Bayer, Syngenta Propose Bee-Health Plan Amid Ban Threat

Bayer AG and Syngenta AG outlined a plan to improve bee health in the European Union as they seek to head off a proposed ban on some uses of neonicotinoid insecticides sold by the companies.

The two companies proposed increasing field margins with flowering plants across the 27-nation EU to provide habitat and food for bees, as well as a field-monitoring program for bee health, Bayer wrote in an e-mailed statement today.

EU country experts earlier this month failed to agree on either approving or rejecting a two-year ban on some neonicotinoid uses, proposed by the European Commission because of risks to honey-bee health.

“Banning these products would not save a single hive and it is time that everyone focused on addressing the real causes of declining bee populations,” John Atkin, Syngenta’s chief operating officer, was cited as saying in the statement. “The plan is based on our confidence in the safety of our products.”

Leverkusen, Germany-based Bayer and Syngenta also proposed mandatory measures to reduce the exposure of bees, investing in technology to reduce dust emissions from planting seed coated with neonicotinoids and further research into how to improve bee health and fight parasites and viruses.

The commission, the EU’s executive arm, in January proposed a suspension on the use of three neonicotinoids on sunflowers, rapeseed, corn and cotton.

The class of pesticides, which works on the central nervous-system of insects, pose a “high acute risk” to bees through the nectar and pollen of some treated crops and through drifting dust, the European Food Safety Authority wrote in a Jan. 16 report.

Bayer in January called the EU ban proposal “draconian” and “overly conservative,” while Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta said falling bee populations have nothing to do with chemicals, blaming the parasitic mite varroa destructor because it transmits diseases such as the deformed-wing virus.