In March 2015, an attempt by German multinational chemical company Bayer to sue Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND)
over claims its pesticide thiacloprid harms bees was dismissed by a Dusseldorf judge, who said the NGO had a right to voice these concerns. The campaigning group was made subject to a temporary restraining order last December after it spoke out about ‘the suspicion of a deliberate deception of the consumer’ because the packaging of the company’s ‘Calypso‘ and ‘Lizetan’ pesticides continued to display German ‘bee friendly’ logos despite concerns about the effects of a key ingredient.
Thiacloprid, a neonicotinoid is used in the EU by farmers of oil seed rape and apples, and by domestic gardeners, despite warnings by Neurobiologist Professor Randolf Menzel of the University of Berlin that it can impair the important pollinators’ learning and navigational abilities, preventing them from returning to their hives, and impairs their immune response, making them more likely to die from common diseases.
Conservation experts IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) warn that 9.2% of all European wild bee species are facing extinction, with 5.2% more likely to be threatened in the near future and more than half the species of unknown status.
While climate change and habitat loss are undoubtedly factors, the use of neonicotinoids is a direct threat to bees that could be easily addressed.
A temporary EU ban was imposed on three other neonicotinoid pesticides in 2013 after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) judged them a ‘high, acute risk’ to honey bees, but thiacloprid was not included. While Friends of the Earth is now asking the European Commission to suspend all uses of thiacloprid while its safety is more closely scrutinised, Bayer has teamed up with pesticide specialists Syngenta to try to overturn the ban on the others. BUND’s pesticide expert Tomas Brückmann called the recent ruling “a victory for the bees and freedom”.
Thiacloprid is an ingredient of Bayer’s Provado Ultimate Bug Killer range, Multirose Bug Killer and Baby Bio House Plant Insecticide.
Unlike most pesticides, which remain on the surface of foliage, neonicotinoids are neuro-active, systemic insecticides which are taken up by the plant and transported to all the tissues, including pollen and nectar. Last year the 29 independent scientists on a Global Taskforce on Systemic Pesticides concluded that the widespread use of neonicotinoids is also polluting water and soil and affecting earthworms and birds.
Neonicotinides are still widely used globally as broad-spectrum pesticides, and in the US and Canada, Friends of the Earth is seeking a ban on neonics generally, after they were found in nearly half the plants purchased in garden centres for its 2014 study, with 40% showing evidence of contamination by more than one type. The Lowe’s chain recently joined BJ’s Wholesale Club
in a voluntary phasing out of all neonics from its products. But while Representatives John Conyers (D, Mich.) and Earl Blumenauer (D, Ore.) introduced a “Save America’s Pollinators Bill” in 2013, calling for a temporary ban similar to the EU’s, but the EPA is currently delaying taking action until 2018.
You can email congress to support their bill from here: http://action.foe.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=13977
If you’re in the EU, email the Pesticides Commissioner asking him to strengthen the neonic ban and widen it to include thiacloprid at: www.foe.co.uk/act/tell-bayer-buzz
Don’t forget the Great British Bee Count will be back from 1-31 May 2015 !