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Bayer lose court ruling against Friends of the Earth

Thursday 12 March 2015

German chemical giant Bayer has failed in its attempt to sue Friends of the Earth Germany over its claims that thiacloprid, a pesticide manufactured by Bayer, harms bees.

Responding to yesterday’s ruling by a judge in Dusseldorf that the environmental group had a right to voice its concerns, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) bees campaigner Dave Timms said:

“Bayer has been shown up as a corporate bully, trying to silence campaigners who are standing up for bees.

“The ruling is a victory for Friends of the Earth Germany, freedom of speech and for the many thousands of people who have taken action to protect bees across Europe.

“Now we want to see action from the European Commission to ensure that any pesticides with evidence of harm to bees are taken off our shelves and out of our fields for good.”

Campaigners have serious concerns about the impact of some of Bayer’s products on bees, including those containing the neonicotinoid thiacloprid, which is used by farmers and is on sale to gardeners in the UK.

Three other neonicotinoid pesticides were subject to a temporary ban in the EU from 2013 due to evidence that they harm bees. Although thiacloprid is not subject to that ban there is evidence that it can make bees more likely to die from common diseases and can impair their navigational abilities, making it harder for them to return to their hives.

Thiacloprid is used on crops in the UK such as oil seed rape and apples and it is sold to the public in garden bug-killing products. Friends of the Earth is now asking the European Commission to take a precautionary approach by suspending all uses of thiacloprid and to review its safety. The environment charity will be contacting retailers in the UK asking them to stop selling products containing Thiacloprid.

Friends of the Earth is also urging the Commission to stand firm in the face of bullying tactics from Bayer which has a legal action with Syngenta against the EU’s existing temporary ban on three other neonicotinoids. These chemicals were restricted following a thorough and independent scientific review of their safety which found they each posed a “high acute risk” to honey bees.

In a statement from Bayer CropScience they state their regret about the decision by the Duesseldorf Regional Court taken on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, to revoke the injunction previously imposed against BUND and in favor of Bayer.

Even though the court once again pointed out that the Bayer products had officially been classified as "not harmful for bees" and were labeled as such in accordance with binding legal regulations, the court considered the allegations of BUND to be a free expression of opinion, which deserved special protection. Bayer CropScience will wait for the written grounds for the judgment and subsequently consider potential further steps.

Bayer CropScience had filed the injunction with the argument that the BUND publications on the Bayer Garden products "Calypso" and "Lizetan Ornamental Plant Spray" are incorrect. Both products have been thoroughly tested both by Bayer and by the state regulatory authority, the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), underwent an in-depth evaluation and as a consequence were classified as not harmful for bees.

BUND lodged an objection against the injunction before Düsseldorf Regional Court. The oral hearing took place on February 23, 2015.

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