Saturday, December 6, 2014

Presidential Pollinator Protection: Myths, Facts and Hyperbole

By Rich Kozlovich

It’s taken approximately seven years for this story to unfold in order to be able to separate the emotional claims and establish the facts.  Originally I published this on December 6, 2014, but this story continues to unfold, therefore instead of starting a new article I decided in order to maintain continuity I would update this one.  It’s now January 31, 2015.   

In June of 2014 President Obama sent out an executive order to all Cabinet secretaries and agency heads requiring; “the federal government to develop a plan for protecting pollinators such as honey bees, butterflies, birds and bats in response to mounting concerns about the impact of dwindling populations on American crops.”….. ADVERTthe problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment".
The President’s order requires the government to establish a new task force to develop a “coordinated research action plan” in order to understand the pollinator problem and prevent their loss by “developing plans to enhance habitats for pollinating species on federal lands. And agencies will partner with local governments, farmers, and the business community in a bid to increase the quality and availability of available habitats for the species.”
 
There is much to be gleaned from this statement, especially the phrase, “agencies will partner with local governments, farmers, and the business community in a bid to increase the quality and availability of available habitats for the species”, which will be addressed further on.
President Obama further states; "given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels”.
Now here’s the part that should be of even more concern. The President says; "these steps should include the development of new public-private partnerships and increased citizen engagement."
Who exactly will make up these “citizens” in these “public-private” groups? Is there really a crisis involving pollinators such as with bees, birds and bats that it requires the attention of the President of the United States, and the focus every department and agency of the federal government, and the formation of “citizen groups”?
This issue of pollinator protection concerns started with a demise of many honey bees in 2006 with something called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) involving European honey bees. So let’s start our inquiry there.
There is a wide view that all this started in 2007 when Fortune magazine ran an the article, “As bees go missing, a $9.3B crisis lurks”,   By David Stipp , August 28 2007. [i]
In October 2006 when a 58 year old migratory beekeeper named David Hackenberg noticed there were no bees flying around 400 hives he kept near Tampa, Florida. Migratory beekeepers move their bees to the south for “rest and reproduction” before they have to face “the rigors of spring pollination.” He says; “It was kind of a weird sensation, no bees in the air. We got out our smokers" -- bellows grafted to tin cans that beekeepers use to waft bee-sedating smoke into hives before opening them - "and smoked a few hives, and suddenly I thought, 'Wait a minute, what are we smoking?' “It was like somebody took a sweeper and swept the bees right out of the boxes. I set there a minute scratching my head, then I literally got down on my hands and knees and started looking for dead bees. But there weren't any.
Actually, this started before Hackenberg's losses. According to Bee Alert CEO Jerry Bromenshenk, "our survey shows that it probably first began to show up the previous spring in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa. By midsummer [last year] it was moving through the heartland, hitting hives in the Dakotas, then appearing widely a few months later in the South and on both coasts. A survey led by van Engelsdorp and Florida apiary inspector Jerry Hayes suggests that a quarter of U.S. beekeepers were struck by CCD between September 2006 and March 2007. Those hit by mysterious die-offs lost, on average, 45% of their hives.”
It was then hyped publically in 2007 by the media, inundating the world with article headlines such as, “Are GM Crops Killing Bees?” - “As Bees Go Missing” - “Why the Honey Bee Decline?” - “Who Killed the Honey Bees?” - “Bees Vanish, and Scientists Race for Reasons!”
What was even worse was the rhetoric used in these articles such as; “If the tireless apian workers didn't fly from one flower to the next, depositing pollen grains so that fruit trees can bloom, America could well be asking where its next meal would come from.” Then there were articles quoting Einstein as saying; “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left.” While it is true that Einstein was a brilliant physicist, he wasn’t an entomologist and there are serious doubts he ever said that at all.
We have to understand that the European honey bee is an introduced species, and since that’s the case, and before we review all the evidence about CCD, we need to ask ourselves this question. How did all the plants, fruits, vegetables and grain crops get pollinated in America before the honey bee was introduced by European settlers?
Although this became a public issue in 2007, it’s now 2014 and this current CCD issue was already going on for some time before 2007. At least seven years have passed since CCD appeared on the public’s radar and yet the planet’s seven billion people are still alive. It would appear these claims of agriculture disasters called “beepocalypse[ii] , [iii] is clearly premature. NPR proclaimed we were at “a crisis point for crops.” [iv] But is this reality or is this being promoted by scaremongers and scientific fraudsters?
At the beginning there was a great deal of speculation, but no consistent or verifiable scientific explanation for this. What was causing honey bees to simply start dying or disappearing from their colonies? First of all we have to understand that CCD isn’t anything new or unusual. We have had regular occurrences of this forever, with major occurrence seeming to occur about every ten years, and bee keepers have always recovered from this in the past. Similar die-offs were described as far back as 1898. More recently, in 1995-96, Pennsylvania beekeepers lost 53 percent of their colonies without a specific identifiable cause. Over the years it’s interesting to see the reasons given to explain these collapses. Let’s review
In 1903, in the Cache Valley in Utah, 2000 colonies were lost to an unknown "disappearing disease" after a "hard winter and a cold spring." No specific cause was found. Synthetic organic insecticides were blamed in the 1960’s, Africanized honey bee genes were blamed in the 1970’s and in the late 1970s we had another scare similar to this they also called the “disappearing disease”.
In the 19th century it was reported that this was occurring because bees lacked “moral fiber”, and this “lack of character” was the reason given for why they weren’t returning to the hives. Clearly this “lack of moral fiber” as an attack on the “character” of bees is a clear case of anthropomorphism - the tendency to apply human characteristics and values to non-human things. Hyperbole such as this may be an emotionally satisfying explanation but it isn’t science, nor is it rational. It’s more like neo-pagan mysticism.
 
