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Brosville 

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Today’s News 6 November, 2009
Jack Hunter Soil Association

DEFRA claims pesticides are not a serious threat to bees
“DEFRA has angered anti-pesticide campaigners after it claimed chemical sprays were not to blame for the sharp decline in British bee numbers.
During parliamentary questions last week, the Department also defended the use of public money to investigate the health of bees in a jointly funded research project with the pesticide manufacturers Syngenta. Dan Norris, Defra minister, told MPs in the House of Commons that the Government took the drop in bee numbers very seriously but said adequate measures were already in place to protect bees against harmful sprays.”
Soil Association comment: There is a mounting body of evidence from European countries of the damaging effects neonicotinoid insecticides have on the neurological and immune systems of honeybees. Other European countries have banned or suspended the use of these chemicals. Bees are acutely susceptible to pesticides for a number of reasons. Honeybees have less detoxifying capacity in their bodies compared to some other insects, which makes them particularly susceptible to sub-lethal exposure to pesticides. Honeybees have also been found to have a higher number of the neurological receptors that are targeted by neonicotinoids than other insects. Please sign our petition today here. http://apps.soilassociation.org:80/Bees/Register.aspx
 

Heather 

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SIGNED.
Am off to a meeting today to challenge the person who voted- without our knowledge or consent- for the BBKA condoning products and logo use etc.agreement with Bayer.
Already seems to be kicking off according to emails - GOOD - it needs to!
 

thebhoy 

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SIGNED

Best of wishes for your meeting Heather and look forward to reading how it went.

Thebhoy
 

MJBee 

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Tried to sign but it will not accept a French postcode:(
 

gavin 

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'We, the undersigned support the Soil Association in calling on Hilary Benn, the UK’s Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to ban neonicotinoid pesticides with immediate effect. These pesticides have been shown to kill honeybees and are thought to be a contributory factor in the recent dramatic increase in honeybee deaths'

Well, here's my take on this. The Soil Association are absolutely delighted that bees have such a high profile at the moment. You don't need to take a broad view of what is happening to bees, you just need to piggy-back on the worry people have and so you can use the situation to promote your own agenda. Their agenda? Removal of as many pesticides as possible from UK agriculture. Is that wise? Don't care. Is it right? Don't care. It is our standpoint that things would be better if all pesticides are removed from food production. Would agriculture continue to feed the population if shackled by the loss of some of its major means of controlling pests and disease? Not relevant, we only want all pesticides removed from agriculture.

Sorry folks, time to get real on this. Of course neonicotinoids kill bees. In the US where they are used in irrigation water for vegetable production, that appears to be a very risky thing to do. They are injected into citrus and other bee-pollinated tree plantations. Stupid. Golf courses, lawns, garden trees. Daft. Yet all the evidence emerging is that American CCD has little if anything to do with neonicotinoids.

Here our bee difficulties are mostly winter losses. Here the main exposure of bees to them is from OSR (April/May mostly). Who has bee losses then? Anyone? The great majority of studies have shown that the levels of imidacloprid in nectar and pollen from arable crops is in the safe range. Yup, the safety margin is not that great (10 to 100 fold?) but the evidence of our own eyes is that OSR crops are still safe for bees because they build up well on them, bring in big crops, and suffer the same winter problems in non-arable areas. Anyone out there have observations to the contrary?

In their first stab at a briefing paper in support of this petition they made it very plain that they had absolutely no understanding of bees and beekeeping. Someone posted a copy on the BBKA forum. CCD was equated with UK winter loses (same kind of thing implied by the Co-op in their publicity for the 'Vanishing' film). It was full of nonsense about 'tester bees' and some supposed high susceptibility of bees to insecticides (that'll be why many folk put high levels of pyrethroids into their hives to kill mites then, will it?!).

Watch out folks, these people are using you! We owe it to our bees to properly understand their difficulties so that we can find the right solutions.

G.
 

Brosville 

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It would be an excellent move if those who should know better got off their subsidised backsides and worked towards a genuinely sustainable future (fossil-fuelled factory farming is NOT in any way sustainable), and instead of working towards the greater glory and profit of deeply amoral multinational companies did something useful like helping perfect permaculture.
As for "bias" in this matter -so what if there is a "hidden agenda" of ridding the planet of unnecessary chemicals that are killing all life on earth (us included), and robbing the land of it's innate fertility, all in the pursuit of the almighty dollar! -I would think that entirely commendable, whereas supporting the agrochemical brigades is somewhat akin to stoking the fires of our impending hell on earth..........
But if the forces of darkness get their way (and they usually do, they're rich enough, and have bought enough weak and stupid people), science will never get the chance of proving the horrors being visited upon beekind by the makers and supporters of Zyklon Bee!
Shock, horror, probe, the soil association wants to stop the world from poisoning all life on earth - how unutterably dreadful! (Obviously not good sorts, or to be trusted to tell the truth!)
You're flogging a chemically poisoned, and very dead horse Gavin!
ps, if you're so convinced that "icides" are positively beneficial, how come there is a viaible concerted campaign by the forces of darkness to stop ANY research into the problems caused by them?
 
