been numerous studies revealing that neonicotinoids attack a bee’s nervous system. Furthermore, low levels of exposure have been shown to disrupt foraging abilities, navigation, learning, communication, memory, and suppress the immune systems of bees; making them more vulnerable to disease and pests.
In this approach, Bayer seeks to influence the broadest and most easily impressionable section of society. Thimo Schmitt-Lord from the Bayer Science & Education Foundation, freely admits that Bayer is not driven by altruistic motives. “I have to admit that our support for schools is not entirely altruistic. We view it as a long-term investment.”
The Coalition has introduced a counter-motion to the upcoming Bayer shareholder meeting.
Norbert Hocke, a member of the board of the German Education Union (GEW) also criticized Bayer’s marketing.
“This book does not belong in a kindergarten class. It is high time we had regulations for dealing with advertising. Especially in light of current results of brain research. The frequent repetition of company logos stays in their heads for a lifetime. Later on, we wonder why and complain that children are so focused on brands.”
Across Germany, educational establishments are increasingly being used for opinion-making. Service providers like the Deutsche Schulmarketing Agentur, an agency which by its own admission “aims to align the economic interests of commercial companies with educational establishments,” shamelessly promotes the commercialization of teaching content. Values such as independent judgements or the ability to think critically are thus being undermined and invalidated in our next generation of critical thinkers.