One woman even claimed she was in psychic communication with the honey bees and according to her they were tired of being enslaved by humans and staying away for the hives was their way of fixing that (apparently choosing suicide) until humans returned to “gentle” methods of agriculture and stopped using Genetically Modified Organisms and pesticides, and that this would appease the angels from the Devic Kingdom that control the comings and goings of bees. She may seem a bit loony, but these are the very things the green movement demands. The only difference is they couch their views in terms that allow them to sound rational while promoting programs that lead to irrational consequences.

This may have been the worst occurrence of CCD, but it still isn’t historically unique and there are some common descriptions as to what happens, which we will explore. Claims as to the cause of CCD run the gamut from human causes to claims of causes that can only be described as “all natural”. We’re going to explore a number of these claims.
The initial knee jerk reaction was to blame humanity and the finger of blame was pointed at cell phones, genetically modified crops, pesticides and bad management practices, along with parasites and pathogens, which we will explore later. The biggest thrust from the media and activists presented to the public, regulators and legislators by activists and the media was that modern technology was primarily at fault and just as that woman who was in “psychic” contact with the bees - all we had to do was “return to nature” to fix this problem. . One “expert” panel stated, [v] this was “The faltering dance between honeybees and trees is symptomatic of industrial disease.” Is this true?
Cell phones were amongst the early scares thrown up as a case against modern living. These claims were soon dismissed as speculation and scare mongering as there was little or no evidence to support it. The United States Department of Agriculture says [vi] “despite a great deal of attention having been paid to the idea, neither cell phones nor cell phone towers have been shown to have any connection to CCD or poor honey bee health.
“Originally, the idea was provoked by the media making a connection between CCD and a very small study done in Germany. But that study looked at whether a particular type of base station for cordless phones could affect honey bee homing systems. However, despite all the attention that this study has received, the base station has nothing to do with CCD. Stefan Kimmel, the researcher who conducted the study and wrote the paper, e-mailed The Associated Press to say that there is "no link between our tiny little study and the CCD-phenomenon ... Anything else said or written is a lie." “In addition, apiaries are often located in rural areas, where cell phone coverage can be spotty. This makes cell phones or cell towers unlikely culprits."
Genetically Modified Organisms has been on the activist’s radar for decades and this was another opportunity to vilify advanced modern agricultural technology. But what are the facts? Genetically Modified Organisms such as Bacillus thuringiensis modified corn a study titled, “Effects of Bt corn pollen on honey bees: emphasis on protocol development”, [vii] “Laboratory feeding studies showed no effects on the weight and survival of honey bees feeding on Cry1Ab-expressing sweet corn pollen for 35 days. In field studies, colonies foraging in sweet corn plots and fed Bt pollen cakes for 28 days showed no adverse effects on bee weight, foraging activity, and colony performance. Brood development was not affected by exposure to Bt pollen but significantly reduced by the positive insecticide control. The number of foragers returning with pollen loads, pollen load weight, and forager weight were the most consistent endpoints as indicators of foraging activity. Using variances of measured endpoints, experimental designs required to detect a range of effect sizes at 80% statistical power was determined. Discussed are methods to ensure exposure to pollen, duration of exposure, positive controls, and appropriate endpoints to consider in planning laboratory and field studies to evaluate the nontarget effects of transgenic pollen."
Chris Sansone, Global Regulatory Affairs Manager – Insect Resistance Management (Americas), Bayer CropScience noted on 4/17/2014 that “genetically modified (GM) plants and their impact on honey bees have been widely studied, and the results indicate that GM plants are not harmful to bees. A review by Malone and Pham-Delègue (2001) [viii], looked at seven studies. Their conclusion was that “Bt transgene products are very likely to be safe for honey bees and bumblebees.” One large study, by Duan et al. (2008) [ix], looked at 25 different studies and concluded that “the Bt Cry proteins used in genetically modified crops for control of caterpillar and beetle pests do not negatively affect the survival of honey bee larvae or adults in the laboratory.”
Studies performed outside the agricultural industry show similar results. A 2007 study on the effects of Bt corn pollen on honey bees that bees foraging on Cry1Ab expressing sweet corn pollen for 28 days showed no adverse effects on bee weight, foraging activity or colony performance. Brood development was not affected by exposure to Bt pollen. Another study, Johnson et al.,  [x] concluded in 2010 that “the widespread planting of transgenic crops appears to be a net benefit for honey bees in the USA, since the pesticidal toxins produced by these plants do not appear to harm honey bees.” One study did show a negative impact with transgenic crops. Ramirez-Romero et al. (2008) showed that at high concentrations (5,000 parts per billion (ppb)), honey bees feed less and long-term memory may be impaired. However, they state that the concentration observed is not comparable to the field, as bees potentially feed on 312 nanograms (ng), and write, “When that dose is compared with our observed effect dose (5,000 ppb = 600 ng (0.0000006 grams) in 12 days), it seems that drastic impact on colony performance is unlikely. Our general conclusion is that negative effects of Cry1Ab protein on foraging behavior of honey bees are unlikely in natural conditions.”