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gavin 

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That's pretty outrageous Brosville. My professional concerns are exactly that sustainable future, and absolutely nothing to do with 'working towards the greater glory of deeply amoral multinational companies', as I have explained to you at length elsewhere.

I'm not driven by any kind of commercial motive. I want beekeepers, society, mankind, to use their collective brains to work out what the real and important issues are, and to work towards a future that will be a reasonable place for our children and grandchildren. Climate change, bee issues, biodiversity loss, sustainable food production, all of it. The right decisions based on rational thought, clear heads, and a proper look at all the evidence, not emotional knee-jerk reactions.

That petition is one in a long line of similar petitions. The Soil Association do have a lot to offer in terms of sustainable agriculture, but in my view they are exploiting folk's concerns on winter bee losses to support their own dogmatic position on pesticides. The effect of that is to divert any focus on the more likely problems bees are facing in the UK: Varroa, viruses, loss of habitat, a run of poor summers, queen mating troubles, Nosema, acarine, inappropriate strains at least in some areas, foulbrood .... and possibly pesticides too.

all the best, from the dark side :cheers2:

Gavin
 

Brosville 

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which still leaves hanging in the air, unanswered (surprise, surprise)

"how come there is a concerted campaign by the forces of darkness to stop ANY research into the problems caused by them?"

Syngenta-funded research impartial (of course), DEFRA's? (wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Ag) - of course, the governments....... oh that's being funded by Syngenta, and advised by the British Beekiller's Association, who are
funded by who is it now? - oh yes, Bayer and Syngenta.......... no possible chance of the slightest bias there then!

ps, the truly outrageous thing is that this government, DEFRA, BBKA and numerous other bodies are totally in the sway of Big AG!
 
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gavin 

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It seems to me that the project you are talking about plans to address some of the main issues, and that Syngenta are contributing to that. Is that a good or a bad thing? Depends on your perspective I suppose. If you've convinced yourself that agrochemical companies are evil and are always working to subvert Truth and Honesty, then your position is logical. I know one of the main researchers well, and can vouch for her integrity and excellence as a scientist, so I don't have such worries. Here is the official line on what they will be up to:

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/media/releases/2009/091001_1million_award_honeybee_decline.html

I'm on record as saying that I think the BBKA's pesticide endorsement policy is the wrong thing for a beekeeping organisation to do. Also, I'm not sure that I would want to be co-funded by an agrochemical company in such a contentious research area, but that is because folk like you would cry foul and disbelieve the results.

If you were to be put in charge of a big pot of research funds for bee issues, how would you spend it? We know that UK bee problems are winter losses. Queen failure, diseases, Varroa, presumably. I've yet to hear of beekeepers complaining that their bees fade away, or come back confused, when the rape is in flower and they are often almost completely living off the stuff when it is in flower. You can look in the literature and see disagreements - between one French group and all other groups researching the topic, including the other French group active in the area. No researcher is going to get excited about the prospect of repeating the work that tells you about the small amount of imidocloprid that turns up in pollen and nectar, and neither would there be an enthusiasm for more toxicity work when there are already so many studies that say the dangerous levels are 20-100ppm. In the French case, it was perfectly understandable to link dressing on sunflower seed with bee losses as the problems appeared in summer when they were exposed. But the seasons in the UK of bee losses and exposure are so far apart that brand new mechanisms have to be invoked. Now the pesticides 'suppress the immune response' of the bees, even though there is absolutely no evidence that such a thing happens. Fantasy science again.

So what exactly do you think should be researched? What is it that you think that agrochemical companies are trying to suppress?

G.
 

Brosville 

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whatever it is they are working so hard to avoid proper independent research on!................:)
Which would be..............
 

Chris B 

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Well said Gavin.

I for one am no fan of "BigAg", neonics, BBKA endorsements etc. etc.
But come on, anyone who pretends current UK bee problems (winter losses specifically) are linked to pesticides in any major way is doing beekeeping a disservice by diverting the focus from the real problems. However noble the aims of the Soil Association, I can't take the view (as you appear to Brosville), that it justifies using bee problems as a convenient peg to hang their aims on. Sacrificing the truth about bee problems (the real ones that is) is only 1 step away from sacrificing the bees.

Show me a petition that calls for banning neonics because they are just plain nasty and I'll sign.

"These pesticides have been shown to kill honeybees and are thought to be a contributory factor in the recent dramatic increase in honeybee deaths" . Well they haven't been a contributory factor in my winter losses (15% last winter) nor anybody else that I know. I can't sign that petition. Sorry.
 

