Bayer Pesticide Suspect as Cause of Colony Colapse Disorder

EPA report suggests that Bayer's pesticide Clothianidin sold under the name "Poncho" a likely culprit behind the decline of Honey Bees populations and other pollinators.


In November 2010 the Pesticide Action Network first published a "leaked report" brought forward by Colorado beekeeper Tom Theobald. The report was written by scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Fate and Effects Division, (EFEED) who were considering Bayer’s request to use clothianidin (marketed under the brand name "Poncho") on cotton and mustard crops. In the report the EPA admits to granting use of the toxic pesticide on a wide variety of crops from sugar beets to corn, despite the fact that findings submitted by Bayer were not completed. According to EPA's memos the study submitted by Bayer was the poorly conceived and "supplemental" at best.

Despite internal opposition from its own scientists and inadequate reports filed by Bayer, the EPA (The government agency charged with the protection of the environment) went ahead and approved usage for this highly toxic pesticide, despite the fact that it is banned from use in Germany where it is made. (Clothianidin is also banned in several other European countries.)

The information obtained by Mr. Theobald was forwarded it for publication by the Pesticide Action Network. The leaked report proves without any doubt that the EPA knew all along of the dangers of Clothianidin.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) claims that the EPA's pesticide program has repeatedly stonewalled and refused to disclose information in response to Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests which were denied until months, sometimes years after the EPS's deadline for approval. Federal judges have repeatedly rebuked the Office of Pesticide Programs for failure to comply with FOIA requests. The NRDC states that over the last seven years they have filed several FOIA requests per year to the EPA for pesticide information, and the agency has not responded on time to any of the requests. NRDC was forced to litigate and sued the EPA for lack of transparency. (Source The NRDC maintains that the EPA has been aware of the problem since 2003, specifically that Clothianidin manufactured Bayer is highly toxic to bee populations yet has not taken any action to discontinue its use. Instead the EPA has used what is known as "emergency exemption provisions" in the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to approve use of clothianidin in five states. The EPA has used the emergency provisions to approve usage 163 times in 26 states. These emergency exemptions are intended to allow unregistered use of pesticides for a limited time if EPA determines that an emergency condition exists.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which has made several requests finally sued EPA on Aug. 18, 2008 for withholding the information. The suit was dismissed by a Federal Court.

Since this story broke, the EPA has finally posted its findings publicly on its website. It is a damning admission to the EPA's failure to meet the it's obligation to protect the citizens and our environment. The admission of what they knew and when they knew it along with their approval for Bayer's Clothianidin use is nothing short of incompetent - if not criminal. Despite the fact that the U.S. Government is supposed to act in service to the citizens, this agency has shown a total disregard for public safety and has jeopardized the ecosystem by putting the Honey Bee at risk for total extinction.

According to the EPA's website: "There was never a Court order requiring production. The NRDC's case was dismissed by stipulation on October 27, 2009. ... (The) EPA puts a high priority on all FOIA requests. Any public statements that indicate EPA is "refusing to disclose records" are erroneous. The Office of Pesticide Programs operates in the public eye and values stakeholder participation as it carries out its important mission to protect public health and the environment."

The following are excerpts from the EPA's website regarding the use of the toxic pesticide Clothianidin, aka "Poncho"

"Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to non target insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies"

"Incident reports suggest the potential for long term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects." They also reference an incident in Germany which tragically illustrated the toxicity of clothianidin to honeybees when improper application allowed it to be carried on the wind.

"The proposed application rates and uses also pose an acute and chronic risk to small birds and mammals when clothianidin treated seeds are applied with low efficiency or no incorporation methods"

“Clothianidin has the properties of a chemical which could lead to widespread groundwater contamination, but no ground-water monitoring studies have been conducted to date. Should the registrant request field uses involving direct application of clothianidin to the land surface, prospective ground-water monitoring studies may be needed to evaluate fully the potential impact of such uses.” Due to the extreme mobility and persistence of clothianidin in the environment, a small-scale prospective groundwater monitoring study will provide additional fate information on the better understanding of this chemical in the environment and improve the certainty of the risk assessment.

"This product is toxic to aquatic invertebrates, birds and mammals"

"This compound is toxic to honey bees. The persistence of residues and potential residual toxicity of Clothianidin in nectar and pollen suggests the possibility of chronic toxic risk to honey bee larvae and the eventual instability of the hive."

"Currently, EFED - does not assess risk - to non target insects or terrestrial invertebrates using the risk quotient method. However, it appears that clothianidin exposure to honeybees has the potential for high toxicity on both an acute contact and oral basis. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin has the potential to be highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis."

"Sub chronic invertebrate toxicity studies showed that clothianidin adversely affected earthworm mortality and body weight."

“Clothianidin has the properties of a chemical which could lead to widespread groundwater contamination, but no ground-water monitoring studies have been conducted to date."


EPA report on Clothianidin)

Is it any wonder that the EPA went to such lengths to bury these research findings for so many years? It is unfortunate for the citizens of the United States that there will likely never be any investigation. Congress would rather spend it’s time prosecuting baseball icons rather holding fellow government employees responsible for their actions. As is the case with the failure of Freddie Mac and the collapse of the housing market, those who caused the problem at the EPA and Bayer Crop Sciences will never be held responsible, but will continue to draw a government paycheck and a lucrative tax payer funded retirement.

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Time for a big flush 
Thank you for the informative article Greg. The EPA report speaks for itself - absolutely criminal that such pesticides are permitted. It's time …

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