Chemical firms lobby against the ban of bee killing pesticides
Corporate Europe Observatory has found that two chemical companies, Syngenta and Bayer, have been lobbying against the partial ban of neonicotinoids pesticides by the European Commission. Their activity followed a warning from the EFSA's (European Food Safety Authority) of the risk they pose to bees.
Despite a number of studies outlining the direct relationship between the use of chemicals and the bee population decline, neonicotinoid pesticides have not yet been banned everywhere in the EU. This is primarily because some countries including the UK have rejected the proposal.
Following the announcement by some European states that they were considering a ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, Bayer and Sygenta – two of the biggest companies producing the substances – began lobbying the European Commision.
The EFSA and its scientific experts found risks to bees associated with neonicotinoids pesticide exposures from pollen and nectar contaminated with the pesticide, from pesticide dust, and from other exposure.
Below is a summery of actions taken by the two companies in trying to get the Commission to reject the proposal of a ban.
Bayer stated that it was the farmers' fault for inappropriate use and / or lack of precaution in applying the substances.
Sygenta stated that it was just a small group of activist and hobby beekeepers that were causing Member States to consider suspending insecticide and neonicotinoids. And they urged the Commission to resist this pressure for the sake of the credibility of the EU's regulatory process.
Sygenta's CEO, Michael Mark wrote to Commissioner Dalli to remind him that just weeks before he lunched at the G-8 summit with President Obama and other leaders discussing the contribution that the private sector made to global food security and the money Sygenta was committed to spend in Africa.
In November 2012, Sygenta wrote to Commissers Ciolos (Agriculture) and Geoghegan-Quinn (Research) and to all EU Agriculture Ministers calling for a comprehensive review, which they insisted was necessary to avoid 'wrong conclusions from a rushed process that could have disastrous implications for agriculture and ironically for bee health'.
According to Syngenta, independent analysis had shown that Europe could not survive without neonicotinoids. Sygneta didn't provide any reference to back the claim but stated that the loss of this technology would cost farmers and consumers up to €1 billion and undermine the production of safe and affordable food. In a letter sent in November they stated that according to 'independent analysis' there would be significant damage to European agriculture if their product was banned as well as the risk of relocation of corn production.
Another study promoted by industry was research carried by the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriclture that concluded that neonicotinoid pesticides make a significant socio-economic and environmental contribution to European agriculture and the wider economy. This research was supported by Copa-Cogeca (farmers' lobby group based in Brussels), along with several multi-national companies and financed by Syngenta and Bayer.
Bayer explained to the Commission that neonicotinoids were not responsible for bee decline as other experts maintained that pathogens and parasites were the main problem. Syngenta also questioned the conditions in which the studies with critical findings were performed, claiming that the exposure in these studies significantly exceeded any real situation found in the field. According to them, France was taking decisions in the absence of “any validated science”.
A press release from EFSA was seen by Syngenta before its publication, the company immediately sent an aggressive letter claiming that the press release was 'incorrect in a major and highly relevant aspect but EFSA also moves out of its area of responsibility and mandate'. Syngenta even threatened to take legal action and set a deadline: 'we ask you to formally confirm that you will rectify the press release by 11 o'clock. Otherwise you will appreciate that we will consider our legal options.'.
Finally, the two companies have launched a charm offensive to be seen as part of the solution rather than of the problem, and for this are launching an upgrade of Syngenta's PR sting 'Operation Pollinator'. This consists in paying a few farmers so that they grow flowers and other plants beneficial to bees on their farms. But no figures on exactly how many farms are involved have been provided.
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