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HOME En - Fr - Es - De English Wikileaks: confirmation of the sordid story that protects Bayer

Wikileaks: confirmation of the sordid story that protects Bayer

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 3 January 2011- last update 20 January 2011 francese_18x12 spagnola_18x12 italiana_18x12 tedesca_18x12


An agreement between the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency = U.S. Agency for Environment) and the agrochemical company Bayer CropScience has enabled the U.S. to authorize the use of clothianidin. This is an insecticide of the neonicotinoid family, which contaminates systematically plants and environment. It has toxic and dramatic effects on bees and many other living creatures.

An internal memo from the EPA, published by Wikileaks, provides further confirmation that the EPA ignored the advice and warnings from its own scientists, in open collusion with Bayer to allow the unjust use of clothianidin. This insecticide molecule provided the chemicals giant with sales of € 183,000,000 (about 262 million U.S. dollars) in 2009.

The story started in 2003 ...

In the U.S., clothianidin has been widely used since 2003 for the "protection" of maize seeds, the most important crop of the country, with 88 million hectares planted.

The decline of bee populations is certainly a complex phenomenon determined by different causes. Among them, one has emerged as a key element whose importance is becoming increasingly obvious, namely the increasing use of pesticides and in particular the new neonicotinoid insecticides (derivatives of nicotine).

Neonicotinoids are, in fact, a relatively new factor in the ecosystem. Starting in 1990, these systemic insecticides have become increasingly important, and have even taken a dominant position in the pesticide market. In fact from the years following the introduction of systemic neurotoxic insecticides, the decline of bees has begun and has gradually increased.

Crops treated with clothianidin in the United States are generally: rapeseed, soybean, sugar beet, sunflower, maize and wheat. Recently, Bayer has also submitted to EPA an application for the registration for its use on cotton and mustard seeds.

The document released by Wikileaks, shows that EPA scientists have recently re-examined and rejected the findings of a study conducted by Bayer about the toxic effects on bees. This study was part of the dossier compiled in order to obtain the registration of clothianidin. In their report, the EPA scientists expressed concerns, arguing that the risks posed by clothianidin could seriously compromise the survival of bees.

In order to better understand the importance of this report released by Wikileaks, it may be useful to understand how an insecticide known for its toxicity to bees could be freely distributed in an agricultural area as vast and important as that of the United States.

EPA (Agency for Protection of the environment) is known to have often expressed pro-industry views, albeit in contradiction with the opinion of its own scientists. However, it had not yet seen such a controversial story. We can reconstruct the chronology with a summary published by the American environmental organization PANNA.

The sordid story began in 2003 when Bayer submitted the first application for registration of clothianidin.

In February 2003, the EFED Division of EPA refused this registration on the grounds that further studies are needed to exclude possible damage to the bees.

In the report, EFED explained its decision:

"The possibility of toxic exposure to non-target pollinators - bees, for example - by transmitting residues of clothianidin from the treatment of seeds (maize and oilseed rape) has led the EFED to require field testing to assess the possible chronic exposure of bee larvae and queens. To evaluate the possibility of toxic effects, a comprehensive study on the life cycle of worker bees (approximately 63 days) must be made, as well as an evaluation of the exposure of queens."


But in April 2003, two months later, the EPA changed its "scientific opinion" all of a sudden: "After further review, the agency decides to grant clothianidin a ‘ conditional approval ’ “. The authorization provided the freedom to Bayer to sell and to use insecticide for seed treatment, but with the condition that Bayer provided an additional study on the life cycle of the bee.

Reiterating their concerns, scientists qualified clothianidin as "persistent”, “toxic to bees" and described "the potential expression [of clothianidin] in pollen and nectar from flowering crops”.

In March 2004, Bayer requested an extension in order to complete its study of the effects on the life cycle of bees. On March 11, 2004, a decision by the EPA granted an extension to the chemical company, giving it until May 2005 to complete the research.

But the EPA did not limit itself to giving this concession to Bayer: EPA also agreed that the study is conducted on rapeseed in Canada, rather than corn in the United States.

The "justification" of the EPA was: "Rape is important for bees and bees are exposed to both pollen and nectar. Instead maize is attractive to bees for pollen only. "

In this regard, several scientists and beekeepers noticed, with good reason, that:

1. corn produces much more pollen than rape.

