GERMANY: Pesticides: Germany bans chemicals linked to honeybee devastation

Publisher Name: 
The Guardian (UK)

Germany has banned a family of pesticides that are blamed for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has suspended the registration for eight pesticide seed treatment products used in rapeseed oil and sweetcorn.

move follows reports from German beekeepers in the Baden-Württemberg
region that two thirds of their bees died earlier this month following
the application of a pesticide called clothianidin.

"It's a real
bee emergency," said Manfred Hederer, president of the German
Professional Beekeepers' Association. "50-60% of the bees have died on
average and some beekeepers have lost all their hives."

Tests on dead bees showed that 99% of those examined had a build-up of clothianidin. The chemical, produced by Bayer CropScience,
a subsidiary of the German chemical giant Bayer, is sold in Europe
under the trade name Poncho. It was applied to the seeds of sweetcorn
planted along the Rhine this spring. The seeds are treated in advance
of being planted or are sprayed while in the field.

The company
says an application error by the seed company which failed to use the
glue-like substance that sticks the pesticide to the seed, led to the
chemical getting into the air.

Bayer spokesman Dr Julian Little
told the BBC's Farming Today that misapplication is highly unusual. "It
is an extremely rare event and has not been seen anywhere else in
Europe," he said.

Clothianidin, like the other neonicotinoid
pesticides that have been temporarily suspended in Germany, is a
systemic chemical that works its way through a plant and attacks the
nervous system of any insect it comes into contact with. According to
the US Environmental Protection Agency it is "highly toxic" to honeybees.

is not the first time that Bayer, one of the world's leading pesticide
manufacturers with sales of €5.8bn (£4.6bn) in 2007, has been blamed
for killing honeybees.

In the United States, a group of
beekeepers from North Dakota is taking the company to court after
losing thousands of honeybee colonies in 1995, during a period when
oilseed rape in the area was treated with imidacloprid. A third of
honeybees were killed by what has since been dubbed colony collapse

Bayer's best selling pesticide, imidacloprid, sold
under the name Gaucho in France, has been banned as a seed dressing for
sunflowers in that country 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. A few months ago, the
company's application for clothianidin was rejected by French

Bayer has always maintained that imidacloprid is
safe for bees if correctly applied. "Extensive internal and
international scientific studies have confirmed that Gaucho does not
present a hazard to bees," said Utz Klages, a spokesman for Bayer

Last year, Germany's Green MEP, Hiltrud Breyer,
tabled an emergency motion calling for this family of pesticides to be
banned across Europe while their role in killing honeybees were
thoroughly investigated. Her action follows calls for a ban from
beekeeping associations and environmental organisations across Europe.

Mimkes, spokesman for the German-based Coalition Against Bayer Dangers,
said: "We have been pointing out the risks of neonicotinoids for almost
10 years now. This proves without a doubt that the chemicals can come
into contact with bees and kill them. These pesticides shouldn't be on
the market."

AMP Section Name:Food and Agriculture
  • 183 Environment