Pesticides are always the favorite target of activists, and while I don’t think it reasonable to say they have no impact since they do kill insects, we do need to ask; are we doing anything differently that we have done for those decades when there wasn’t any CCD? Of course there are claims that modern pesticides, such as neonicotinoids, weren’t used in decades past are these are responsible for this crisis. The questions we need to explore is whether this is a cause of this inordinate collapse, and is there really a crisis at all?
This whole issue of neonicotinoids being the cause of CCD is fraught with misinformation, misrepresentation of the facts, manipulation of the facts and hyperbole my the media that is only interested in promoting a false anti-pesticide narrative, when in fact it turns out neonics may actually improve the health of honey bees.
Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Associate Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology, Harvard School of Public Health, recently claimed at a speech at Harvard Law School, “We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder in bee hives,” and further pushed a false narrative that as a result of neonics impact on honey bees future crop production was in serious jeopardy, yet we find that this the “vast majority of scientists who study bees for a living disagree—vehemently.” What is the value of Lu’s study (often referred to as the Harvard study) within the scientific community? One commenter stated:
Bee experts have quickly criticized the so-called Harvard Study, which was NOT performed by Harvard University. The study could NOT even be published legitimately in North America, and could only be published in some obscure publication in Italy.
Moreover, the author of the study has NO RECOGNIZED EXPERTISE in matters concerning honeybees. Experts complained that the study had exposed bees to an unrealistically high dose of Neonicotinoid Insecticide (imidacloprid).
The Government of Australia noted that ―
( 1 ) The Harvard Study is clearly DISCREDITED because bee colonies were fed « astronomical » levels of imidacloprid-laced corn syrup.
( 2 ) The Harvard Study is also DISCREDITED because the sample sizes were far too small.
( 3 ) The Harvard Study is further DISCREDITED because the symptoms the colonies subsequently suffered did NOT, in fact, mimic the symptoms of Bee Colony Collapse Disorder. Everyone agrees that Neonicotinoid Insecticides may be lethal to bees in extremely large doses. But, in the real world, bees are NOT getting drenched with these insecticides. Overwhelming scientific evidence has consistently indicated that Neonicotinoid Insecticides are SCIENTIFICALLY SAFE and CAUSE NO HARM TO BEES when used properly. The so-called Harvard Study is merely an AMATEURISH ATTEMPT TO PERFORM BEE RESEARCH, and has been DISCREDITED.
The article, “Review of Bee Health Decline » Australian Government’s Neonicotinoid Report Discredits the Lu “Harvard” Study, which appeared in “Pesticide Truths” states:
This study by Lu et al, often referred to in the literature as ‘the Harvard study’, explicitly linked neonicotinoids to CCD and has been the subject of heavy criticism. It has been noted in particular that (1) bee colonies were fed ‘astronomical’ levels of imidacloprid-laced corn syrup; (2) that the sample sizes were far too small; and (3) that the symptoms the colonies subsequently suffered did not, in fact, mimic the symptoms of CCD. The flaws in this study are detailed in Randy Oliver’s Scientific Beekeeping website at: http://scientificbeekeeping.com/the-harvard-study-on-neonicotinoids-and-ccd/
Oliver concluded that the Lu et al. results actually showed that feeding colonies for four weeks with HFCS spiked with imidacloprid at field-realistic levels (1) did not have any negative effects; and (2) then feeding the colonies with extremely high levels of the insecticide for another nine weeks still did not harm them enough to cause mortality during treatment or for three months thereafter. (http://scientificbeekeeping.com/neonicotinoids-trying-to-make-sense-of-the-science/). [Emphasis added]
This study has been touted by the activists and media but in reality this is, as Jon Entine states, “a classic example of how dicey science can combine with sloppy reporting to create a ‘false narrative’—a storyline with a strong bias that is compelling, but wrong. It’s how simplistic ideas get rooted in the public consciousness. And it's how ideology-driven science threatens to wreak public policy havoc.”
The fact is honey bee colonies worldwide are increasing, not decreasing. Countries such as Canada and Australia use neonics extensively but aren’t having problems with reduced honey bee colonies. (See Jon Entine's two part series on this for charts and an extended and well researched commentary. Part I and Part II)
This problem goes far deeper than one scientist at Harvard.  David Zaruk penned an article that was the first of a three part series called, Neonicsban tied to corrupted bee research by scientists at EU’s ethically-challengedIUCN?  In this series he demonstrated how ‘scientists’ in Europe collaborated to create a strategy to ban neonics.  He demonstrated “how, in 2010, certain activist scientists launched a strategy to run a campaign built around a series of planned “independent” research publications that they hoped would result in the ban of neonics.”

