Legal Actions Being Pursued in Bee Deaths

Lawsuits are being filed against the manufacturer of a pesticide believed to be behind the enormous die-off of countless bees world wide, and against the United States Environmental Protection Agency for refusing to open files litigants believe hold information related to the crisis.
On Monday, Coordination gegen BAYER-Gefahren – a German organization targeting the massive German pharmaceutical company Bayer – brought charges against Werner Wenning, chairman of the Bayer Board of Management, with the public prosecutor in Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg. The group accuses Bayer of marketing dangerous pesticides responsible for kill-offs of countless bees throughout the world. The coalition introduced the charge in cooperation with German beekeepers who lost thousands of hives after alleged poisoning by the pesticide clothianidin in May this year (Read the full story). The same month, German authorities banned the use of eight related pesticides, citing their presumed role in the large-scale deaths of German honey bees.

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 (Full story here).

Similar actions have taken place in France which has also suffered large-scale bee colony die-offs. Here in the US, however, the EPA has been slow – some would even say reluctant – to follow suit. A story in the San Francisco Chronicle stated the EPA has refused to open its records about the suspected pesticides, sparking a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

A report issued by the EPA in February, 2008 cites the effects of clothianidin on various test populations, including rats and humans, and while it discusses the impact and mode of operation on insects, it does not mention bees specifically. The report sets the acceptable tolerances for clothianidin in the studied populations.

There is, however, no mention of the lawsuit filed by the NRDC on the EPA’s web site.

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