By Dianne Saxe: Environmental lawyer
For the Huffington Post
Last week, Canadian beekeepers filed a class action lawsuit in Ontario Superior Court (Windsor) against two massive chemical companies, Bayer AG and Syngenta AG, for over $400 million in losses allegedly caused by neonicotinoid pesticides to Ontario bees.
This is the first Canadian class action lawsuit filed for harm to bees caused by these widely used pesticides. Since the 1970s, reaching obvious and disturbing levels in 2006, honeybees have been dropping like flies, prompting scientists around the world to research potential causes, e.g. cell phone radiation, parasites, and the thinning ozone layer. After eight years, the conversation has focused on neonicotinoids.
Corn, soy bean and other crop seeds are treated with these pesticides to prevent insects from damaging them before they sprout. According to the Grain Farmers of Ontario, neonticotinoids have been used on all corn seeds in Ontario since 2004.
So far, the named plaintiffs include Sun Parlor, a family business that has been in operation for 89 years and which represents one of the largest honey producers in Ontario. Between 2006 and 2013, Sun Parlor alleges losses consisting of $1.4 million in lost bee hives and about three quarters of a million dollars in lost honey production. Munro Honey, another of Ontario’s largest honey producers, alleges similar losses. The proposed class will include all Canadian beekeepers with potential losses dating back to 2006 unless they opt out.
According to the Statement of Claim, the three pesticides named persist in soils and have half-lives ranging from five months to sixteen and a half years. That’s a long time.