The article goes on to say that:

Within a day of publishing the internal document and the first part of his investigation, one of the scientists behind the IUCN Taskforce on Systemic Pesticides threatened and then started legal proceedings against him”, and his post was removed from the blog site it appeared.

However, “the Times of London reported the key findings of Zaruk’s story, calling it one of the biggest scientist scandals since ClimateGate. EurActiv agreed to restore the blog, conditioned on an “apology”, which he amended to this report. When I asked Zaruk how he felt about the circus, he said: “Welcome to Brussels”.

"The Risk-Monger recently came across a strategy document carelessly left on-line by activist scientists that lies at the heart of the founding of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) Taskforce on Systemic Pesticides. The Addendum to this document (see page 3) spells out a rather distasteful anti-neonicotinoid campaign strategy lacking in scientific integrity. The process has been tried and tested before by activists, but their behaviour has never been so clearly articulated in writing. I thought this document should be shared so we know the type of people are standing behind the “science” defending the bees.  The fact is honey bee colonies worldwide are increasing, not decreasing. Countries such as Canada and Australia use neonics extensively but aren’t having problems with reduced honey bee colonies."  (See Parts One, Two and Three)

Hive Management is an issue worth looking into. There are 135,000 bee keepers in the U.S. with commercial beekeepers making up about 1%. However they manage over 80% of the 2.4 million honey bee colonies, a number that has continued to drop from about 5 million that existed in 1960. Dropping in spite of the demand for pollination services continued rise, “largely because of our love affair with the almond”. Ninety percent of the nation’s hives will be needed to “pollinate California's almond groves each spring, according to the Almond Board of California.” That presents a larger problem than meets the eye. According to Daniel A. Sumner and Hayley Boriss in their paper, Bee-conomics and the Leap in Pollination Fees [xi]; “With almond acreage expanding rapidly relative to the other uses of pollinators, more and more honeybees will likely be “unemployed” for much of the rest of the pollination season.
If most of the honeybees in the country are required in almond orchards in February and early March, many bees will face no further demand for their pollination services during the year. Since almonds do not provide nectar for commercial honey (the honey from almonds is unpalatable to humans), the honey revenue for these bees is also reduced when more of their effort is geared towards almonds. The result is that rather than receiving half or one third of their annual revenue from almonds, many commercial pollinators may now require almonds to cover most of their annual cost of colony maintenance. If this scenario develops as described, we may expect the pollination fee for almonds to remain high.
What’s happened to the family farm is what’s happening to beekeeping on a large scale. As one writer noted: “Commercial beekeeping has a lot in common with the disappearing family farm. The typical bee rancher is a salt-of-the-earth, 50-something, strong-armed guy who often sweats through the night forklifting hives filled with seriously annoyed bees onto a flatbed semi in order to rush them to his next customer's field 500 miles away, which just may be near a crop sprayed with insecticides that will kill 15% of his livestock as they wing around the area. Cheap honey imported from China and Argentina has clobbered his profits, forcing him to work his bees ever harder as migratory pollinators. He loses lots of bees to "vampire" mites, hive-busting bears, human vandals, and sometimes to beekeepers gone bad, who steal hives by night and pollinate by day. His kids can see that there are much easier ways to make a living."
These economic factors play strongly into this problem. Beekeepers reap a secondary profit from the honey created by their bees. However, the price keeps dropping due to foreign competition from China and other nations. This being coupled with rising pollination fees pushing migratory bee keepers to work their bees all the more.
Migratory bee keepers truck their hives from coast to coast starting in February with California’s almond trees and then to Maine for blueberry pollination. Beyond the exhausting schedule there are hidden defects in this arrangement. Many of the crops they’re pollinating don’t provide adequate nutrition and being moved in masse via semi trailers exposes them to pathogens they may not have come in contact with normally, also, bees aren’t good travelers. When caught in a summer traffic jam they can’t beat their wings hard enough or fast enough to cool the hives properly.
From that point on the hives are in crisis and the semi drivers must find a water source to cool down the hives by hosing them down. Any queens emerging from their own hives seeking to cool down may wander into another hive and be promptly killed as an invader by the workers. Viewing an unknown monarch as an alien invader, workers will execute her by gathering around her and vibrating their wing muscles to generate heat. Needless to say on a hot day where the colony is already in jeopardy due to the rising temperatures this can make a mess of a truck full of hives in a short time.
In short, bees are exhausted, and being exposed to conditions that most would consider detrimental to their well being. Yet we still must come back to the fact that American honey bee colonies have largely recovered and are growing, and worldwide the numbers have never been in crisis and the world’s honey bee population is not diminishing, but growing.
