Sting in the Tale

In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists from Newcastle Univeristy showed that Neonicotinoids harm bee populations,  and that bees may have a preference for sugar solutions that are laced with the pesticides imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, possibly indicating they can become hooked on the chemicals:

Dave Goulson, a bee expert at Sussex University, not involved in the research, hailed the findings as hugely significant.

“At this point in time it is no longer credible to argue that agricultural use of neonicotinoids does not harm wild bees.” He said the paper was “a major step forwards in clarifying the neonicotinoid debate … This was the first fully field-realistic, well-replicated trial so far, an impressive piece of work.”

Of course, the industry representatives are still arguing that neonics do not harm wild bees. They have their own  science to fall back on; countless studies that have never found a single adverse effect from their products. This selective science becomes fact. The manufacturers craft their own reality, and then refer to this ‘real evidence’ to counter any independent study seeking to establish an objective understanding. Any heresies that challenge the article of faith of safety are discredited as evidence of a conspiracy against pesticides:

Nick von Westenholz, chief executive of the Crop Protection Association that represents neonicotinoid producers Bayer and Syngenta, said: “The latest studies in Nature must be seen in the context of an ongoing campaign to discredit neonicotinoid pesticides, regardless of what the real evidence shows.”

The tinfoil paranoia fallacy; everyone’s out to get us. If the poor chemical companies are feeling this persecuted just for earning an honest crust, imagine how the bees are feeling. They must surely appreciate the irony of a pro-pesticide sock puppet called the Crop Protection Association.

The strategy of such groups is to discredit any opposition. Discredit the quality of any scientific findings. Discredit the methodology. Cast doubt, quibble and dismiss. Discredit the scientists involved for good measure. The real untainted science appears to be showing that neonics are indeed a serious problem to all insects, yet the industry sows seeds of confusion and obfuscation. Just enough to muddy the waters. 

Despite all these efforts, the industry’s scientific higher ground is under increasing assault from study after study that finds evidence of harm. The EU recently imposed a moratorium on neonic use – which is strongly opposed by the UK government. If the pesticide companies cannot get this overturned, no doubt they already have a neonic replacement lined up. Except this new improved product will be really really bee-friendly, and will no doubt feature pictures of happy bees on the label as proof of this fact.

Whether neonics really are the prime reason for the demise of bee populations, or whether it is just one of many possible reasons, the wider problems caused by pesticide use should not be ignored, or glossed over with pseudo-science. It is simply another facet of our chemical warfare approach to farming; the genocide of the insect species. Insects are the evil enemy, and they must be vapourized. 

In conventional large-scale monoculture, bigger is better, and ever MOAR toxic chemicals are the answer to every problem. But what if it is the monoculture paradigm itself that is the problem? These pesticides are essential for a system that favours massive plantations of monocrops.The opposite of diversity. For all its economies of scale, the disadvantages of monoculture far outweigh the benefits. Such an unnatural environment is neither balanced, nor resilient enough to survive without constant medication and intervention.

There are easier ways to farm, without pesticides. Fortunately, this would look nothing like the monoculture we have today. All that’s needed are more farmers – and if you want to save the bees, don’t forget to plant some borage.


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