Two of Ontario’s largest honey producers are suing Bayer Cropscience and Syngenta Canada, claiming that the companies’ pesticides have caused the deaths of their bee colonies.
The $400 million class action lawsuit by beekeepers from Sun Parlor Honey and Munro Honey is only the latest battle between naturalists and neonicotinoids.
The beekeepers allege that neonic pesticides, specifically those containing imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiomethoxam, have led to damaged bee colonies and breeding stocks, decreased and contaminated honey yields, and associated losses in profits.
In 2013, Health Canada reported that 70 percent of dead bees were testing positive for neonic residue.
In Canada, corn, soybean and canola seeds are commonly sprayed with pesticides to protect them from aphids. Yet growing evidence shows that they may be acting as neurotoxins in honeybees and lead to outbreaks of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) around the world.
In one experiment, researchers at Harvard dosed twelve bee colonies with sub-lethal doses of neonicotinoids, imidacloprid and clothianidin. By winter, nearly half the colonies had been abandoned. The results were replicated in the following year.
Chensheng Lu, a researcher in one of the experiments, wrote that the results suggest “that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering CCD” in formerly healthy honeybees. In June 2013, the application of dinotefuran, a neonic pesticide, was linked to the deaths of 50,000 bumblebees in Oregon.
Some U.S. federal agencies are already taking action. Starting in January 2016, neonicotinoid pesticides will be banned from use in all federal wildlife refuges.
Bayer has denied that the pesticide has harmful effects on bees. In an email to CBCNews, a spokesperson for Bayer wrote that, “Neonicotinoid insecticides have been rigorously tested and found to be safe to birds, pollinators, aquatic organisms and mammals by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when label directions are followed.”