Bayer fails in lawsuit to muzzle pesticide protest group

German chemical giant Bayer has failed in its attempt to muzzle Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) over the environmental group’s claims that thiacloprid, a pesticide manufactured by Bayer, harms bees. Thiacloprid is one of a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids (“neonics”) which work by interfering with insects’ nervous systems.

In February, Bayer slapped an injunction on BUND based on a booklet (published in December 2014) for gardeners interested in protecting bees. Two of the products identified in the booklet as toxic to bees were Bayer’s “pest-free Calypso” and the “ornamental spray Lizetan”. Both contain the active ingredient thiacloprid.

On Wednesday March 11, a German judge ruled that the environmental group had a right to voice its concerns. Friends of the Earth Canada CEO, Beatrice Olivastri observed, “This ruling is a victory against a corporate bully trying to muzzle citizens standing up for bees. We are proud of BUND’s efforts to protect freedom of speech and to help gardeners protect bees. We stand with them in a call for governments around the world to protect bees against neonic use.”

In Canada, the neonic, thiacloprid is registered for use for pome fruit such as apples, pears, and quinces. In North America, Ontario is the first jurisdiction planning to restrict neonic use with a permanent use reduction of neonic-coated seed, developed by Bayer CropScience and introduced about a decade ago.

Friends of the Earth Canada and Friends of the Earth US tested nursery plants in 2014 for neonics and advised gardeners to buy only neonic-free plants through their “Gardener Beware” campaign. The test results indicated over half of the nursery plants considered to be bee friendly in fact contained bee-harmful pesticides. Results of the 2014 testing can be viewed online at Friends of the Earth Canada.

“After a long, hard winter, Canadians are keen to get into their gardens. We believe Canadians have a right to protect bees and choose neonic-free plants,” says Ms. Olivastri. “We’ll be continuing our call for national governments to ban neonics. Until they do, we ask concerned citizens to insist their garden centres and food stores provide neonic-free products.”