This bring us to pathogens and parasites. The wild bee population was suffering as badly as the domestic populations from Varroa mites and tracheal mites. As for pathogens; it was reported “that analysis of honeybee samples collected between 2002 to 2007 showed that the virus, Israeli acute paralysis virus, had been circulating in the US for at least five years.” And in fact one researcher found two kinds of viruses that transformed the shape of wings or caused a disease only affecting queen bee larvae.
“First, it is not true that there has been a mysterious worldwide collapse in honey bee populations. In fact managed hives (which contain the bees which do the vast majority of our pollinating) have increased by a remarkable 45 per cent over the last five years. Lawrence D. Harder from the department of biology at the University of Calgary and Marcelo Aizen from Buenos Aires set about pinning down a couple of myths…….The bee disaster scenario is dependent upon data which is far too regional to take seriously and ‘not representative of global trends’. The truth is that there are more bees in the world than ever. They go on to say; ‘It is a myth that humanity would starve without bees.’ While some 70 per cent of our most productive crops are animal-pollinated (by bees, hoverflies and the like), very few indeed rely on animal pollination completely. Furthermore, most staple foods — wheat, rice and corn — do not depend on animal pollination at all. They are wind-pollinated, or self-pollinating. If all the bees in the world dropped dead tomorrow afternoon, it would reduce our food production by only between 4 and 6 per cent..... ‘Overall we must conclude that claims of a global crisis in agricultural production are untrue.’
In spite of the fact that bees have probably been to most intensely studied insect in the history of mankind someone just happened to notice that a phorid fly, Apocephalus borealis, was parasitizing bees, causing them to become disoriented and abandon the hives, a primary symptom of CCD. There is an extensive discussion here, “A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly Apocephalus borealis”. [xii]
It turns out John Hafernik, a biology professor at San Francisco State University, had collected some belly-up bees from the ground underneath lights around the University’s biology building. He was looking around for something to feed a praying mantis. He noted in a prepared statement, “I left them in a vial on my desk and forgot about them.” He soon got a shock. “The next time I looked at the vial, there were all these fly pupae surrounding the bees,” he said. A fly (Apocephalus borealis) had inserted its eggs into the bees, using their bodies as a home for its developing larvae. And the invaders had somehow led the bees from their hives to their deaths.”
Remember once again - this was all in spite of the fact that bees have probably been the most intensely studied insect in the history of mankind without someone noticing for all these decades and possibly centuries. Apocephalus borealis, was parasitizing bees causing them to become disoriented and abandon the hives - a primary symptom of CCD. Another fact we need to understand. Pesticide poisonings and CCD are two different things and it's important that we don't conflate one with the other. These are two distinctly different issues with two different causes requiring two distinctly separate approaches in dealing with them.
This fly places its eggs into the bee’s abdomen. Later as the larvae grow inside the bees and they begin to lose control of their ability to “think and walk….. exhibiting zombie-like behavior by walking around in circles with no apparent sense of direction. Bees will leave “the hive at night flying blindly toward light…..It eventually dies and the fly larvae emerge.”
One research team [xiii] "found evidence of the fly in 77 percent of the hives they sampled in the Bay Area of California, as well as in some hives in the state’s agricultural Central Valley and in South Dakota”.
It's clear that CCD has been going of forever. It is clear that pesticides can kill some bees, but that number is insignificant and cannot possibly explain the symptoms displayed by honey bee colonies suffering from this disorder. It is clear that fungi and disease are playing a major role. It is now clear that parasites are the number one major component in their demise, and they exacerbate the disease problem.
In conclusion it is clear that most of the scare tactics used are meaningless; we won’t starve; pesticides are our friend; the bees will return; the cause is most assuredly ‘all natural’ and the scaremongers will look for another reason to condemn humanity. I just hope we will have the good sense to ignore them.
An important question everyone should be asking is this: Why there are so many activists, ‘scientists’, government bureaucrats and government officials still touting the anti-pesticide theme when the evidence is overwhelming there is no honey bee crisis?
Well, here’s the answer! In Mike Campbells’s article When It Comes To Neonics, Activists Understand PR Better Than Chemical Companies Do he states this was part of a four year plan….that is a “time-honored strategy to manipulate science to achieve a political goal. This strategy has worked since the 1960s and I present it to you here, free of charge - because I do not work for an environmental corporation or anyone else so they can't pay me for it:  [xiv]
  • STEP 1: Get An Environmental Organization To Fund It
  • STEP 2: With Funding In Place, Create A Task Force To Write A Paper
  • STEP 3: Use The Papers To Legitimize A New Funding Campaign
  • STEP 4: Use The Funding Campaign To Pay Lobbyists To Talk To Politicians, Citing The Paper As Proof
  • Addendum 1: Peer Review Means Whatever We Want It To Mean
  • Addendum 2: Good Laboratory Practice is the enemy
  • Addendum 3: Cite my paper
Does this sound frighteningly familiar? It should, but what should be more frightening is that he’s right. Many years ago Madeleine Pelner Cosman, Ph.D. noted there are seven steps to this unscientific process used to get products off the market and usually follow this pattern:
 
