Press Release, April 25, 2011
Coalition against Bayer Dangers (Germany)

BAYER Annual Shareholder Meeting in Cologne on April 29

Beekeepers to stage protests against Pesticides

Beekeepers from all over Germany have announced that they will protest against neonicotinoid pesticides on the occasion of the BAYER shareholder meeting on Friday. Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, manufactured by BAYER, are among the main factors responsible for bee deaths all over the world. Although these pesticides are already banned in several countries, the company refuses to halt their production. Food security is in danger because of reduced pollination.

The Coalition against BAYER Dangers introduced a countermotion to the meeting and demands that the Board of Management not be ratified, for knowingly endangering bee populations around the world. The Coalition has been drawing attention to the great danger to bees and wild insects posed by agrochemicals, ever since the 1990s.

Only recently the United Nations Environment Programme UNEP published a report on bee deaths and described the BAYER pesticides Poncho (clothianidin) and Gaucho (imidacloprid) as a risk to numerous animals. The study says: “Systemic insecticides such as those used as seed coatings, which migrate from the roots through the entire plant, all the way to the flowers, can potentially cause toxic chronic exposure to non-target pollinators. Various studies revealed the high toxicity of chemicals such as Imidacloprid, Clothianidin, Thiamethoxam and associated ingredients for animals such as cats, fish, rats, rabbits, birds and earthworms. Laboratory studies have shown that such chemicals can cause losses of sense of direction, impair memory and brain metabolism, and cause mortality.”

Due to their high level of persistence, neonicotinoids can remain in the soil for several years. Even untreated crops planted in fields where the substances were used in the preceding years can take up the toxins from the soil via their roots and contain concentrations that are dangerous to bees. The effects of clothianidin showed particularly dramatically in spring 2008: in Southern Germany the insecticide caused the largest number of bee deaths in past decades. The poisoning resulted from corn seed treatment which drifted onto neighboring fields. However, Poncho and Gaucho continue to be used in agriculture and gardening. In Germany, this led to around one quarter to one third of all bee populations being lost last year. Wild bees, butterflies and other useful insects disappeared in many regions at the same time.

Last autumn, an internal evaluation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached the public. It described the studies submitted by BAYER intended to confirm the harmlessness of clothianidin as inadequate. According to the EPA memorandum, the risk is particularly great for honey bees. As the preliminary marketing authorization valid to date in the United States is based in precisely these studies, U.S. environmental and beekeeping associations have demanded that the marketing authorization be withdrawn. 1.2 million signatures have been collected to underscore this demand.

Recent findings by toxicologist Dr. Henk Tennekes confirm the criticism. In his book "A disaster in the making", Tennekes proves that the long-term risks of neonicotinoids are much greater than previously assumed. Tennekes states: “The risks of the neonicotinoid insecticides imidacloprid and thiacloprid to arthropods in water and soil may be seriously underestimated. The acceptable limits are based mainly on short-term tests. If long-term studies were to be carried out, far lower concentrations may turn out to be hazardous. This explains why minute quantities of imidacloprid may induce bee decline in the long run.” Dr. Tennekes demands an immediate ban on the products.

A study entitled The puzzle of honey bee losses published last summer by Italian scientists likewise comes to the conclusion that the impact of pesticides on global bee deaths is underestimated and that the scientists financed by the chemical industry frequently deliberately ignore the risks.

Bee mortality has far-reaching consequences for global ecology and for the world’s staple foods. Bees play a crucial role in the pollination of numerous plants. Although BAYER has been informed about the causes for many years and protests have increased from year to year, the company refuses to take action for purely profit-related reasons, and attempts time and time again to distract attention from its responsibility. Sales of Gaucho and Ponch were approximately 800 million Euro in 2010. The Coalition against BAYER Dangers demands that sales of Gaucho and Poncho be halted due to the risk to bees.

Bee devastation: Campaign for total ban of neonicotinoid pesticides