(Beyond Pesticides, March 16, 2015) Last week, a judge in Duesseldorf Regional Court ruled that the German branch of Friends of the Earth (BUND) has a right to speak out against chemical company giant Bayer CropScienceâ€™s neonicotinoid pesticide, thiacloprid, regarding its potential danger to bees. The court considered the allegations put forth by BUND to be a form of free speech, a protected right.
Neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides, affect the central nervous system of insects, resulting in paralysis and eventual death. These pesticides have consistently been implicated as a key issue in pollinator declines, not only through immediate bee deaths, but also through sub-lethal exposure causing changes in bee reproduction, navigation and foraging. The science has become increasingly clear that pesticides, either working individually or synergistically, play a critical role in the ongoing decline of honey bees. Pesticide exposure can impair both detoxification mechanisms and immune responses, rendering bees more susceptible to viruses, parasites and other diseases, leading to devastating bee losses.
Thiacloprid is one of the seven most commonly used neonicotinoids. It is used to control sucking and biting insects in cotton, rice, vegetables, pome fruit, sugar beet, potatoes and ornamentals. Low doses of neonicotinoids are considered highly toxic to honeybees and these types of pesticides can leach into groundwater and cause harm to humans as well; they can cause kidney and liver damage and are linked to birth defects. In 2003, EPA classified thiacloprid as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans” based on thyroid tumors and uterine tumors in rats and ovary tumors in mice.
As Friends of the Earth declared, this ruling is a huge victory for freedom of speech and for the thousands of people across Europe (and beyond) who have dedicated themselves to protecting bees. Advocates hope this win will be a stepping stone towards action from the European Commission. Thiacloprid is not currently subject to the EU suspension on three neonicotinoid products, but Friends of the Earth and other groups are increasing pressure on the the European Commission to take a precautionary approach and suspend the use of thiacloprid products while reviewing its safety.
This ruling also stands out as one of the few cases where corporate bullying has failed to prevail. Unbeknownst to most, the corporate, agricultural and chemical giants exist in a world where pressure can be applied in order to get a preferred outcome, not only on environmental groups but also on scientists who study these topics and even organizations that work to protect honeybees. Some real world examples of this involve scientists such as Arpad Pusztai,PhD, previously the principal scientific officer of the Rowett Institute in Scotland, whose home was burglarized and his research stolen after he reported his findings on immunological damage found in rats that were fed genetically modified potatoes. Another scientist, Ignacio Chapela, PhD, was denied tenure at UC Berkeley and was the subject of a vicious PR attack mounted by Monsanto after he suggested that pollen from genetically modified corn may have drifted into the last reserves of biodiverse maize in the world, which could potentially eliminate maize biodiversity permanently.
One of the most exhaustive attacks in recent memory was led by Syngenta, a manufacturer of atrazine, a triazine class herbicide that is banned in the EU based on groundwater contamination. Syngenta has worked aggressively to scuttle research that links the chemical to adverse health outcomes. This article reviews an investigative report that unearthed that Syngenta routinely paid off third parties to speak in favor of atrazine. When one of their own scientists, Tyrone Hayes, PhD, discovered that atrazine was harming amphibians and decided to speak out, they launched a massive campaign to discredit him. Beyond Pesticides stands behind Dr. Hayes through The Fund for Independent Science, launched to help ensure the continuation of his critical research. He has been a speaker for past National Pesticide Forums,where he discussed the disappearance of frogs and human health effects linked to pesticide use. On April 17-18, Dr. Hayes will again be a speaker at the 33rd National Pesticide Forum, which focuses on protecting health, biodiversity and ecosystems.
The tactics that these companies use to get their way are far reaching and can be seemingly innocuous at times. For example, Bayer recently donated $100,000 to Project Apis m., a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to enhancing the health of honey bees. Although the donation is directed towards providing additional forage to bees, it is evident that this action is another way for the company to spin the bee crisis. As a Friends of the Earth U.S. report Follow the Honey explains, â€œleading pesticide corporations â€”Bayer, Syngenta, and Monsantoâ€” are engaged in a massive public relations disinformation campaign to distract the public and policymakers from thinking that pesticides might have something to do with bee death and destruction.”
Beyond Pesticides, along with many other environmental organizations, rallied in front of the White House to deliver more than 4 million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to put forth stronger protections for honeybees and other pollinators. You too can make a difference! If you are interested in giving your support to saving the honey bees, go to save-bees.org and sign the petition. You also can work to get bee-toxic neonicotinoids like thiacloprid out of your community. It takes a lot of work and commitment, but it can be done with some perseverance. Itâ€™s important to find support â€”friends, neighbors, and other people who share your concerns about environmental health. Itâ€™s also essential to reach out to your local politicians and government .Beyond Pesticides has resources and fact sheets available to help you organize in your community. You can also call (202-543-5450) or email ([email protected]) for one-on-one consultation about the strategies you can take to have an impact.
Source: The Ecologist