Bayer Pesticide Chemicals Linked to Devastating Collapse of Honeybee Populations

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Bayer Pesticide Chemicals Linked to Devastating Collapse of Honeybee Populations

By David Gutierrez on NaturalNews.com
July 2009

German government researchers have concluded that a bestselling Bayer pesticide is responsible for the recent massive die-off of honeybees across the country's Baden-Württemberg region. In response, the government has banned an entire family of pesticides, fueling accusations that pesticides may be responsible for the current worldwide epidemic of honeybee die-offs.

Researchers found buildup of the pesticide clothianidin in the tissues of 99 percent of dead bees in Baden-Württemberg state. The German Research Center for Cultivated Plants concluded that nearly 97 percent of honeybee deaths had been caused directly by contact with the insecticide.

"It can unequivocally be concluded that a poisoning of the bees is due to the rub-off of the pesticide ingredient clothianidin from corn seeds," said the federal agricultural research agency, the Julius Kuehn Institute.

The pesticide was applied to rapeseed and sweet corn seeds along the Rhine River Valley, which borders Baden-Württemberg to the west and south.

"Beekeepers in the region started finding piles of dead bees at the entrance of hives in early May, right around the time corn seeding takes place," said Walter Haefeker, president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association.

A total of two-thirds of all bees in the entire state are believed to have been killed by the chemical.

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

Clothianidin, marketed in Europe under the brand name Poncho, is a widely used insecticide in the neonicotinoid family. Like all neonicotinoids, it is a systemic pesticide that is applied to the seeds of plants and then spreads itself throughout all plant tissues. Based on nicotine, the neonicotinoids function as neurotoxins that attack the nervous systems of insects such as honeybees.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified clothianidin as "highly toxic" to honeybees. The chemical was approved for U.S. use in 2003 and German use in 2004.

Clothianidin manufacturer Bayer CropScience, a subsidiary of chemical giant Bayer, blamed the honeybee deaths on incorrect application of the pesticide. Before seeds are sprayed, a fixative should be applied to keep the poison from spreading into the rest of the environment. In the current situation, Bayer says, the fixative was not applied and clothianidin spread into the air.

But beekeepers and pesticide critics rejected this explanation, calling for Germany to follow France's footsteps in banning the chemical - and indeed, all neonicotinoids.

"We have been pointing out the risks of neonicotinoids for almost 10 years now," said Philipp Mimkes, spokesman for the Coalition Against Bayer Dangers. "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."

While stopping short of a total ban, the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety acted quickly upon release of the study data, placing a provisional ban upon all seven pesticides in the neonicotinoid family. These chemicals may not be used in Germany until the manufacturers can supply enough data to convince the government that they are safe.

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