The Bees´Burden New Greenpeace report reveals pollen collected by bees contaminated with a cocktail of toxic pesticides

Publication date: 14th April 2014

European Press release 

Zurich – Over two third of the pollen that honeybees collected from European fields and brought to their hives to feed their larvae is contaminated with a cocktail of up to 17 different toxic pesticides. This is the shocking result of a new study Greenpeace International released today as a part of its Europe-wide campaign to save the bees and agriculture. The chemicals detected in European’s pollen range from insecticides, acaricides, fungicides and herbicides, likely produced by agrochemical-companies like Bayer, Syngenta and BASF, the former exposed by Greenpeace-activists via a spectacular climbing-action at its headquarters in Germany.

The study “The Bees´ Burden. An analysis of pesticide residues in comb pollen (beebread) and trapped pollen from honey bees” is the largest of its kind in Europe comprising over 100 samples from 12 countries. In total 53 different chemicals were detected. The study is a snapshot of the toxicity of Europe’s current agricultural system. It demonstrates the high concentrations and wide range of fungicides found in pollen collected around vineyards in Italy, the widespread use of bee-killing insecticides in pollen from fields from Poland, the intriguing detection of DDE (a toxic, bioaccumulative breakdown product of historically banned DDT) to the frequent detection of the insect nerve-poison thiacloprid, another example of the notorious class of the neonicotinoids, found in many samples from Germany.

Matthias Wüthrich, Greenpeace ecological farming campaigner“This study on contaminated pollen reveals the unbearable burden of bees and other vital pollinators. Bees are exposed to a cocktail of toxic pesticides. This is yet more proof that there is something fundamentally wrong in the current agricultural model which is based on the intensive use of toxic pesticides, large-scale monocultures and corporate control of farming by a few companies like Bayer, Syngenta & Co. It shows the need for a fundamental shift towards ecological farming.”

The report confirms the findings of a recent study [2] carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In its study, EFSA acknowledges vast knowledge gaps related to the health of bees and pollinators, including on the effects of chemical ‘cocktails’, and calls on the EU and national governments to fill this gap with further scientific investigation. In light of its findings on pollen contamination and following EFSA’s recommendations, Greenpeace calls on the European Commission and policy makers across Europe to:

·        Extend the scope of restrictions already imposed on the use of certain pesticides harmful to bees, namely clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and fipronil, so that their use is completely banned.
·        Fully ban all other pesticides harmful to bees and other pollinators (including chlorpyrifos, cypermethrin and deltamethrin).
·        Set ambitious Europe-wide action plans to better assess pesticide impacts on pollinators and reduce their use.
·        Encourage research and development of non-chemical alternatives to pest management and promote the widespread implementation of ecological farming practices on the ground.

In order to protest against beekilling pesticides in pollen and the current bee-kill incident in Germany with about one million of dead bees caused by the Bayer neonicotinoid clothianidin [3] more than 20 Greenpeace-activists unfurled a 10 x 17m fotobanner with bees at the Bayer headquarter in Leverkusen (Germany) stating: “Bayer: STOP KILLING US!”. With this action the activists are further exposing the agrochemical industry as the main beekiller and driver of the current destructive industrial agricultural model.


Notes to editors:
[1] “The Bees´ Burden – an analysis of pesticide residues in comb pollen (beebread) and trapped pollen from honey bees (Apis mellifera) in 12 European countries”
[2] “Towards an integrated environmental risk assessment of multiple stressors on bees: review of research projects in Europe, knowledge gaps and recommendations”

For actual images/footage of today´s action and other assets related to the report see