Canadian Beekeepers Sue Neonicotinoid Makers Bayer, Syngenta for C$450 Million

By Peter Menyasz

Sept. 5 — Canadian beekeepers have filed a class action lawsuit against Bayer CropScience Inc. and Syngenta Canada Inc. claiming C$450 million ($414 million) in damages for negligence related to the use of neonicotinoid insecticides.

The lawsuit, which also names the firms' foreign parents—Germany-based Bayer AG and Switzerland-based Syngenta International AG—claims chronic effects of the use of neonicotinoid insecticides has led to damage including bee deaths, impaired reproduction, immune suppression, behavior abnormalities causing hive loss, reduced honey production and reduced honey quality.

No date has been set by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice for a hearing on whether the action should be certified under Ontario's Class Proceedings Act, Dimitri Lascaris, a partner with Siskinds LLP, the Windsor, Ontario law firm that filed the lawsuit, told Bloomberg BNA Sept. 4 in an e-mail.

The lawsuit seeks C$400 million ($368 million) in general and specific damages and C$50 million ($46 million) in punitive damages, as well as prejudgment and post-judgment interest and legal costs.

It specifically targets insecticides clothianidin, parent compound thiamethoxam and predecessor product imidacloprid, alleging that they have been demonstrated to have significant adverse impacts on the survival, growth and health of bees. It alleges that Bayer and Syngenta were negligent in the design, development, distribution and sale of the insecticides because they knew, or should have known, that they posed a risk to bee populations.

“The harm to the class is ongoing due to the defendants' continued production, marketing and sale of the neonicotinoids. Beekeepers have suffered, and will continue to suffer, devastating economic hardships as a result of the continued use of neonicotinoids,” the statement of claim said.

The statement of claim noted that Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency is currently conducting a reevaluation of the registration of neonicotinoid products for use in Canada, but said the review will not be completed before 2017 or 2018.

The European Commission imposed in December 2013 a two-year ban on the sale and use of neonicotinoid insecticides containing clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam for seed treatment, soil application and use on plants and cereals that are attractive to bees, except winter cereals, it said.

Thiamethoxam and clothianidin are the subject of ongoing litigation in the United States seeking to overturn their Environmental Protection Agency registrations.

The proposed class representatives are two of Ontario's largest honey producers: Sun Parlor Honey Ltd., a family-owned business in southern Ontario, and 1187607 Ontario Ltd., operating as Munro Honey, a family-owned business in Alvinston, Ontario.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Menyasz in Ottawa at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Henderson at ghenderson@bna.com