Beekeepers suing pesticide makers

Journal Staff

A class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Ontario beekeepers who say their hives have been killed or damaged by neonicotinoid pesticides.

The suit filed by London-based Siskinds LLP seeks more than $400 million in damages from Bayer and Syngenta, which develops and markets the pesticides.

“They’ve back us into a corner. They won’t negotiate with us,” said Davis Bryans, of Munro Honey in Alvinston, one of two lead plaintiffs in the suit.

“It has taken our livelihood away … you have to do something.”

More than 60 other beekeepers quickly joined the class action, and Bryans has fielded calls from others around the world asking how they can help.

A Sarnia beekeeper who lost 90% of his hives last winter and believes the pesticides played a role said he is weighing his options.

Across Ontario, beekeepers lost 58% of their bees last winter, according to the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, which is well above the 15% loss in a typical winter.

Neonics, which are applied to corn, soybean and other crops, attack the nervous systems of insects that come in contact with the plants.

The Statement of Claim, which has not been proven in court, alleges the defendants were negligent in their design, manufacture and distribution of neonicotinoids.

As a result, hives were contaminated and bees damaged or killed, resulting in lost honey production and profits for beekeepers.

Munro’s said his local family-owned business has lost $3 million since 2006, including nearly $2 million in lost hives and another $1 million from honey production declines of 200,000 pounds.

The vice-president of CropLife Canada, a maker of the pesticides not named in the suit, said in a recent letter to The Journal that neonics are being unfairly been targeted.

“Before any pesticide can be sold in Canada, it must undergo a comprehensive scientific evaluation and risk assessment by Health Canada, which would not approve a product for use if it posed an unacceptable risk to human health or the environment,” Pierre Petelle said.

 With files from Heather Wright of The Independent in Petrolia