1.        Create a "scientific" study that predicts a public health disaster
2.       Release the study to the media, before scientists can review it
3.       Generate an intense emotional public reaction
4.       Develop a government-enforced solution
5.        Intimidate Congress into passing it into law
6.       Coerce manufacturers to stop making the product
7.        Bully users to replace it, or obliterate it
As you can see this has been going on for decades. Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring made this "science" manipulation popular, however, the first real first test for creating these false scientific narratives was the 1959 Great Cranberry scare [xv] except in those days farmers were a lot more important to the politicians than activists so this particular scheme didn't work out initially, although it cost farmers tons of money. The big difference was the ban on DDT. That gave them the finances and power to influence politicians. Activists need to be sued for the losses they create and laws have to be created to make them accountable for what they promote and the damage they cause.

In Europe the Precautionary Principle has been the foundation for their decision making regarding pesticides for years.  One of the many problems with the Precautionary Principle is the way it's applied.  It’s a  way street for them, as in - what might happen when you use a product such as a pesticide?  They never apply it in reverse as in - what might happen if you don’t use a product such as a pesticide?  Europe, having embraced the Precautionary Principle is facing the consequences of that unscientific environmental vision. 
We now know what will happen if we eliminate  neonics from the arsenal of pesticides we need to grow food!  Rebecca Randal noted in a January 27, 2015 article, Pests invade Europe after neonicotinoids ban, with no benefit to bee health.  (See Appendix E)

She notes: “as activists continue to campaign to get neonics banned, news from Europe, where a two-year moratorium went into effect last year, suggests that farmers are unable to control pests without them. Partly in desperation, they are replacing neonics with pesticides that are older, less effective and demonstrably more harmful to humans and social insects, and farm yields are dropping.”…… , farmers in Europe say they are already seeing the fallout on crop yields from the ban–what many claim is a politically driven policy. This is the first season for growing oilseed rape following the EU ban, and there has been a noticeable rise in beetle damage…….. growers in the beetle hotspot areas are seeing some fields “riddled” with the larvae……The infestation may cause a 15 percent drop canola yields in Europe this year and some areas are even worse off."

I find it interesting they’re now calling pyrethroids “harsh” chemicals, when it wasn’t that long ago when these were the chemicals of choice in place of “harsh” chemicals they wanted to get rid of.  The question we should be asking is this – Will there ever be a chemical pesticide they won’t someday declare as too “harsh” to use?

However, this issue of a Presidential Pollinator Protection order goes far beyond honey bees. Let’s go back and review the President’s order. President Obama has sent out an executive order to all Cabinet secretaries and agency heads requiring “the federal government to develop a plan for protecting pollinators such as honey bees, butterflies, birds and bats in response to mounting concerns about the impact of dwindling populations on American crops.” The President also claims, ADVERTthe problem is serious and requires immediate attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect the health of the environment".

Consistency is important - unfortunately consistency isn’t a strong suit in the federal government, which is so often wrong, especially regarding any issue involving pesticides and the environmental. It’s also unfortunate that so many who have posted commentaries on the problems with bees, birds, bats and butterflies are equally so. If the logical fallacies and misinformation were eliminated from these commentaries there would far fewer - and those left would be more accurate.

Under the order to protect pollinators the President requires the formation of a “new task force” with the goal of developing a coordinated research action plan in order to better understand and prevent the loss of pollinators. IN order to do this government agencies will work to develop “plans to enhance habitats for pollinating species on federal lands. And agencies will partner with local governments, farmers, and the business community in a bid to increase the quality and availability of available habitats for the species.

 This will be just another excuse for huge land grabs by the federal government, as if under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) the use of “suitable habitat” rulings aren’t bad enough already. Given the federal government’s penchant for abusing the ESA, the Clear Water Act, the Clean Air Act to overturn Constitutional safeguards and gain control over private property and the economy, this sentence; agencies will partner with local governments, farmers, and the business community in a bid to increase the quality and availability of available habitats for the species”, should be cause for concern for everyone.

President Obama claims; "given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels”. Now here’s the part that should be of even more concern. The President says; "these steps should include the development of new public-private partnerships and increased citizen engagement." Who exactly will make up these groups of ‘citizens’ in these ‘public-private” groups? Will it be the Sierra Club, Greenpeace or other green activists who will use any excuse to stand against modern life, progress, chemicals, genetically modified foods, and more? Or will it be the National Pest Management Association, The Farm Bureau, Croplife America or Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment, who are responsible for defending the nation against insects, disease and starvation? If history is any indicator - and it is - it’s the anti-technology activists who will be chosen.
Let's now deal with the slaughter of bats - which are all protected - and birds - many of which are protected or endangered. It's the green movement that must take responsibility for their slaughter through their promotion of wind energy. Bats are killed extensively by the “low-pressure air pockets created around the swirling blades of the turbines cause bats' lungs to implode, instantly killing them”.

