Bayer and the bees | DW Documentary
Insecticides are sometimes necessary in farming. But some substances, like neonicotinoids, kill not only pests but bees as well. Now the Bayer Group, one of the main manufacturers of these pesticides, is coming under pressure.
Scientists around the world have found that neonicotinoids are the main cause of mass bee deaths. Research has shown that a number of insecticides should have been banned long ago. For years, the Bayer Group has sought to silence the critics and pressure scientists into not publishing their findings.
For more than two decades, experts have been warning of the negative effects of neonicotinoids, with a whole range of studies published on the subject. It would appear that the industry, aided by the authorities, managed to successfully delay any ban on these substances for years. Studies show that neonicotinoids not only kill pests, but also bees and other beneficial insects. Dutch toxicologist Henk Tennekes was among the first to recognize the problem. He believes neonicotinoids are the most toxic insecticides ever produced. He discovered a study carried out by Bayer itself, back in 1991, which found that a particular neonicotinoid had a negative effect on the nervous system of a fly species. These effects were said to be “irreversible”. Tennekes then confronted the company with his findings. He was taken aback by the response: “Bayer now claims” he says, “that the binding of critical receptors in the nervous system by neonicotinoids is reversible. So they’re contradicting the results of their own study. … If they had considered what impact this substance has, they would have had to take it off the market.”
Scientists in France also analyzed mass bee deaths and likewise identified an insecticide made by Bayer as the culprit. Toxicologist Jean-Marc Bonmatin reveals how the company then sought to prevent the results from being published. Meanwhile, toxicologists in Japan discovered that neonicotinoids also harm other creatures, such as fish and river crabs. There too, Bayer sought to suppress publication.