Rolling Stone and media get it wrong on UK pesticide study

An ominous sounding news story published in the media about neonicotinoid pesticides. Rolling Stone weighed on the study’s findings stating that a new study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports journal allegedly showed a link between neonic pesticides and bee colony losses. The author of the Rolling Stone article, CoCo McPherson, included an interview with an ecologist named Scott Black who is head of the conservationist group Xerces Society. Ms. McPherson asked Dr. Black the manucript’s significance in which he said (in part):

The British field study shows a link between neonicotinoid pesticide use and honeybee colony loss. There’s a lot of research out there – why is this being heralded as a “first”?
They’re not saying it’s the first time [they’ve proven a connection]; they’re saying it’s the first time in a field situation. We’ve had many studies that show that if exposed, these chemicals are highly toxic and will kill bees. We have lots of studies that show even at small amounts, these chemicals will change the behavior of bees, they’ll have fewer babies, and they won’t be able to forage as well. And we have tons of evidence that these things are found everywhere – in urban and agricultural situations. You put that together and you can say, “OK, these are highly toxic.” We know bees are contacting them, you can connect the dots, but this is the large-scale field study showing the same thing that everybody’s suspected.

Why is that important?
It’s important because chemical companies have said that that we don’t have studies that show this in the field. We can have all this data, and yes you can say this is impacting bees, but we haven’t shown this in a long-term field study. So this is an important one.

However, Rolling Stone‘s interview with Dr. Scott doesn’t tell the whole story. As it turns out the neonic pesticide in question is known as imidacloprid which is a first generation product and the most widely used. AG Professional reveals while the study did note increased honey bee colony collapse resulting from imidacloprid use, it also correlated colony drop offs due to inimical weather and showed regional difficulties, with Wales beekeepers consistently afflicted with increased bee colony losses. AG Professional also quotes the study’s lead author, Dr. Guiles Budge, saying:

“Our data indicates that farmers who used neonicotinoid seed coatings often had positive economic returns driven by an increase in yield, but this was not always the case. We now need to understand why neonicotinoid use does not always result in increased profitability for farmers to help target appropriate use to those situations where farmers see the most benefit.”

Dr. Budge also added:

Our analyses suggest that honey bee colonies are being lost due to a range of pressures including imidacloprid usage, regional factors, adverse weather and, in our other work, pests and diseases. The drivers behind these losses are complex but it is important that the science community continue to present a balanced argument to help farmers, beekeepers and the public understand the costs and benefits of agricultural practices. Further evidence, particularly from large scale field studies, is vital.

In general, the so-called Beepocalypse was declared official over in July. Two news reports released last month state that bee populations are surging considerably. The Washington Post states that honeybee colonies are at a 20 year high with, according to the USDA, bee populations on the rise since 2006. The populations grew when beekeepers experienced a drop in bee populations moat likely due to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). As a result, beekeepers would separate hives and purchase new queens or new hives in general so as to help spurn bee growth.

Margaret Wente published an op-ed in Canada’s Globe and Mail stating that her country’s government agency Statistics Canada revealed that last year over half a million bee populations produced $200 million worth of honey. Even in Ontario where neonic pesticides are banned, bee survival rates are on the rise despite a die off from harsh winter weather. Regardless, this news and the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization revealed world wide bee populations are at record levels. Despite all of this, news reports, like what has been reported by Rolling Stone and other media outlets, help further the environmentalist narrative that the so-called Beepocalypse is still occurring.

Banning or restricting pesticides is just another way environmentalists attempt to attack mankind’s food supply. It does not help anything that the media only reports one half of a study’s findings that is made out to be another alleged confirmation of pesticides killing bee populations when it is not. The media helps green groups in their quest to ban neonic pesticides by misreporting the facts. However, the green’s intent is clear if one understands the context of their activities with regard to pesticides and a host of other issues. The worst part about it, in this case, the media is complicit.