Epitaph on BBKA Pesticide vote

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Jan 11, 2009
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At their Annual Delegates Meeting in January, The British Bee Keepers Association succeeded in splitting their membership down the middle over their controversial pesticide endorsement policy. 30 local associations voted to continue the policy, with 25 voting against, and there were 3 abstentions. Given that an abstention indicates a split within a local BKA, it appears that they have failed to convince a clear majority of their members that endorsing pesticides is a good idea.

Last year, the vote was 35 in favour of endorsement, 21 against, 1 abstention, showing that they have lost the support of 7 BKAs - and yet they somehow managed to spin the story into a victory!

According to their web site:

"The meeting also confirmed, by an increased margin (sic), the policy voted on at the 2009 ADM, of endorsing a long established group of pesticides. These are synthetic pyretheroids (sic) that, due to their repellent effect, have been shown to have caused almost no reported incidents of bee colony losses over many years. Delegates were firmly of the opinion that if farmers were going to use a pesticide, we would want them to use one of the endorsed products rather than a product which could be more toxic to bees."

Rumours that they are employing Alastair Campbell to write their press releases are probably exaggerated, but it is clear that their policy of 'being economical with the truth' whenever the situation gets a little sticky is still in place.


In December, BBKA ex-president Glyn Davies used his position as editor of the Devon BKA journal to mount an attack on the charity Friends of the Bees. Glyn Davies, who was president of the BBKA when they made their secret deal with Syngenta and Bayer around 2000-2001, and who organized the pro-GM propaganda exercise at BBKA HQ in 2002, has attacked both me (indirectly) and Friends of the Bees (directly) in his editorial.

Some consider this an abuse of his position as editor. You can decide for yourself by reading the scan here http://tinyurl.com/yhschn7
He says that he was 'very disappointed...to receive an angry email... which rather churlishly (sic) condemned Syngenta... for announcing a major investment in research into the declining population of honeybees. It is better that Syngenta does not further research the possible role of its own pesticides. Others are independently.'

Significantly, he failed to mention which labs are conducting 'independent research' into Syngenta's products.

He goes on to describe Friends of the Bees as sounding 'cosy and well-intentioned' but that it aims 'to deprive bees of the treatments and medicines they need to help them overcome the pests and pathogens that modern trade and transport have spread around.'

Apparently he sees the application of natural principles as 'deprivation'. How could we deprive the bees of all those nice chemicals!

He goes on 'The exposed hatred in the email for the entire agrochemical industry shows that the core concerns of the writer are more political to the point of religion than apicultural.'

Well, sorry Glyn, it's hard for me to show any respect at all for an industry that has done so much damage to the planet and every living thing on it. Political? Of course it's political. And so is using your position to abuse a charity that is trying to undo some of the damage you and your colleagues are partly responsible for.

I take it as a sign that we - the 'natural beekeeping movement' - are having an impact on people's thinking about bees in the context of our toxic agricultural system when someone with such a big axe to grind starts attacking us in public - and simultaneously exposes his own prejudices and ignorance.

Being savaged by a dead sheep comes to mind...


Interestingly, it is entirely possible that the very pesticides that the BBKA endorses were at least in part to blame for the Varroa mite rapidly developing immunity to Bayvarol and Apistan. Both sets of chemicals are pyrethroids (synthetics derived from the same chemical family as the once widely-used pyrethrum dust) and therefore closely related. The BBKA-endorsed pesticides were sprayed and dusted - hopefully according to the instructions on the tin - all over the British countryside for many years, while bees went about their business, bringing back to their hives small but steadily-accumulating amounts of these chemicals along with every load of pollen. At the same time, we were being told to put similar chemicals into our hives to kill mites - thereby exposing Varroa to not one, but two doses of virtually the same compounds: one low-level and long-term; the other high-level and short-term.

If you want to encourage any organism to develop tolerance to a toxin, what do you do? Give it tiny doses over a long period of time.

So Bayer made a fat profit - on the BBKA's recommendation - not only from poisoning the countryside, but also from beekeepers attempting - with decreasing effectiveness - to kill Varroa! Their meagre endorsement payment to the BBKA must have looked like a great bargain to their shareholders.


And finally, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust would like your vote to help them win a cash prize for a worthwhile project to help bumbles - http://tinyurl.com/yalmslq They are in the lead as I write, so give them a helping hand.

Happy beekeeping!

Phil Chandler

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