Brosville 

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"Sacrificing the truth about bee problems (the real ones that is) is only 1 step away from sacrificing the bees"
- erhem!- that is the point that I am trying to make, and several people seem to be completely avoiding, and for some odd, inexplicable reason,they have this god-given insight that "icides" could not possibly be at fault in any way whatsoever, and go galloping off trying to do their usual smear-job of painting people like myself who are deeply suspicious of the "Big AG" connection as some form of demented bedwetters who should be patted patronisingly on the head and told to "grow up".
Taking just one teensie point from the muddied waters in this thread, just imagine for a second that the confessedly vast doses of pyrethroids used by some terminally misguided "beekeepers" might be considerably potentiated by combination with nicotinoids (as has been firmly demonstrated at Penn State)
I could post umpteen links to people like "GMwatch and "spinwatch" that prove the Syngenta connection is about as tainted and biased as it's possible to get..... Rothamstead too......The question STILL remains unaddressed, WHY, if "icides" are so completely lily-white, how come there is such an effort NOT to have that link properly and scientifically explored?
I am yet to be convinced that all of the people who brought about bans on neonicotinoids in other parts of the world did so because they consulted chicken entrails, or were guided by the fairies - there are grave doubts about the damn stuff's safety (whether used in isolation, but more particularly, in combination), certainly sufficient to mean that a lack of proper independent investigation stinks - utterly!
(And if the apologists must start hiding behind "science", howsabout applying the entirely scientific "precautionary principle" and withdraw it until it is proved completely safe?)
The plain fact of the matter is that the companies who make neonicotinoids are boasting (in the financial arena) how they're "bucking the recessional trend" by continuing to make gazillions out of their nostrums - they are making SO much money, they don't want grubby little beekeepers killing the goose that's laying the poisoned golden egg......... hells bells, one of the companies is even making money flogging bumblebees to take the place of the honeybees their products are probably killing............
 
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gavin 

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Taking just one teensie point from the muddied waters in this thread, just imagine for a second that the confessedly vast doses of pyrethroids used by some terminally misguided "beekeepers" might be considerably potentiated by combination with nicotinoids (as has been firmly demonstrated at Penn State)
Muddied waters? OK then Brosville, firmly demonstrated at Penn State you say, that neonicotinoids potentiate pyrethroids?

You're making it up, aren't you?! Please tell us where we can read more on this interaction between pyrethroids and neonicotinoids.

G.
 

Brosville 

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If you wade through all the stuff that is emanating from the research being done there (no I don't have the precise document to hand, I read it on one of the links on "another" website to the Penn State output - if my memory serves me right, it was a release of "preliminary findings" from the Maryann Fraser team), the suggestion was that neonicotinoids are considerably potentiated by other commonly-used agrochemicals, with which they are commonly tank-mixed!) - from memory, certain fungicides (but if it happens with fungicides, then it is certainly possible it may happen with pyrethroids) - the precise phrase I used was "might be considerably potentiated"

Let us try something incredibly simple - I will, in a totally humble manner, admit that I don't KNOW that the problems with bees are definitely down to neonicotinoids (or any other agrochemicals), whether used singly, or in combination, but think it entirely reasonable that due to the mountain of worldwide bans that we should demand the research should be done to find out.....
All I ask is that the "supporters" of Big Ag products should display the same humility, and admit that they too don't definitively KNOW that they are safe, and should willingly support the entirely scientific "precautionary principle" of withdrawing the stuff pending full and independent trials....... as is often said "if you have nothing to hide......."
 

gavin 

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Hi Brosville

So the synergy that worried you was between certain fungicides and some insecticides. That is my recollection too, but that isn't what you said above. Not sure whether or not Penn State were involved in the actual research, but I suspect that they just mentioned such possibilities as something to look out for.

I don't quite understand your 'nothing to hide' comment. Are you still suggesting that I'm hiding something? Why? Just because I disagree with you?

The trouble with wanting to know something definitively is that arriving at absolute certainty is not easy. At least it shouldn't be if you are honestly keeping an open mind.

There is a lady beekeeper not very far from here who is absolutely convinced that mobile phone masts, TV transmitters and TETRA masts are having a terrible effect on bees. I gave a talk on foulbrood to the local beekeepers last summer, and she was first with a point to make afterwards - yup, its the radio emissions at fault. She expresses her concerns well and can quote lots of 'science'. I cannot completely dismiss her fears, though I think them to be extremely unlikely, as there isn't enough evidence to do that in a water-tight way. Just like the neonicotinoid story, you can point to similar effects being seen away from possible sources, but some of the radio waves - just like tiny amounts of neonicotinoids - might get there.

