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BAYER Neonicotinoid Pesticides cause Mass Death of Bees

March 6, 2009 - Bayer managers have known the risks of a pesticide class called neonicotinoids for the environment since the beginning of the 90ies. The company downplayed the risks, submitted deficient studies to authorities and accepted the loss of honey bees in many parts of the world. After huge bee deaths in Germany last year the Coalition against Bayer Dangers brought a charge against Bayer for knowingly endangering the environment.
Neonicotinoid Pesticides cause Mass Death of Bees


Bayer CropScience is the world leader in agrochemicals. Bayer´s annual pesticide sales amount to €5.8 billion (£4.6bn). Since 1991 Bayer has been producing the insecticide imidacloprid which belongs to the substance class of neonicotinoids. Imidacloprid is one of the most used insecticides in the world for field and horticultural crops. It is often used as seed-dressing, especially for maize, sunflower, and rape. The substance is Bayer´s best-selling pesticide.
Since patent protection for imidacloprid ran off in most countries, Bayer brought a similarly working successor product on the market in 2003. Clothianidin sales last year amounted to 223 million euros. The substance is mainly used for seed coating of maize and rape.
The beginning of the marketing of neonicotinoids coincided with the occurrence of large bee deaths, first in France, later on also in Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Poland, England, Slovenia, Greece, Belgium, Canada, the USA and Brazil.
The bee dangers of imidacloprid and clothianidin are indisputable. In the data sheets published by the German Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) it is noted: "The substance is classified as dangerous for bees (B1). It may not be applied on flowering plants; this applies also to weeds". According to the US Environmental Protection Agency imidacloprid and clothianidin are "highly toxic" to honeybees.
Because of their high persistence neonicotinoids can remain in the ground for several years. For clothianidin half-lives of up to five years were observed. Therefore even untreated plants, on whose fields imidacloprid or clothianidin was applied in previous years, can take up the substance over the roots and can contain a concentration dangerous for bees.


Banned in France

In France imidacloprid has been banned as a seed dressing for sunflowers since 1999, after a third of French honeybees died following its widespread use. Five years later it was also banned as a sweetcorn treatment in France. Clothianidin was never approved in France.
In 2003 the Comité Scientifique et Technique, convened by the French government, declared that the treatment of seeds with imidacloprid leads to significant risks for bees. The 108-page report that was made by order of the French agricultural ministry by the universities of Caen and Metz and by the Institut Pasteur states: "The results of the examination on the risks of the seeds-treatment Gaucho (imidacloprid) are alarming. The treatment of seeds by Gaucho is a significant risk to bees in several stages of life. (... ) Concerning the treatment of maize-seeds by Gaucho, the results are as alarming as with sunflowers. The consumption of contaminated pollen can lead to an increased mortality of care-taking-bees, which can explain the persisting bee-deaths even after the ban of the treatment on sunflowers".
The studies also showed that even very small dosages, few parts per billion, could impair honeybees´ learning performance. Residues of imidacloprid in sunflower nectar and pollen were found at potentially hazardous levels that "can affect honeybees´ learning abilities" and impair their memory. When individual bees were exposed to sublethal doses their foraging activity decreased and they became disorientated, which researchers concluded "can temporarily damage the entire colony".


Approval of Clothianidin

Clothianidin is the successor to imidacloprid and was brought on the American market in 2003 and the German market in 2006.
The EPA fact sheet states: "Clothianidin is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute basis (LD50>0.0439 μg/bee). It has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other non-target pollinators through the translocation of clothianidin resides in nectar and pollen. In honey bees, the affects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects on the queen". The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency PMRA even states that "Clothianidin was determined to be highly toxic to the honey bee, Apis mellifera, on an acute oral basis with a LD50 of 0.00368 μg/bee" which is 1/10 of the quantity the US EPA states.
German beekeepers warned of clothianidin´s risks already in 2006. In a letter to German authorities Manfred Hederer, chairman of the German beekeepers federation DBIB, criticized that clothianidin´s harmlessness maintained by Bayer is based on one-sided studies. This is confirmed by the Canadian PMRA which judges on Bayer´s application: "All of the field/semi-field studies, however, were found to be deficient in design and conduct of the studies and were, therefore, considered as supplemental information only. Clothianidin may pose a risk to honey bees and other pollinators, if exposure occurs via pollen and nectar of crop plants grown from treated seeds ".


Bee deaths in southern Germany

In May 2008 in southern Germany beekeepers reported that two thirds of their bees died, some beekeepers lost all their hives. Wild living insects decreased likewise. The loss for the affected beekeepers is on average about 17.000 euros.
Tests on dead bees showed that 99% of those examined had a build-up of clothianidin. The chemical had been applied to the seeds of sweetcorn planted along the Rhine river. The Julius Kuehn Institut, a federal research institute dealing with agricultural issues, stated that "Clothianidin is clearly responsible for the death of the bees in parts of Baden-Wuerttemberg". The German Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) immediately ordered the suspension of the approval for both imidacloprid and clothianidin; Bayer.
Beekeepers and agricultural officials in Italy, France, Slovenia and Holland noticed similar phenomena in their fields when planting began a few weeks ago. Slovenian and Italian authorities also forbade clothianidin.
Environmental groups across Europe are demanding a total ban of imidacloprid and clothianidin. The Coalition against Bayer Dangers, based in Germany, brought a charge against Werner Wenning, chairman of the Bayer Board of Management. Bayer is accused of marketing dangerous pesticides and thereby accepting the mass death of bees all over the world. The Coalition introduced the charge in cooperation with German beekeepers who lost their hives after the poisoning last year.

more information:
PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW; August 28, 2008
EPA sued after allegations Bayer pesticide killing honeybees
 http://www.cbgnetwork.org/2605.html

Press Release, August 25, 2008
Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)
Pesticides cause mass death of bees
Germany: Charge against Bayer´s Board of Management
 http://www.cbgnetwork.org/2596.html

Aug 26, 2008, The News & Observer (Raleigh/USA)
Bayer on defensive in bee deaths
German authorities look into allegation that RTP maker's pesticide harms environment
 http://www.cbgnetwork.org/2599.html


The Guardian, May 23 2008
Pesticides: Germany bans chemicals linked to honeybee devastation
 http://www.cbgnetwork.org/2518.html
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/may/23/wildlife.endangeredspecies
=> Sierra Club urges EPA to suspend nicotinyl insecticides:  http://www.sierraclub.org/biotech/whatsnew/whatsnew_2008-07-30.asp
=> French Institutes Finds Imidaproclid Turning Up in Wide Range of Crops
=> 2003 report from the "Comité Scientifique et Technique de l'Etude Multifactorielle des Troubles des Abeilles"  http://agriculture.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/rapportfin.pdf

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