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Did Bayer Pesticides Cause the Mass Death of Bees?

bees, honeybeesThe German Coalition against Bayer Dangers has brought a charge against Werner Wenning, chairman of the Bayer Board of Management. The group accuses Bayer of marketing dangerous pesticides and thereby causing the mass death of bees all over the world.

The Coalition introduced the charge in cooperation with German beekeepers who lost thousands of hives after poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin in May this year.

Since 1991, Bayer has been producing the insecticide Imidacloprid, a best-selling product that is exported to more than 120 countries. When patent protection for Imidacloprid expired in most countries in 2003, Bayer brought the similarly functioning Clothianidin onto the market. Both substances can get into pollen and nectar, and can damage beneficial insects such as bees.

The marketing of Imidacloprid and Clothianidin coincided with the occurrence of large-scale bee deaths in many European and American countries. Up to 70 percent of all hives have been affected.

The German Coalition against Bayer Dangers suspects that Bayer submitted flawed studies to play down the risks of pesticide residues in treated plants -- a suspicion that was later confirmed by the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
The case against Bayer and their pesticides is likely going to heat up in the coming months. In the United States, the non-profit group Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit in August 2008 to force the government to release the studies it ordered on the effect of clothianidin on honeybees.

According to Environment News Service, NRDC attorneys believe the EPA already has evidence that there’s a link between pesticides and the mass honeybee die-offs called colony collapse disorder, yet is not making the information public.

There is some information already publicly available, though, and that’s the EPA’s fact sheet on clothianidin. It says right there in black and white that:

“Clothianidin has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen … In honey bees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects on the queen.”

It’s quite disconcerting that this chemical was so readily approved by the EPA. Aside from the potential to kill honeybees, the EPA’s clothianidin fact sheet notes that:

“Assessments show that exposure to treated seeds through ingestion may result in chronic toxic risk to non-endangered and endangered small birds (e.g., songbirds) and acute/chronic toxicity risk to non-endangered and endangered mammals

The fate and disposition of clothianidin in the environment suggest a compound that is a systemic insecticide that is persistent and mobile, stable to hydrolysis, and has potential to leach to ground water, as well as runoff to surface waters.”

Yet, this insecticide is widely used to douse the seeds of corn and canola in the United States and more than 120 other countries. At least France, which lost approximately 90 billion bees within 10 years, has gotten smart.

After reporting large losses of bees after exposure to imidacloprid (a similar pesticide to clothinidin) -- it left the bees disoriented and prevented them from returning to their hives -- France banned it for use on corn and sunflowers, despite protests by the multi-national giant Bayer. In another smart move, France also rejected Bayer´s application for clothianidin.

The Disappearance of Honeybees Would Impact More Than Just Honey

When most people think of honeybees, they think honey. But honey is only a sliver of what bees are used for in the United States. Honeybees are critical components of U.S. agriculture, used to pollinate nuts, fruits and vegetables. The California almond crop alone requires 1.3 million colonies of bees, and bees actually add an estimated $15 billion in value to crops like these.

Beekeepers surveyed by the USDA Agricultural Research Service in the winter of 2007 reported a total loss of about 36 percent of their bee colonies, up from 13.5 percent the year before. In an average year, beekeepers would incur losses of between 5 and 10 percent.

The cause has been dubbed colony collapse disorder, as it can seemingly wipe out hives overnight, but no one knows for sure what’s triggering it.

A full one-third of the U.S. food supply depends on pollination from bees. Apple orchards, for instance, require one colony of bees per acre to be adequately pollinated. So if bee colonies continue to be devastated by colony collapse disorder -- or whatever is causing them to die -- major food shortages could result.

There are other possible causes for the disappearance of honeybees outside of pesticides. Things like cell phones, genetically modified crops, high-fructose corn syrup used for feeding bees, and micro-organisms that compromise the immune system have all been mentioned.

And while most researchers are pointing to a combination of the above factors, it’s hard to ignore what the science says. For instance, Penn State scientists analyzed pollen, beeswax, adult bees and larvae and found dozens of chemicals, including pesticides, present. These chemicals, especially when combined with other stresses, are more than capable of overwhelming tiny and fragile honeybees (and they’re capable of overwhelming your body as well).

What Can We Learn From This?

Two things come to mind.

First, be very cautious when using products manufactured by Bayer. This is a company that has a history of killing children by giving them HIV-infected drugs, put their workers’ lives in danger by exposing them to toxic chemicals that cause organ damage, and continues to produce unsafe products.

Second, it presents a major warning sign that society as a whole had better start respecting the laws of nature, or major environmental and health catastrophes could result. Chemical pesticides and genetically modifying crops are far from the only ways to produce bountiful harvests.

For generations, farmers grew food using natural pest deterrents, and today organic farmers and supporters of permaculture techniques are still doing so successfully. So when it comes time for you to make choices about the food you’ll purchase to feed your family, choose the pesticide-free varieties that will not only protect your health, but which will give the honeybees a fighting chance as well.