Bayer, a multinational corporation that recently made headlines for purchasing Monsanto, has agreed to pay a $75,000 fine for falsely advertising its pesticide products. The agreement between Bayer and the Massachusetts Attorney General is the first of its kind, as a manufacturer of neonicotinoid-class pesticides has never before been charged with false advertising claims. The Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement that “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.” Bayer also implied that its neonicotinoid products are EPA-approved, which they are not, and said gardeners should use as much of their product as possible as a preventative measure.
Healey called the settlement “an unprecedented step from a major pesticide manufacturer to promote truth in advertising for consumers about products that expose bees and the environment to harm and in turn also impact farming and food production. The products that were being advertised by Bayer as a “daily vitamin” for plants were Bayer Advanced All-in-One Rose and Flower Care, Bayer Advanced 12 Month Tree & Shrub Protect and Feed II, and Bayer Advanced Season Long Grub Control Plus Turf Revitalizer.
Neonicotinoids’ toxicity to pollinators and the environment is nothing new. Even industry studies, funded by the very people who produce neonicotinoids, have shown that they have a tremendous effect on bee populations. Neonicotinoids, when applied to plants, spread throughout it parts including the pollen, which is then picked up by pollinators who often die as a result of exposure. Their use also harms fish, amphibians, birds, and bats. A Harvard study also found links between neonicotinoid pesticides and so-called “colony collapse disorder,” a phenomenon that claims to account the “mysterious” mass deaths of bees which are a result of excessive, long-term pesticide use in North America. Despite the scientific evidence against their use, Bayer calls the claims that neonicotinoids pose a danger to the environment as “exaggerated.” However, Bayer marketed its first product as a company, heroin, to children as a “non-addictive” cough remedy, so their opinion is dubious at best.
Though this represents a good first step and shows that not all in the US legal system can be bought by mega-corporations, there is much more to be done if the North American bee population is to be saved. The honeybee is now on the endangered species list in North America for the first time ever, endangering nearly one-fourth of the food Americans consume, not to mention the other plants and animals that also depend on these important pollinators. With pesticide use in the US still on the rise, it is up to American citizens to stand up for the bees and demand an end to harmful agro-chemicals that endanger the country’s food supply and wildlife. Waiting for attorney generals in other states to follow Healy’s example is not enough, direct action must be taken to prevent the extinction of America’s most important pollinator.
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