This is a direct result of following the same irresponsible and unnecessary green energy production ideas that failed under Jimmy Carter, and another lack of consistent thinking that should concern everyone. These Cuisinarts are causing massive slaughters worldwide of protected birds and bats; massively larger than environmentalists claimed was being caused by DDT (which was a lie and doesn’t kill bats at all) and the government has given them a pass!
We absolutely know these monsters are killing at least 573,000 birds a year [xvi] every year, including some 83,000 eagles, hawks and other raptors - in clear violation of US laws. Other estimates put the toll at closer to 13,000,000 birds and bat [xvii] annually. Why are the "precautionary" activists stone-cold silent about that? Why? Because “unintentional kills are to be expected”! If you killed a bald eagle in an “unintentional” accident would you get the same kind of pass? No! Because this double standard is deliberate, although since the public is becoming aware of this some from the green movement have finally stepped up, but they also fail in consistent thinking because they're willing to accept kills in smaller numbers, and in reality the government still continues its de-facto acceptance of those kills for ideology over science, or the nation’s environmental laws. Laws they have been heavy handed, and even illegally, enforcing against those of whom the disapprove.

What about butterfly protection? That is nothing more than a direct attack on genetically modified crops. In reality there’s no real evidence GMOs impact butterflies negatively, except for a Cornell study in 1999, and even the author, Professor John Losey, noted the study was a "laboratory study” and not to be taken too seriously against real world activity.
The butterflies in the study were forced to feed on corn pollen, which proved something entomologists already knew – Bt enhanced corn pollen can kill Monarchs. Apparently he doesn’t believe this study lays ground work for any real concern saying; "our study was conducted in the laboratory and, while it raises an important issue, it would be inappropriate to draw any conclusions about the risk to Monarch populations in the field based solely on these initial results."

In the real world Monarch butterflies don’t like, and generally don’t eat corn pollen, or anything corn pollen rests on if given other options. As for Bt enhanced corn pollen landing on other plants such as milkweed - it had better be right next to the corn field since corn pollen is heavy and doesn’t travel far, and there is very little milkweed around corn fields. Also the study did not display how much Monarchs would have to eat to be harmed or how much exposure there would have to be to Bt in the real world.
Steve Milloy notes other scientists who’ve weighed in on this subject saying:
  • Warren Douglas Stevens, senior curator of the Missouri Botanical Garden, suspects that in a natural setting butterflies, which apparently don't like corn pollen, would avoid eating it if they encountered it on their food source
  • Tom Turpin, professor of entomology at Purdue University, believes there is little threat to Monarch butterflies encountering Bt pollen on milkweed because there is very little milkweed in and around cornfields. Preliminary studies have shown that corn pollen, which is fairly heavy, does not travel very far.
  • John Foster, professor of entomology at the University of Nebraska, believes automobiles pose a greater risk to Monarchs than Bt corn.
However this Cornel study provoked a very real effort to discover what impact Bt enhanced corn pollen would have on Monarchs and answer the questions regarding dose and exposure by a “large informal group of scientists who came together in workshops held by ARS to discuss the questions" of dose and exposure. Their work demonstrated that:  (Editor’s Note: This link no longer works and links that discuss this are also not working. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions.)

“monarch caterpillars have to be exposed to pollen levels greater than 1,000 grains/cm to show toxic effects." (This was also true of black swallow tails [xviii]

"Caterpillars were found to be present on milkweed during the one to two weeks that pollen is shed by corn, but corn pollen levels on milkweed leaves were found to average only about 170 pollen grains/cm in corn fields."
"Reports from several field studies show concentrations much lower than that even within the cornfield. In Maryland, the highest level of pollen deposition was inside and at the edge of the corn field, where pollen was found at about 50 grains/cm2. In the Nebraska study, pollen deposition ranged from 6 grains/cm2 at the field edge to less than 1 grain/cm2 beyond 10 meters. Samples collected from fields in Ontario immediately following the period of peak pollen shed showed pollen concentrations averaged 78 grains at the field edge."
"In the Nebraska study, pollen deposition ranged from 6 grains at the field edge to less than 1 grain/cm beyond 10 meters. Samples collected from fields in Ontario immediately following the period of peak pollen shed showed pollen concentrations averaged 78 grains at the field edge.”
The conclusion arrived at by this group of scientists? "There is no significant risk to monarch butterflies from environmental exposure to Bt corn."
Remember earlier we discussed the havoc wind turbines were wreaking on the bird and bat p0pulations?  Well, they may even be a hazard to butterflies.  This business with low pressure pockets created by these wind turbines hadn’t been anticipated, but we have to come back the lack of consistency in applying the Precautionary Principle and ask why isn’t it being applied to wind energy programs, which we know are seriously impacting birds, bats and possibly butterflies.   

Currently there’s another effort to declare Monarch butterflies an endangered species, which should be of concern because the ESA requires the maintenance of ‘suitable habitat’. What’s that mean?  Whatever the federal government says it means.  Since they migrate from Mexico to Canada that could be a problem!

