Gaucho and Poncho - two Bayer pesticides, are responsible for the deaths of bees worldwide, several studies show. The Germany-based Coalition Against Bayer Dangers noted that, despite this fact, the company is refusing to cease its marketing of these hazardous agrochemicals.
"Bees are of key importance for the pollination of numerous plants," said Coalition spokesperson Philip Mimkes. "Bee mortality has far-reaching consequences for global ecology, and puts the world's basic food supply at risk. Environmental groups have collected 1.2 million signatures in favor of a ban on Gaucho and Poncho.
"Nevertheless, the Bayer board has done nothing to ensure that these dangerous pesticides are withdrawn from the market to protect nature and biodiversity. For this reason, the actions of its members should not be ratified."
In the interest of that statement, the Coalition has introduced a countermotion to the upcoming Bayer shareholder meeting, demanding the board not be ratified, for endangering the bee population. The meeting will take place Apr. 27 in Cologne, Germany, where beekeepers from all over Europe plan to protest on-site.
Though it was once believed that cellphone usage was causing the decline in the bee population, experts now believe that, for the most part, Gaucho and Poncho are more directly responsible.
Dr. Jeffery Pettis, head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory published an extensive study on the matter in Dec. 2011. Its findings vindicated the longtime concerns of beekeepers - that minimum, sub-lethal Gaucho exposure caused honeybees to become more susceptible to being infested with parasites, many of which greatly reduce the chances of survival for bee colonies.
However, the infestation itself is not what causes the insects' deaths; rather, it is the weakening of the bees' immune systems from the pesticides that allows them to be killed.
Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Environmental and Analytical Toxicology noted that Bayer grossly underestimates the risks of Gaucho and Poncho, which also contribute to bird deaths.
And in Jan. 2012, a study by Purdue University added that, despite Bayer's claims to the contrary, bees do, in fact, come in direct contact with those pesticides, and in several ways, including pollen, nectar, and seed abrasion. That kind of direct exposure could cause disorientation in the insect, or immediate death.
To add to the dilemma, one of the active ingredients in Poncho remains in the soil for many years, often being absorbed and re-dispersed in plants such as dandelions. Basically, this means that the pesticides' dangerous effects are potentially long-term.
Honeybees - the ones most severely affected - pollinate over 70 of the 100 crops that provide the world's food, and thus their downfall would have devastating consequences not only for the livelihood of farmworkers, but also for food supply and security.
"Although the problems have been repeatedly brought to Bayer's attention for many years," concluded Mimkes, "the company has taken no action purely for profit reasons. Although the most dangerous uses for Gaucho and Poncho have been banned in France, Italy, and Germany, this does not prevent the corporation from continuing to export these toxic substances to more than 100 countries."
Photo: Honey bees carrying pollen. Kadri Puna, on Wikipedia.