Campaigners win case against Bayer over pesticide bee claims

By Joyeeta Basu contact

- Last updated on GMT

The organisation wants any pesticides with evidence of harm to bees taken off the shelves
The organisation wants any pesticides with evidence of harm to bees taken off the shelves

Related tags: European commission, European union

Friends of the Earth Germany has said it will step up its fight to protect bees after German chemical giant Bayer CropScience failed to sue it in court for claiming that a pesticide manufactured by the company could harm bees.

A judge in Dusseldorf said that the environmental group had a right to voice its opinion, even though it acknowledged Bayer's products had been officially classified as 'not harmful to bees'.

Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) pesticide campaigner Tomas Brueckmann said it was a victory for freedom of speech: “We now have the permission to say that thiacloprid could be harmful to bees. We were not allowed to say it earlier but we had good scientific research to back our claims​.”

The environment charity had voiced concerns about the impact of some of Bayer’s products on bees, including those containing the neonicotinoid thiacloprid.

Three other neonicotinoid pesticides​ were subject to a temporary ban in the EU from 2013 due to concerns that they may harm bees, although the European Food Safety Authority said there was a high degree of uncertainty about their potential role in bee colony collapse.

Although thiacloprid is not subject to that ban Brueckmann claims it could make bees more likely to die from common diseases as well as “disrupt the communication between bees and can impair their navigational abilities, making it harder for them to return to their hives​”.

We want to help bees and want to ban all neonicotinoid in the next few years​,” he said.

Bayer to consider ‘further steps’

Bayer CropScience said it “regrets the decision by the Duesseldorf Regional Court”.

Even though the court once again pointed out that the Bayer products had officially been classified as "not harmful for bees" and were labelled as such in accordance with binding legal regulations, the court considered the allegations of BUND to be a free expression of opinion, which deserved special protection.​” said a statement from the company.

It added, “Bayer CropScience will wait for the written grounds for the judgment and subsequently consider potential further steps.​”

A multi-level campaign

Brueckmann told FoodNavigator that the organisation's goal is to improve bee colonies which in turn would improve the food supply as bees play a crucial part in the food chain by pollinating many crops.

The charity will now step up its work on a national and a pan-European level, he said. In Germany, BUND will approach the Office for Consumer Protection and Food Security to stop the manufacturing of thiacloprid as well as encourage retailers to stop selling it. The organisation has said it will approach the European Commission (EC) to take a precautionary approach by suspending all use of thiacloprid and to review its safety.

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 Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) bees campaigner Dave Timms.

We will also contact retailers in the UK to voluntarily remove thiacloprid​,” he added.

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