Our Toxic Countryside, by Graham White

Published in Beekeepers Quarterly, No. 108, June 2012

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Neonicotinoids, bees and wildlife, a comment by Graham White

In response to A Political Battle Over Pesticides, in TheScientist

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/35058/title/A-Political-Battle-Over-Pesticides/

Truly an excellent article which covers a very complex issue in a fair and balanced way.

Please see my article, from the perspective of a beekeeper, on Google Drive here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7FCgF0BwlDGN25iTHoxdlhabms/edit?usp=sharing

Peter Loring Borst’s comment comes direct from the ‘Poison Industry Playbook’ – standard stratgeies of: misinformation, distraction, smokescreen and stonewall. He is 100% an industry insider; not a scintilla of doubt in my mind.

Firstly ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ does not exist and has never existed; it is a false syndrome, a euphemism dreamed up by the poison industry’s PR wizards – a red herring to send beekeepers and scientists running off down the wrong trail.  No doubt the tobacco industry referred to lung cancer as ‘lung collapse disorder’ for 50 years, and hired legions of science prostitutes to brainwash the media into believing that tobacco did not cause cancer.  Never has the principle of Ockham’s Razor been more appropriate: do not go looking for a more complex hypothesis, if the current hypothesis can account for the phenomena you are investigating.

Do we have a global collapse of bee colonies and pollinator deaths?  YES

Are these deaths correlated in time and space with any insecticidal factor? Yes

Are systemic neonic pesticides used in every country where the mass-deaths are occurring?  Yes they are.

Is there any country where neonics are NOT used where mass bee deaths are occurring? No there is not.

Are neonicotinoids lethal to bees? Yes – at doses of just 0.1 ppb

Are they found in the pathology of dead bees and in hives, pollen, nectar and honey?  Yes they are.

Ockham’s Razor works just fine: we have a global phenomena of bee deaths that is strongly correlated in time, space and ecotoxicology with the global use of the most toxic, systemic crop pesticides ever invented.  Imidacloprid has a toxicity index 7,200 times greater than DDT.

Secondly the epidemiology of so-called ‘Colony Collapse Disporder’ is 100% consistent in geography and timeline with the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides. Bayer’s imidacloprid pesticide Gaucho was introduced in France in 1992 on sunflowers. By 1994 they had lost 1 million bee colonies and the national honey crop halved. They did the science and they banned neonics in 2000: the bees recovered and the stats prove the honey crop rebounded to previous levels.

Download ‘A History of the French Bee Disaster 1994-2003’ from here:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7FCgF0BwlDGMEV0RU82YmxYQUk/edit?usp=sharing

Thirdly – Borst spreads lies about Spain: neonics are used on a vast scale in Spain and they have suffered enormous bee losses.

America has lost approx 10,000,000 bee colonies since 1998 and 6,000,000 of those colony deaths occurred since Clothianidin was illegally licensed in 2003.

Argentina, once the largest producer of honey in the world, lost 2 million hives after neonics were introduced; the honey crop crashed and they have never recovered.

Germany and Italy lost tens of thousands of hives in less than a week when neonic coated corn was drilled in the Rhineland and the Po Valley. Both countries banned this technology and in both cases the bee-deaths stopped abruptly.  There are many peer-reviewed studies which document this,

Bayer and Syngenta like to cite Australia as the odd-man-out. Neonics are widely used there but the poison-sellers claim there are few bee deaths. This is totally untrue – the bee farmers report they lose hundreds of hives whenever they are placed near arable crops treated with neonics.  The point is that Australia has millions of square miles of wild bush, forest and chapparal – and the honey from these sources is more valuable – so they choose to place their hives in the back-country; it’s more profitable and the bees don’t encounter neonics.

IT’S NOT JUST THE BEES, ITS BIRDS AS WELL

The American Bird Conservancy has also just published a major peer-reviewed study by Dr Pierre Mineau and Cynthia Palmer which concludes that the only factor which accounts for the catastrophic crash in US farmland bird populations is, neonicotinoid pesticides, currently used to coat every seed on over 200 million acres of American corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and canola.

See paper:  http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0057457

The key finding is that “a single grain of wheat, coated with imidacloprid” can kill a songbird outright.

Finally, the proposed European ban, which will be adopted in 2 weeks time – is based on a plethora of independent peer-reviewed papers.  The European Fiood Safety Agency commissioned a panel of over 20 eminent toxicologists and ecologists to analyse over 50 studies published since 2000. They concluded that:

a. neonics are extremely toxic to bees and pollinators

b. there are massive ‘data gaps’ in the industry-provided data that was used to license these poisons back in 1990

c. the testing methodology used to assess the pesticides was completely obsolete and could never have revealed sub-lethal effects on bees.

d. there is a high degree of ‘scientific uncertaintly’ about the safety of these systemic neurotoxins.

for all of these reasons they invoked the precautionary principle – which is European Law – that is mandated in such situations.

Download EFSA’s conclusions (powerpoint) here:

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pollinators/documents/EFSAConclusiononNeonicitinoids2013.pdf

Regards
Graham White
Friends of the Bees
www.friendsofthebees.org

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