So should we all bin our mobile phones, say goodbye to our digital TVs and demand that the military stop using modern radio communications because of someone's fears under the Precautionary Principle? Of course not. So please excuse me challenging the anti-pesticide lobby to justify themselves properly. The most obvious hole in your argument is spring exposure and winter losses. Doesn't add up.

all the best

Gavin
 

Brosville 

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Wrong end of the stick..... "if they have nothing to hide" was applied to Big Ag and their "products"- I am utterly horrified that they are allowed to "self regulate" - it is they who announce that products are "safe", not government, and I think we should ALWAYS work on the precautionary principle where agrochemicals are concerned- the stakes are far too high for us not too - they should be proved without doubt to be safe before they are allowed to be used.
The stakes are also incredibly high in financial terms - all of the companies involved have bottomless pits of money which they spend with the US neocon lobbying companies (those nice people who sell tobacco, nuclear, GM etc) to maintain their complete and utter stranglehold - and as I've said in another recent thread, they're boasting in the financial field that they are "bucking the recession".......
I find it intensely suspicious that assorted experts have brought about bans on neonicotinoids in other countries, but in the UK (which is well known to have one of the laxest regulatory systems for Big Ag in the western world) there is a very obvious campaign for the avenue of research into the deleterious effects of agrochemicals to be blocked.............
As I said, if they have nothing to fear, why are they fighting so hard to stop any independent research?
As for mobile 'phones, I wouldn't be pompous enough to presume to KNOW one way or another, but I do know enough physics and maths to make a few observations on them - in simple terms, the output from a mast is not that much greater than a mobile 'phone, and as you have the inverse square law at work, the important thing is distance rather than power, which leads me to the conclusion that you'd actually be better off with MORE 'phone masts -
(in an area of weak signal, the transmitter in your mobile 'phone will crank itself up several fold to reach a distant base, and as that's probably only an inch or two from your brain, if it is damaging, THAT is where it's most liable to be dangerous, not standing even relatively close to a transmitter) - so you'd be better off with more mobile phone masts.........
So by my reckoning, mobile phones are more likely to be dangerous than stations, but I am yet to read of bees keeling over from the mobiles carried by their keepers........... but that is no reason why there shouldn't be independent research into proving definitively one way or another..........
Then we come to the "shock, horror probe, how unthinkable doing without mobiles would be........" attitude - well......... I've lived a great deal of my adult life without the damn things, I find them generally annoying, and very occasionally useful as an "emergency" device, and would be entirely happy at binning the blessed thing on safety grounds.
Do I think they're safe? - probably not entirely, especially when held to the ear, and used for long periods (the maths tells me that's where they're most likely to be dangerous) - to humans, as to bees, probably not much of a danger, but I'd like to see the tests done! (like I would the "icide" tests..........)
 
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gavin 

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I am utterly horrified that they are allowed to "self regulate" - it is they who announce that products are "safe", not government, and I think we should ALWAYS work on the precautionary principle where agrochemicals are concerned
Here is the UK body charged with regulating pesticides:

http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/

Not a hint of self-regulation, unless of course you mean that the companies wanting approval of a product for a specific purpose need to submit the data (often gathered at huge expense) to justify their claims.

I find it intensely suspicious that assorted experts have brought about bans on neonicotinoids in other countries, but in the UK (which is well known to have one of the laxest regulatory systems for Big Ag in the western world) there is a very obvious campaign for the avenue of research into the deleterious effects of agrochemicals to be blocked.............
Well-known?! The UK has limited approvals for pesticides such as imidacloprid. All that tree injection and chemical-laced irrigation in the States can't happen here. The UK hasn't gone along with bans put in place elsewhere, presumably because the regulators don't rate the evidence for them. Looks like they were right, even though I didn't think so when they decided to permit imidacloprid on oilseed rape some years ago.

all the best

Gavin
 

Brosville 

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which to the common or garden man in the street boils down to "self-regulation"........
for the sake of form (pun) they fill out a form which says "we, the makers, having done sufficient tests to prove that it will probably get on the field before anyone drops dead, thence making it difficult to prove liability, hereby certify it a totally good thing, and hereby allow you, the pesticides regulators to issue a licence on the usual terms" (and not a mention of a brown envelope!):)
- and who has been conspicuous in missing out "icides" for even a mention of investigation?......... HM Gov, DEFRA, The BBKA, despite many of their continental equivalents having gone for a straight ban.......... nothing suspicious there then!
 
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gavin 

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Hi Brosville

In the interests of your further education, I offer a link to the 'brown envelope' part of the process. It might help you realise the complexity of the process.

http://www.pesticides.gov.uk/applicant_guide.asp?id=50

Don't ask me how it all works - I haven't a clue. It does look like if you are trying to get approval for a new chemical your brown envelope best be rather large.

G.
 

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