German chemical giant Bayer has failed in its attempt to sue Friends of the Earth Germany over its claims that thiacloprid, a pesticide manufactured by Bayer, harms bees.

Responding to the ruling by a judge in Dusseldorf that the environmental group had a right to voice its concerns, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) bees campaigner Dave Timms said: “Bayer has been shown up as a corporate bully, trying to silence campaigners who are standing up for bees.

“The ruling is a victory for Friends of the Earth Germany, freedom of speech and for the many thousands of people who have taken action to protect bees across Europe.

“Now we want to see action from the European Commission to ensure that any pesticides with evidence of harm to bees are taken off our shelves and out of our fields for good.”

Campaigners have serious concerns about the impact of some of Bayer’s products on bees, including those containing the neonicotinoid thiacloprid, which is used by farmers and is on sale to gardeners in the UK.

Three other neonicotinoid pesticides were subject to a temporary ban in the EU from 2013 due to evidence that they harm bees. Although thiacloprid is not subject to that ban there is evidence that it can make bees more likely to die from common diseases and can impair their navigational abilities, making it harder for them to return to their hives.

Thiacloprid is used on crops in the UK such as oil seed rape and apples and it is sold to the public in garden bug-killing products. Friends of the Earth is now asking the European Commission to take a precautionary approach by suspending all uses of thiacloprid and to review its safety. The environment charity will be contacting retailers in the UK asking them to stop selling products containing Thiacloprid.

Friends of the Earth is also urging the Commission to stand firm in the face of bullying tactics from Bayer which has a legal action with Syngenta against the EU’s existing temporary ban on three other neonicotinoids. These chemicals were restricted following a thorough and independent scientific review of their safety which found they each posed a “high acute risk” to honey bees.