THE BEELEAKS SCANDAL IN THE UNITED STATES

Published September 14, 2012

A good article on the site of the UNAF (National Union of French Apiculture) we deliver here, but of course you can also consult its original site: http://www.unaf-apiculture.info/

Friday, January 7, 2011

Francesco Panella, President of the National Union of Italian Beekeepers (UNAAPI) takes the information of Wikileaks: « on the confirmation of the sordid intrigue that protects BAYER »

This is an agreement between the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency, the US Environmental Agency) and the agrochemical company Bayer CropScience that has allowed the authorization in the US to use clothianidin, the insecticide from the neonicotinoids family that systematically contaminates plants and the environment and has toxic and dramatic effects to bees and also on many other living beings. An internal memo from the EPA, released by Wikileaks, provides further confirmation that the EPA has ignored the advice and warnings of its own scientists in open collusion with Bayer to allow the illegal use of clothianidin, the insecticide molecule that allowed the chemistry giant to make sales of € 183 million (approximately $ 262 million) for the year 2009.

This is a story that begins in 2003 …

In the United States the insecticide clothianidin is widely used since that year for the « protection » of corn seeds, which is the most important crop in the country with 88 million hectares planted.

The decline of bees is certainly a complex phenomenon determined by different causes. Among the causes, one has emerged as a key element whose importance is becoming increasingly obvious, namely the increasing use of pesticides, especially the new neonicotinoids insecticides (derived from nicotine).

Neonicotinoids are, in fact, a relatively new factor in the ecosystem; since 1990, these systemic insecticides have become increasingly important, they took even a dominant position on the market of pesticides. It is actually in the years following the arrival of neurotoxic systemic insecticides that the decline of bees started and gradually increased.

Crops treated with clothianidin in the United States are generally: rapeseed, soybean, sugar beet, sunflower and wheat. Recently, Bayer has also filed with the EPA an application for registration for the use on cotton and mustard seeds.

The document released by Wikileaks reveals that the EPA scientists have recently reviewed and rejected the findings of a study conducted for Bayer and regarding toxic effects on bees. This study was part of the folder to obtain the registration of clothianidin. The EPA scientists expressed their concerns in their report, saying that the risks posed by clothianidin could seriously jeopardize the survival of bees.

To better understand the importance of this report made public by WikiLeaks, it may be useful to try to understand how an insecticide known to be toxic to bees could be freely distributed in a large and important agricultural land like the United States.

The EPA (Agency for Environmental Protection) is known to have often expressed pro-industry decisions, even if they are in flagrant contradiction with its own scientists, but we had not seen so far such a nebulous story. We can reconstruct the chronology with a summary published by the US environmental organization PANNA [1].

The sordid story began in 2003 when Bayer filed the initial application for the registration of clothianidin.

In February 2003, the EFED division of the EPA refuses of this registration on the grounds that further studies are needed to exclude possible damage to bees.

In the report, the EFED explained his decision:

« The possibility of toxic exposure to non-target pollinators – bees for example – through the transmission of clothianidin residues for seed treatment (corn and rapeseed) brings the EFED to require field tests to assess the possible chronic exposure on bee larvae and queens. To assess the possibility of toxic effects, a comprehensive study on the life cycle of worker bees (about 63 days) must be made and an assessment of the exposure of queens. »

But in April 2003, two months later, the EPA changes all of a sudden his « scientific opinion »: « After further examinations », the agency decided to grant clothianidin a « conditional approval ». Authorization that gives the freedom to Bayer to sell and use the insecticide seed treatment but one of the conditions is that Bayer provides an additional study on the life cycle of the bee. Scientists told again about their concerns, calling clothianidin as « persistent », « toxic to bees » and under « potential term in the pollen and nectar of flowering crops. »

In March 2004, Bayer requested an extension in order to complete its study on the life cycle of the bee. The 11th of March 2004, a decision of the EPA grants the chemical company an extension of time to complete the research until May 2005. But the EPA does not limit to this concession to Bayer: the EPA agrees that the study be conducted on rapeseed in Canada, instead of corn in the United States.

The EPA’s « justification » for this is the following: « Rapeseed is important for bees and bees are exposed to both pollen and nectar. Instead corn is attractive to the bees only for its pollen. »

In this regard, many scientists and beekeepers notice with reason:

1. Corn produces much more pollen than rapeseed.

2. Corn pollen is much more attractive to bees.

3. Rapeseed is a minor crop in the United States, while corn is the most important crop.

Well beyond this period, in August 2007, Bayer finally provides the study. In November 2007, the EPA says the study is « a valid scientific study » because it « meets the requirements of toxicity tests on the ground for bees. » However, the EPA refused repeatedly to make it public.

