The Ecologist
by Oliver Tickell

Source: Irene Florez

Chemical giant Bayer has failed in its attempt to sue Friends of the Earth Germany over its claims that its pesticide Thiacloprid harms bees. Now pressure is growing on the EU to add the neonicotinoid to the three already banned.

German chemical giant Bayer has failed in its attempt to sue Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) over its claims that two of its pesticide formulations harm bees.

A judge in Dusseldorf has ruled that BUND had a right to voice its concerns about Bayer’s ‘Calypso‘ and ‘Lizetan’ pesticide formulations, sold to consumers as “not toxic to bees”. Both contain the neonicotinoid Thiacloprid which is associated with harm to bees.

“We are delighted with this achievement”, said BUND’s pesticide expert Tomas Brückmann.“This is a victory for the bees and freedom.”

Just before last Christmas Bayer took out a restraining order against BUND at the District Court in Dusseldorf, preventing the group from publishing its view that the product was harmful to bees, under threat of a €250,000 fine or a detention of up to two years. Now that order has been overturned.

A spokesman for Bayer said the company “regrets the decision”, adding that the products“had officially been classified as ‘not harmful for bees’ and were labeled as such in accordance with binding legal regulations” after thorough testing both by Bayer and Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL)

Scientific evidence shows Thiaclopid harms bees

But according to BUND, there is “scientific evidence of impaired learning ability” to bees from Thiacloprid, as well as to “the ability to communicate and pollen foraging activity of bees”.

It also believes that by printing a “not toxic to bees” logo on products containing Thiacloprid, following the emergence of contrary evidence, there arose “the suspicion of a deliberate deception of the consumer by Bayer.”

A scientific paper by Professor Randolf Menzel used in evidence by BUND, says: “Sublethal doses of neonicotinoids interfere selectively with the homing flight component based on this cognitive map memory, reducing the probability of successful returns to the hive. Chronic exposure to the neonicotinoid Thiacloprid reduces the attractiveness of a feeding site and the rate of recruitment.”

Following its legal defeat, says Brückmann, Bayer Crop Sciences should immediately withdraw the offending bee-hazardous pesticides from the market.

“We call on all markets to stop the sale of Thiacloprid pesticides”, he continued. “In addition, the EU should withdraw the authorization of the Thiacloprid and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) withdraw product approvals for all Thiacloprid products.”

A paper published in the Journal PLOS ONE confirms that Thiacloprid, along with the neonicotinoids Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, affects bees’ navigational ability and behaviour, making it harder for them to find their way back to their hives.

It also shows that exposure to Thiacloprid can increase the likelihood of honeybees dying if they are already infected with diseases. A further study found that the toxicity of Thiacloprid to honey bees is increased over 1,000 fold when mixed with fungicides.

These bee-toxic pesticides must also be banned in the UK!

Back in London, Friends of the Earth bees campaigner Dave Timms said: “Bayer has been shown up as a corporate bully, trying to silence campaigners who are standing up for bees. 

“The ruling is a victory for Friends of the Earth Germany, freedom of speech and for the many thousands of people who have taken action to protect bees across Europe. 

Thiacloprid is used on various crops in the UK including oil seed rape (canola) and apples, and it is sold direct to the public in garden bug-killing products. Friends of the Earth is now asking the European Commission to take a precautionary approach by suspending all uses of Thiacloprid and to review its safety.

As in Germany, Bayer’s Thiacloprid products sold in the UK are described as “Bee Safe” or having “no risk to bees”. These include Calypso and Biscaya.

“Now we want to see action from the European Commission to ensure that any pesticides with evidence of harm to bees are taken off our shelves and out of our fields for good”, said Timms. In addition FoE will be contacting retailers asking them to stop selling products containing Thiacloprid.

In 2013 three other neonicotinoid pesticides (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin) were subject to a temporary ban in the EU. This followed a review of evidence by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which found they each posed a “high acute risk” to honey bees.

“Although Thiacloprid is not subject to that ban there is evidence that it can make bees more likely to die from common diseases and can impair their navigational abilities, making it harder for them to return to their hives”, Timms added.

Not just bees – the entire food chain is at risk!

Last year a group of 29 independent scientists on the Global Taskforce on Systemic Pesticides concluded that the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides is affecting earthworms, birds and bees and the quality of water and soils.

They examined over 1,000 peer reviewed papers before reaching this conclusion. They also found that the compounds which neonicotinoids break down into are often as, or more, toxic than the active ingredients.

In another legal action, Bayer and Sygenta are suing the European Commission to lift its temporary ban on the three neonicotinoids. “The Commission must stand form against these bully-buy tactics”, said Timms.

And Bayer is not ruling out an appeal against BUND’s legal victory. A spokesman said:“The court considered the allegations of BUND to be a free expression of opinion, which deserved special protection. Bayer CropScience will wait for the written grounds for the judgment and subsequently consider potential further steps.”

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