The Pollinator Protection Plan by the President is nothing more than activity as a substitute for accomplishment, with potentially other motives behind it. As for that $50 million the President has requested for the Department of Agriculture to create a public-private movement to reverse this trend -Does anyone really believe a dime will make it to the National Pest Management Association, The Farm Bureau, Croplife America, Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment or any other responsible group?
The real answer to all these “crises” lies elsewhere, and that requires a re-evaluation and restructuring of the EPA. Jay H. Lehr., Ph.D., earned one of the nation’s first Ph.D.’s in Environmental Science from the University of Arizona. He also holds a degree in Geological Engineering from Princeton. Dr. Lehr got involved in the formation of the U.S. EPA, and in the ‘70s was instrumental in the establishment of a safety net of environmental regulations and had his hand in the writing of seven different pieces of legislation: the Water Pollution Control Act (which later became the Clean Water Act), the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (which dealt with waste disposal), the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Federal Insecticide, Rodenticide and Fungicide Act (FIRFA), the Superfund, and the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act.
He says, “During that decade we did a terrific job. However in the ‘80s that work was complete and then the pendulum swung. Environmental advocacy groups saw the environment as a way to promote big government and liberal ideas that reduced individual freedom, and threw a monkey wrench in the path of progress and capitalism. Quite frankly, U.S. EPA has done nothing useful since 1980, and is, in my opinion, the worst agency today in the federal government and one that could be disbanded with no negative impact on the public.” (You may wish to read the whole interview with Dr. Lehr here.) [xix]
He not only believes that, he has developed a plan for implementation. [xx]
In Conclusion - There is no pollinator crisis with birds, bees, bats or butterflies that have anything to do with pesticides, genetically modified organisms or any of the other things activists attack industry. However, this pollinator protection initiative by the President and government agencies could clearly be used as another excuse for huge land grabs by the federal government, as if under the Endangered Species Act “suitable habitat” rulings aren’t bad enough already. The fact is the claims and scare tactics being used are meaningless; we won’t starve; pesticides are our friend; the bees have returned and will continue to thrive, and the cause of CCD is most assuredly ‘all natural’; there is no bird, bat or butterfly crisis and the scaremongers will look for another reason to condemn humanity. I just hope we will have the good sense to ignore them.
[i] Fortune Magazine - As bees go missing, a $9.3B crisis lurks http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2007/09/03/100202647/index.htm

[ii] TIME: Beepocalypse Redux: Honeybees Are Still Dying — and We Still Don’t Know Why, ByBryan WalshMay 07, 2013 http://science.time.com/2013/05/07/beepocalypse-redux-honey-bees-are-still-dying-and-we-still-dont-know-why/or “beemageddon”

[iii] THE NEW SILENT SPRING: America is one bad winter away from a food disaster, thanks to dying bees, Todd Woody, May 6, 2013
http://qz.com/81558/america-is-one-bad-winter-away-from-a-food-disaster-thanks-to-dying-bees

[iv] NPR: Bee Deaths May Have Reached A Crisis Point For Crops, May 07, 2013, By Dan Charles
http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/05/07/181990532/bee-deaths-may-have-reached-a-crisis-point-for-crops

[v] Salon: Who killed the honeybees? By Kevin Berger, May 29, 2007
http://www.salon.com/2007/05/29/missing_bees

[vi] http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572#phones

[vii] “Effects of Bt corn pollen on honey bees: emphasis on protocol development”, by Robyn Rosea, Galen P. Divelyb, Jeff Pettisc states: http://entomology.umd.edu/files/entm/documents/mhwg/bee_NTO_paper.pdfby Robyn Rosea, Galen P. Divelyb, Jeff Pettisc states in the Abstract.
[viii] Effects of transgene products on honey bees (Apis mellifera) and bumblebees (Bombus sp.) http://www.apidologie.org/articles/apido/abs/2001/04/malone/malone.html

[ix] A Meta-Analysis of Effects of Bt Crops on Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0001415

[x] Pesticides and honey bee toxicity – USA http://www.apidologie.org/articles/apido/abs/2010/03/m09141/m09141.html

[xi] Daniel A. Sumner and Hayley Boriss, Bee-conomics and the Leap in Pollination Fees http://aic.ucdavis.edu/research/bee-conomics-1.pdf

[xii] A New Threat to Honey Bees, the Parasitic Phorid Fly Apocephalus borealis”. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0029639

[xiii]Zombie Fly Parasite Killing Honeybees
http://news.yahoo.com/zombie-fly-parasite-killing-honeybees-230200867.html

[xiv] When It Comes To Neonics, Activists Understand PR Better Than Chemical Companies Do
http://www.science20.com/science_20/when_it_comes_to_neonics_activists_understand_pr_better_than_chemical_companies_do-150299




[xviii]  Absence of toxicity of Bacillus thuringiensis pollen to black swallowtails under field conditions http://www.pnas.org/content/97/14/7700.abstract



 

 

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