The association of environmental protection NRDC [2] then requests a copy via a legal process [3], the EPA refuses but the NRDC sues and eventually obtains the document. The study conducted on behalf of Bayer by Canada’s University of Guelph is a joke. It reveals indecency, both in the method by which it is built, as by the way it has been conducted.

This study compares the health of hives placed in the middle of the fields with seeds treated with clothianidin and in untreated control fields. Beehives have been « tested » placed in fields of only 2.5 hectares, with a maximum distance of one kilometer from the treated field and the untreated field of control.

In essence bees normally harvest within two miles (an area of at least 3,600 hectares) and the « studied » and « comparative » hives were foraging in both fields simultaneously, or more probably were able to avoid harvesting the flowers treated with insecticide. So it’s no surprise that researchers have found « no difference in mortality and longevity of workers and brood development during the study. »

Thus, Bayer continued selling clothianidin with a « provisional » license until April 22, 2010, the day the EPA granted final authorization. Tom Theobald, a beekeeper who has lost many hives, received from the EPA the following reply to his question about the existing permissions for this substance:

« The clothianidin received an unconditional authorization for the use as a seed treatment for corn and rapeseed on April 22, 2010. The EPA has provided a new recording note [but] there is no document, which approves the modification of the conditional authorization into an unconditional authorization. This is a decision under risk management, based on the fact that they comply with the requirements of data and reviews accepting or approving the data. »

The EPA has granted permission to Bayer without justification.

The EPA scientists document, that has been « leaked » by Wikileaks and is dated November 2cnd – three weeks before the EPA responded to Theobald – is a memorandum researchers speak on the request made by Bayer to extend the authorization of use of clothianidin on cotton and mustard. The memorandum signed by both EPA scientists expresses serious concern about the significant risk that the use of clothianidin may pose to non-target insects.

« Belonging to the family of neonicotinoid insecticide, the clothianidin is persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies on bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic by contact and either orally. Although EFED does not … risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as other incidents liked to neonicotinoid insecticides (imidacloprid for example) suggest the potential risk of long-term toxicity to bees and other beneficial insects. » The two researchers of the EPA dramatically invalidate – as it deserves – the study funded by Bayer. They write: « A previous field study evaluated the effects of clothianidin for all parameters of the hive and the substance was classified as acceptable.

However, after further review in the light of new information, shortcomings were identified, resulting in an additional study needed.

This study does not answer the guide to the line 850.3040, and an additional field study is needed to assess the effects on bees of the contamination, of clothianidin through pollen and nectar. »

EPA researchers therefore have provided an expertise that disqualifies the study through which was given the registration of the molecule for use on corn.

But despite the scandal, the EPA said it does not intend to change its decision on the authorization of the molecule killer of non-target insects.

The EPA has even defended the « scientific » validity of the study of Bayer, in contradiction with its own researchers, and at the same time it has downplayed the importance of the study for the authorization. For its part, Bayer expressed shamelessly a lie in a statement: « Clothianidin is the leader treatment of corn seeds in the United States and has been widely used for more than six years without incident to bees. » We need to know how Bayer can explain that it had to admit that due to clothianidin two-thirds of the bees were lost in Baden-Württemberg in Germany. We do not understand how Bayer was able to « forget » that following its adverse effects to bees, the molecule has been banned in several European countries.

The entomologist James Frazier from the Penn State University said: « If for Bayer, the study is the reference for the EPA approval of clothianidin then such authorization has no scientific basis » and he asked the EPA to withdraw the registration accordingly to avoid unnecessary risks that could be of fundamental importance in our ecosystem – as did governments in Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia.

Following this, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, the American Federation of Beekeepers, the American Association for honey production, Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, and the Center for Biological Diversity asked the EPA to take emergency measures to stop the use of this toxic chemical.

Notes:

[1] http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Clothianidin-Condl-Reg-Timeline.pdf

[2] http://www.nrdc.org/media/2008/080818a.asp

[3] Via the Freedom of Information Act, the equivalent of our “right of access to information on the environment” (Directive 2003 / 4.CEE)

The UNAF article is freely inspired by:

http://www.bayercropscience.com/bcsweb/cropprotection.nsf/id/FactsFigures http://www.grist.org/article/food-2010-12-10-leaked-documents-show-epa-allowed-bee-toxic-pesticidehttp://ildemocratico.com/2010/12/29/wikileaks-clothianidina-bayer-e-avvelenamento-api/

I encourage you also to visit the UNAF site, which is rich in a variety of information about beekeeping and battles to fight to protect bees: http://www.unaf-apiculture.info/

To go further:

The document published by Wikileaks: http://www.panna.org/sites/default/files/Memo_Nov2010_Clothianidin.pdf

A good article on the “fastcompany.com” website: http://www.fastcompany.com/1708896/wik-bee-leaks-epa-document-shows-it-knowingly-allowed-pesticide-kills-honey-bees