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New Research Reveals Bayer Seed Treatment Fluid is Not a Viable Alternative to Protect Honey Bees

February 4th, 2014
Center for Food Safety

Report has value, but recommendations to protect honey bees are insufficient

Contact: Abigail Seiler, 202-547-9359, pr@centerforfoodsafety.org

Center for Food Safety (CFS) welcomed a new report from the Pollinator Partnership and the Corn Dust Research Consortium (CDRC) on neonicotinoids seed treatments and their impacts on honey bees. Among its important findings, the research revealed that Bayer CropScience’s new alternative seed hopper lubricant, known as “BFA”, is only marginally effective in reducing toxic dust emissions during mechanical planting of treated corn seed.  This neonicotinoid laden dust severely hurts bees and contaminates the areas in and around corn fields.

Bayer, a key manufacturer of neonicotinoid seed treatments, has touted its new alternative seed hopper lubricant “BFA” as a key development for protecting bees from exposure.   However, the study found that BFA’s ability to reduce toxic dust emissions is only very minor.  The BFA trial study found dust reduction of 67%, but considering that dust had neonicotinoid residues "3.7-fold higher than the conventional lubricants" meant a reduction in amount of active ingredient was actually only 28%.

“These results demonstrate that the new BFA technology does not live up to its hype, nor does it indicate that a solution to problems with seed treatments is anywhere near,” said Peter Jenkins, consulting attorney with CFS.

While praising the underlying research, Jenkins chastised the report’s recommendations as insufficient. Some of the voluntary recommendations could have negative consequences.

“It’s encouraging that CDRC clearly recognizes that seed treatments and corn dust pose a serious threat to honey bees. However, the report’s best practice recommendations fall seriously short of the urgent reforms needed,” said Peter Jenkins. “Relying on voluntary ‘reforms’ is not sensible.  Expecting the tens of thousands of corn farmers nationwide to voluntarily adopt new practices is not realistic.”

Bill Freese, Center for Food Safety science policy analyst, was particularly concerned with the CRDC report recommendation to control all herbaceous flowers in fields to be planted with corn (page 24).

“This recommendation is an invitation to use herbicides indiscriminately, which could have severe consequences,” said Freese.

Sterilizing corn fields would harm numerous beneficial species. Universal spraying could, in some planting contexts, kill essential milkweed plants upon which the exceedingly threatened Monarch butterfly depends.  The elimination of milkweeds by pesticides and pesticide-promoting crops is decimating Monarch butterfly populations.

“The CRDC report is a welcome acknowledgement that action is urgently needed. Unfortunately the recommendations are insufficient to address the problems facing honey bees. We have numerous examples around the world of what we should be doing.  EPA must follow suit now,” said Jenkins.

Given the severity of the hazards seed treatments and other applications of these insecticides pose, Center for Food Safety, working with beekeepers and other allies, have sued EPA to suspend these the critically risky applications immediately, until all the risks are fully addressed.

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