Bayer Agrees to First-of-its-Kind Accord Over Pesticide Ads

Get complete, dependable coverage of the regulation at every stage in the chemical life cycle, including comprehensive news on REACH, the Toxic Substances Control Act, up-to-date HAZMAT guidance,...

By Martha Kessler

Oct. 26 — Global pesticide manufacturer Bayer CropScience LP will pay Massachusetts $75,000 and change its advertising practices to settle allegations that it misled consumers about the risks its lawn and garden products pose to bees and the environment.

The agreement between Bayer CropScience and the Massachusetts attorney general is believed to be the first-of-its-kind enforcement action targeting false advertising claims by a manufacturer of pesticides containing synthetic chemicals known as neonicotinoids. The company is a division of Bayer AG.“Bayer made numerous misleading claims to consumers about the safety of its pesticide products, including falsely advertising that they were similar to giving ‘a daily vitamin’ to plants, when in fact, they are highly toxic to honey bees, other pollinators and species, and the environment,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement Oct. 26.Healey brought the action under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

Consumer group Beyond Pesticides said it has sent a letter in the wake of the Bayer agreement with Massachusetts to the other 49 state attorneys general calling on them to take similar action to halt the use of what it called “misleading and fraudulent” pesticide advertising.

Company Settled to Avoid Litigation

Bayer spokesman Jeff Donald told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 26 the firm’s crop science division believes the advertising related to the products involving neonicotinoid chemistry was “at all times accurate and transparent.” He said the firm agreed to settle the action to avoid the time and cost associated with litigation.The assurance of discontinuance requires that Bayer refrain from any reference or claim that the products are safe, environmentally friendly, non-toxic or won’t harm bees or other pollinators, unless the company can substantiate the claim. The accord was filed Oct. 26 in Massachusetts Superior Court for Suffolk County ( Massachusetts v. Bayer CropScience LP , Mass. Super. Ct., No. 16-3269G, 10/26/16 ).

Healey’s office said that a investigation by her office of Scotts Miracle-Gro for similar allegations was discontinued after that company opted to phase out neonicotinoids from its law and garden consumer product line earlier this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martha Kessler in Boston at MKessler@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.