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12 March 2015 Chemical giant Bayer loses libel action over pesticide harm claims

Press release
Chemical giant Bayer loses libel action over pesticide harm claims

German chemical giant Bayer has failed in its attempt to sue Friends of the Earth Germany over its claims that thiacloprid, a pesticide manufactured by Bayer, harms bees.

Responding to yesterday’s ruling by a judge in Dusseldorf that the environmental group had a right to voice its concerns, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) 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. 

“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.”

Campaigners have serious concerns about the impact of some of Bayer’s products on bees, including those containing the neonicotinoid thiacloprid, which is used by farmers and is on sale to gardeners in the UK. 

Three other neonicotinoid pesticides were subject to a temporary ban in the EU from 2013 due to evidence that they harm 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.

Thiacloprid is used on crops in the UK such as oil seed rape and apples and it is sold 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. The environment charity will be contacting retailers in the UK asking them to stop selling products containing Thiacloprid.

Friends of the Earth is also urging the Commission to stand firm in the face of bullying tactics from Bayer which has a legal action with Syngenta against the EU’s existing temporary ban on three other neonicotinoids. These chemicals were restricted following a thorough and independent scientific review of their safety which found they each posed a “high acute risk” to honey bees.


Notes to editors
1.    Thiacloprid is a pesticide used to kill insects on a variety of crops in the UK including oilseed rape, and apples.  Bayer sells products containing thiacloprid and describes them as ‘Bee Safe’ or having ‘no risk to bees’. Bayer agricultural products containing thiacloprid include Calypso and Biscaya.  
2.    Thiacloprid is also used in garden bug-killing products found in garden centres and supermarkets in the UK.
3.    Thiacloprid is one of a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids, which work by interfering with insects’ nervous systems. Bees may be exposed to neonicotinoids via pollen, nectar and water.  
4.    Three neonicotinoid insecticides (imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and clothianidin) were restricted for use in the EU in 2013 following a review of evidence by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which found a ‘high acute risk’ to honey bees from these insecticides being used on crops attractive to bees. 
5.    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. 
6.    There is evidence that thiacloprid affects bees’ navigational ability and behaviour, making it harder for them to find their way back to their hives, and that exposure to thiacloprid can increase the likelihood of honeybees dying if they are already infected with diseasesAnother study found that the toxicity of thiacloprid to honey bees is increased over 1,000 fold when mixed with fungicides. 

If you're a journalist looking for press information please contact the Friends of the Earth media team on 020 7566 1649.

Published by Friends of the Earth Trust

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