2. Corn pollen is much more attractive to bees.

3. Rapeseed is a minor crop in the United States, while maize is the most important crop.


Over the limit date, in August 2007, Bayer finally provided the study.

In November 2007, the EPA said the study was "scientifically valid" because it "meets the test requirements of field toxicity to bees."

However, the EPA refused on several occasions, to make the document public. The association of environmental protection, NRDC, then requested a copy through legal proceedings (
via the  Freedom of Information Act, the equivalent to our «  low of accès to environnemental information » (directive 2003/4/CEE)). The EPA refused, but the NRDC sued EPA and eventually obtained the document.

The study conducted on behalf of Bayer by the Canadian University of Guelph, is, in scientific terms, a joke. It is unacceptable, both in terms of the method by which it is constructed, and by the way in which it was conducted.

This study compares the health of hives placed in the middle of fields, which contain seed treated with clothianidin with hives in untreated fields. "Tested" beehives were placed in fields of only 2.5 hectares, with a maximum distance of 1 km between the treated field and the untreated control field.

In essence, given that bees normally harvest within 3 Km (an area of at least 3,600 hectares), the bees from the "studied" and "comparative" hives,  had effectively been foraging in the two fields simultaneously, or more probably were able to avoid harvesting the flowers treated with insecticide. Therefore it is no surprise that researchers have found "no difference in mortality and longevity of worker bees and brood development, during the study.”

Thus, Bayer continued selling clothianidin, with a "provisional" permit until April 22, 2010, the day when the EPA granted final authorization. Tom Theobald, a beekeeper who has lost several hives has received from the EPA the following reply to his question about the existing permission for this substance:

"The clothanidin has received unconditional approval for use in treatment of corn seeds and oilseed rape as of April 22, 2010. The EPA has provided a new registration mark, [but] there is no document that approves the amendment to permit unconditional approval from the conditional one. This is a decision under risk management, based on the fulfilment of data requirements and the acceptance or approval of the revised data."

The EPA has granted approval to Bayer without justification.

The document of EPA scientists, "leaked" by Wikileaks, is dated Nov. 2 2010 - three weeks before the EPA's response to Theobald - is a memorandum in which researchers speak about the application by Bayer for the extension for the authorization of use of clothianidin to cotton and mustard. The internal document, signed by EPA scientists, expressed serious concerns about the significant risk that the use of clothianidin may pose to non-target insects.

"Belonging to the family of neonicotinoids, the insecticide clothianidin is persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies on honeybees show that clothianidin has a high contact or oral toxicity. Although EFED does not do it... the risk assessments on non-target insects, the information from standard testing and field studies, as well as other new incidents of neonicotinoid insecticides (eg imidacloprid) suggest a potential long-term toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects." The two EPA researchers completely invalidated -as it deserves- the study funded by Bayer. They wrote:"A previous field study evaluated the effects of clothianidin for all parameters of the hive and the substance has been classified as acceptable. However, after further consideration in light of new information, shortcomings were identified with the result that additional a study is needed. This study does not follow guideline 850.3040, and a field study is needed to assess the effects on bees of the contamination with clothianidin of pollen and nectar. "

EPA researchers have therefore provided an expert opinion that disqualifies the study through which the approval of the molecule for use on corn was given.

But despite the scandal, the EPA said it does not intend to change its decision on authorization of the killer molecule of non-target insects.

The EPA itself has even defended the validity of the "scientific" study of Bayer, hence contradicting its own researchers, and at the same time, it has downplayed the importance of the study for the authorization.

For its part, Bayer expressed a shameless lie at a communicate, "clothianidin is the leading treatment of maize seeds in the U.S. and has been widely used for more than six years without incident for the bees." Perhaps Bayer could then explain how it has had to admit that because of clothianidin, two thirds of the bees in Baden-Württemberg in Germany have been lost. It is not easy to see how Bayer was able to "forget" that following this perverse effect on bees the molecule has been banned in several European countries.

The entomologist James Frazier of Penn State University, said: " If the Bayer study is the core study the EPA used to register clothianidin, then there's no basis for registering it." He asked EPA to withdraw the registration accordingly to avoid unnecessary risks to our ecosystem - like the governments of Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia already did.

Following all this, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Federation of Beekeepers, the American Association of honey production, Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, and the Center for Biological Diversity asked the EPA to take Emergency measures to stop the use of this toxic chemical.

January 7, 2011 Novi Ligure Italia

Francesco Panella

Traslated by Noa Simón


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