When CBC News began to explore the growing body of research indicating a link between the use of neonicotinoid pesticides and bee deaths, we immediately contacted Bayer Crop Sciences to get its side of the story.

The company did not provide a spokesman to go on camera or discuss the matter in any detail. But through its public relations arm it did respond in depth to some of our questions.

The following is an email exchange over the course of several months between reporter Janet Thomson and the company representing Bayer Crop Sciences over the use of its neonicotinoid-coated agricultural seeds (read her story here):

From: Janet Thomson janet.thomson@cbc.ca

Date: Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 2:03 PM

Subject: Re: New Technology from Bayer Reduces Potential Exposure to Bees

To: Monique Daniel

Dear Monique,

 Thank you very much for this press release and video. I had been told that new lubricants were in the trial stages.

I would like to request an interview with Bayer Crop Science to discuss these findings and to ask about whether there are currently any other concerns, besides dust during planting.

 Can you suggest who might be the best person to discuss these matters with me?

 My timelines are fairly flexible, but I would appreciate it if we could do an interview within the next week or so.

 Many thanks again,

Janet Thomson

On Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 1:22 PM, Monique Daniel wrote:

Good afternoon Janet,

Earlier this year, Bayer Crop Science announced the results of field trials of a new product that helps reduce dust during the planting of treated seed resulting in a significant reduction in the potential for exposure to honey bees and other pollinators.

As you may know, the use of lubricants, such as talc or graphite, is a standard recommendation by planter equipment manufacturers to help reduce friction and improve planting uniformity. However, dust emissions from planting treated seed with vacuum planters could have potential, acute effects on honey bees.

Two years ago, Bayer began research to find a low-dust alternative to talc and graphite. We have developed a new Fluency Agent that has a significant decrease – up to 90 percent in some cases – in dust in laboratory tests.

In the spring of this year, we conducted extensive field testing of this product throughout the U.S. and Canada. The purpose of the field testing was to determine the commercial viability of the new Fluency Agent under "real-world" conditions. Most of the growers thought the Fluency Agent was better or equal to the talc or graphite lubricant they were currently using.

We have produced a video of the field tests that includes interviews with Bayer representatives, a grower who participated in the trials and a beekeeper who helped recruit growers for the trials in his area.

We hope you will find the video informative. You can access the video online here and a link to the media alert is provided here with more information.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the video, the new Fluency Agent and/or Bayer's North America Bee Care Program.

Best and sincerely,

Monique Daniel

Coordinator

monique.daniel@porternovelli.com

Twitter: @monidaniel

PORTER NOVELLI CANADA I porternovelli.com

2 Bloor Street West, Suite 2202

Toronto, ON M4W 3E2 | porternovelli.com

………………………………………………..

From: Janet Thomson 

Sent: November-22-13 10:54 AM

To: Monique Daniel

Subject: Fwd: New Technology from Bayer Reduces Potential Exposure to Bees

Hello again Monique,

Have you been successful in arranging an interview for me with a Bayer CropScience spokesperson?

Thanks very much,

Janet

On Fri, Nov 22, 2013 at 12:47 PM, Monique Daniel wrote:

Good afternoon,

Thank you Janet for your interest in speaking with Bayer CropScience. The media alert you received was to provide you with an update on the latest field trial of Bayer's new seed application technology, which is designed to further reduce potential dust exposure to honey bees during a typical planting process, while offering improved handling efficiencies to corn farmers.

At this time, if you would like additional information, please send us your questions and we will do our best to provide you with answers.

Regards,

Monique Daniel

……………………………………………..

From: Janet Thomson

Sent: January-09-14 1:59 PM

To: Monique Daniel

Subject: Re: New Technology from Bayer Reduces Potential Exposure to Bees

Dear Monique,

Happy New Year to you!

I have read the press release from Canada's Pest Management Review Agency (PMRA) dated 30 December 2013 and I would like to review some of the recommendations and timelines in the release with a spokesperson from Bayer.

Would you be able to suggest someone for me to speak to?

Thank you very much,

Janet Thomson

On Fri, Jan 10, 2014 at 3:15 PM, Monique Daniel wrote:

Hi Janet,

Happy New Year to you as well! In response to your request, Bayer CropScience has provided the following statement:

Bayer CropScience is committed to meaningful stewardship efforts to safeguard honey bee health and maintain sustainable agricultural practices, which include the use of innovative seed treatments in corn and soybeans.

We support the recommended measures by PMRA and will continue to promote better collaboration between farmers and beekeepers to improve bee health and ensure the adoption of best management practices.

We will work closely with the PMRA and all agricultural stakeholders to ensure these mitigation measures are properly implemented.

Thank you and best regards,

Monique Daniel

Coordinator, Porter Novelli Canada

………………………………………………….

From: Janet Thomson 

Sent: April-09-14 9:43 AM

To: Monique Daniel

Subject: Re: New Technology from Bayer Reduces Potential Exposure to Bees

Good morning Monique,

I wondered if you would be able to answer a few questions for me regarding the new lubricant that will likely be used by most farmers in the corn and soybean planting process in the weeks ahead.

