Monday, November 09, 2009

British Honeybee Research Sold to Syngenta

“Putting Syngenta in charge of UK research into the causes of honeybee deaths is arguably the equivalent of putting the tobacco companies in charge of research into lung cancer, or asking the manufacturers of alco-pops to research the causes of teenage binge drinking.” *

If you have not already heard, the giant pesticide manufacturer Syngenta has positioned itself as overseers of UK research into honeybee problems (see for full story). This means that we can wave goodbye to any truly objective British bee research, as - according to the press release announcing the funding - not one of the nominated university departments will be looking at pesticides as a potential cause of honeybee deaths.

At least part of the blame for such a reprehensible state of affairs can be laid squarely on the BBKA Executive Committees - past and present - for having sanctioned the endorsement deal with Syngenta and Bayer that lead to the BBKA's subsequent silence on the pesticides issue.

If you have not already seen it, I really recommend you watch the film The Vanishing of the Bees (see for UK dates & venues). Better than anything I have yet seen on the subject, it examines the causes of bee die-offs in the USA and in Europe, and concludes - as so many others have done - that our toxic agricultural system is at the root of the bees' problems. I watched it last night, and afterwards answered questions from the audience, who were audibly shocked to hear that the BBKA takes money from Syngenta and Bayer for endorsing their pesticides. They were also clearly shocked at the extent to which the history of such companies is enmeshed with the Nazi's production of wartime nerve gas, and the web of lies they have spun around the real extent of the toxicity of many of their products. Even Bayer's flagship aspirin is now known to do more harm than good in healthy people (, contrary to what the manufactu!
rers have been telling us for 100 years.

Vested interests are the real causes of bee deaths - of that I am convinced. Profit is God: shareholders' interests must be placed before the public good at all costs. Research that discovers inconvenient truths is suppressed: research departments that step out of line have their funds withdrawn. Don't just take my word for it - Scientists For Global Responsibility have just published a paper entitled 'Science and the Corporate Agenda: the detrimental effects of commercial influence on science and technology (see for free download).

But there is hope. The Co-op has done a great job of drawing attention to the neonicotinoid issue by banning them from their 25,000 hectares of UK farmland and by sponsoring The Vanishing of the Bees. They are also funding research into the effects of pesticides on bees. There is a growing organic farming movement and more and more beekeepers are turning to more natural, chemical-free methods - finding that the Varroa mite is not such a problem as we have been led to believe.

So what can you do?

Friends of the Bees has been launched and will become more active as time and funds permit. Please support this new charity, which is devoted to the interests of all bees - and especially honeybees.

Support our friends in the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Bees for Development and the Global Bee Project, who are also doing excellent work.

Take a look at how you shop - could you do more to support organic and other chemical-free food producers - especially local ones?

Take a long look at your beekeeping methods with a view to focusing more on the underlying health of your bees, and less on the honey crop. To paraphrase a well-worn phrase: think not what your bees can do for you, but what you can do for them.

Phil Chandler


Friends of the Bees -
The Barefoot Beekeeper -
Natural Beekeeping Network -
Co-op Plan Bee -
Vanishing of the Bees screenings -
Bumblebee Conservation Trust -
Bees for Development -
Global Bee Project -

* Graham White, a beekeeper and environmental author, commenting on Syngenta funding research into the disappearance of honeybees, The Herald, 4 October 2009