A $450-million proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against the producers of neonicotinoid pesticides on behalf of two large family-owned Ontario honey producers.

Siskinds LLP filed the suit to "recover damages suffered by beekeepers due to the widespread use of neonicotinoid pesticides" as far back as 2006.

Paula Lombardi, partner at Siskinds LLP, said in a statement, "Without a vibrant and healthy bee population, so many of the foods we enjoy will simply no longer grow. We cannot afford to take the bees’ important work for granted, nor can we ignore threats to their survival as a species.”

The Statement of Claim alleges that Bayer Inc. and Syngenta International AG were negligent in the manufacture, sale and distribution of the pesticide, causing Ontario beekeepers to suffer significant losses and damage.

The Ontario Beekeepers' Association is not directly involved in the lawsuit, but vice-president Tibor Szabo said in a statement they are happy with the move.

"We support any effort that could help beekeepers recover losses caused by the overuse of neonicotinoids...This Action puts the blame where it belongs - on the pesticide manufacturers.”

The losses attributed to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides include;

  • dead or weakened bees
  • contaminated wax, honeycombs and hives
  • reduced honey production and lost profits
  • costs incurred to meet honey and pollination contracts
  • increased labour, equipment and supply expenses

The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists has reported that Ontario beekeepers lost 58 per cent of their hives last winter, more than three times the average of the rest of Canada.

In Ontario, neonicotinoids are applied to corn, soy and canola seeds, among others, and the pesticides are designed to interfere with the nervous system of insects that come into contact with the plants.

The class-action lawsuit has not yet been certified and the allegations have not been proven in court.