  1. Is Bayer satisfied that the new lubricant will significantly help to protect honey bees and other pollinators?
  2. Does Bayer feel this will solve the dust problem?
  3. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food suggests the new lubricant produced a 21 per cent reduction in dust during corn planting. What are the final numbers from Bayer when it comes to field trials of the new lubricant?
  4. New research is coming to light that suggests neonicotinoids are present in water, soil and pollen and could be harmful to wildlife such as other pollinators, birds, bats and even mammals.If this is the case, what is Bayer's plan going forward?

5.. I was told by a representative of one of the large seed companies that older foliar spray insecticides were more harmful to honey bees than neonicotinoid-treated seed technology. Would you agree that the older convention of spraying is more harmful? Or could it be wise to return to some of those technologies?

Many thanks again for your help on this.

All the best,

Janet

From: Monique Daniel 

Date: Fri, Apr 11, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Subject: RE: New Technology from Bayer Reduces Potential Exposure to Bees

To: Janet Thomson 

Hi Janet,

Thank you again for your email.

For more than 25 years, Bayer CropScience has been committed to environmental stewardship and the protection of beneficial insects and bees. As a leader in agriculture, Bayer understands the value of pollinators to agriculture and has an inherent interest in helping find solutions to the problem of honey bee health.

Bee health is accepted by the scientific community to be a complex issue. In fact, most scientists agree that bees may be dying, not from a single toxin or disease, but rather from a variety of factors that include introduced pests and parasites, microbial diseases, inadequate diet, habitat loss, bee management practices, adverse weather and loss of genetic diversity.

Here are Bayer's responses to your questions:

1. Is Bayer satisfied that the new lubricant will significantly help to protect honey bees and other pollinators?

Bee health is accepted by the scientific community to be a complex issue. Although the risk associated with seed treatment is already quite low, the introduction of Fluency Agent is Bayer's latest contribution to improve honey bee health in Canada.

Fluency Agent is a polyethylene wax-based, next generation seed application technology, designed to replace talc, graphite and talc/graphite blended seed lubricants.

The use of this farmer-applied seed flow lubricant is required by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) during the 2014 planting season with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds.

Fluency Agent helps reduce dust released and the potential risk of exposure to pollinators from treated seeds during the planting process when use and application directions are correctly followed. Studies are showing a reduction of active ingredient released into the environment, when using Fluency Agent in corn planting equipment.

2. Does Bayer feel this will solve the dust problem?

The new fluency agent has been shown to dramatically reduce dust when compared to the current industry standard lubricants, talc and graphite, which are used by farmers to improve flowability and planting uniformity. In 2013, large-scale field trials were conducted on 13,000 acres in Canada and 27,000 acres in the United States to determine if this technology would be commercially viable under realistic field conditions.

It is also important to note that Bayer laboratory measurements reported approximately 40-70 per cent reduction (with variation seen between different types of seeding equipment and seed source) in insecticide dust emission when the Fluency Agent was used in comparison to conventional lubricants (talc, graphite).

3. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food suggests the new lubricant produced a 21 per cent reduction in dust during corn planting. What are the final numbers from Bayer when it comes to field trials of the new lubricant?

We are aware of a recent study on the Fluency Agent conducted by Dr. Art Schaafsma of the University of Guelph.

The University of Guelph study reported a 28-55 per cent reduction in insecticide from fugitive dust collected on horizontal samplers, as measured from the edge of the field to 100 meters outward, when compared to conventional lubricants (mainly talc). This is consistent with comparable Bayer laboratory measurements, which found approximately 40-70 per cent reduction when the Fluency Agent was used in comparison to conventional lubricants (talc, graphite).

4. New research is coming to light that suggests neonicotinoids are present in water, soil and pollen and could be harmful to wildlife such as other pollinators, birds, bats and even mammals. If this is the case, what is Bayer's plan going forward?

 Bayer has been committed to environmental stewardship and the protection of wildlife and beneficial insects, including honey bees. Far from being ubiquitous in the environment, years of monitoring research has shown that neonicotinoid residues do not build up in water, nor do they bioaccumulate in aquatic food chains. Neonicotinoid insecticides have been rigorously tested and found to be safe to birds, pollinators, aquatic organisms and mammals by Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), when label directions are followed.

In fact, the introduction of the neonicotinoid class of chemistry has resulted in a significant reduction in overall risk to the environment than was associated with older insecticides that were far more toxic to fish and wildlife. There has not been a single instance of confirmed bird mortality from a neonicotinoid application in over 20 years of use according to the American Bird Conservancy's own incident monitoring records.

5. I was told by a representative of one of the large seed companies that older foliar spray insecticides were more harmful to honey bees than neonicotinoid-treated seed technology. Would you agree that the older convention of spraying is more harmful? Or could it be wise to return to some of those technologies?

Neonicotinoid seed treatments are critical tools used by farmers, replacing older granular insecticides and even some foliar sprays because of their effectiveness in managing destructive pests, safety to applicators, and a more favorable environmental profile. Modern seed treatments provide a high level of precision (less than one percent of a given area is treated), which limits the broader potential exposure to pollinators seen in broadcast spray applications.

Janet, we hope you find the above responses from Bayer, informative. Should you need additional information or have further questions, please feel free to reach out to me.

Thanks and have a great weekend.

Best and sincerely,

Monique Daniel

Consultant, Porter Novelli Canada