Sunday, June 08, 2008

Bayer's Pesticides and the British Beekeeping Association

About 10 years ago, I began to realize the importance of bees - and honeybees in particular - to our food chain and our ecosystems. (I am not belittling the importance of bumblebees, or the many other species of bees [around 2,500 in the UK] - but due to their sheer numbers per colony, honeybees have a special place.) Since then, I have immersed myself in bees and beekeeping, reading everything I could get my hands on, working for a year at Buckfast Abbey with the remaining stocks of Brother Adam's bees, studying his breeding methods and learning everything I could about how bees can best be supported. I wrote 'The Barefoot Beekeeper' in an attempt to express my urgent concerns and to present some possible alternatives to the 'factory farm' attitude of commercial beekeepers.

Now I see bees being decimated, in the USA, in France, in Germany, Slovenia, and lately in the UK. I also see companies like Bayer rolling out new pesticides - lately the neo-nicotinoids - and denying that they kill bees 'if used according to instructions' - and being found out in lie after lie about just how toxic their products are, not only to bees, but to just about anything that lives in the earth and in the rivers and seas. I see these corporations, with directors who cannot be held accountable for the incalculable damage they are doing, getting fatter each year on the profits they garner from ignorant users of domestic weed-killers and hard-pressed farmers alike, and I get very, very angry. I have learned - at last - to channel this anger into positive energy for campaigning for change, rather than to be exhausted by it, as used to be the case.

And then I find that the British Bee Keepers Association - the one body that should be protecting the interests of the bees - have been bought so cheaply by the corporation with the most heinous history of lying, deceit and shockingly inhuman behaviour... and my good intentions to remain calm and focused almost fail me.

These people have to be brought to book. There is no compromise: they will not stop until they have achieved their aim of total domination of the food chain - and they are not so far away from that right now. They have governments in their pocket, and their PR departments spend untold millions on propaganda to persuade us that they are doing the right thing for our futures. They are destroying what is left of this precious planet, a thousand hectares at a time, while people sit back and watch TV, unwilling to lift a finger.

The GM/pesticide industry (it is the same people) will now take every advantage of the currently rising prices of basic foods (they may well have engineered this too) to push their agenda hard. You will see articles in the press purporting to come from 'scientists' or politicians themselves, but in fact originating from the PR departments of Bayer and Monsanto, telling us how much we 'need' GM crops. They already have the UK government in their pocket and will use them as leverage on the EU. They know that they need to use the 'third world guilt' argument on the British public - ' may not need GM, but what about the starving in Africa...' which we know to be false, but they will wear down those who cannot think or see more widely than their daily tabloid.

Well, I may not be able, single-handedly, to stop Bayer in their tracks - I would be suffering from a grossly inflated ego if I entertained such a thought - but I do know that a relatively small number of well-informed, intelligent people, motivated by nothing more or less that a love for our planet, can turn them inside out.

So, don't tell me that this is 'internal politics'. This is an issue of the greatest possible importance: it is about PRINCIPLES - the foundation of our motivation, our actions, our campaigning. I suggest that IT IS A BASIC PRINCIPLE that the British Bee Keepers Association are violating in supporting the use of substances on our soil that are known to be toxic - not only to bees, but to a huge range of wildlife - and that they should be made to see that they are doing so.

PLEASE - do what you can: post comments at so they can be seen by anyone; join the BBKA forum (they have banned me, quel surprise!) at and tell the BBKA what you think. You will be banned too, no doubt, but at least they get to know that they are not being let off the hook!

Better still, take up beekeeping in a small way - it is easier and cheaper than you might imagine - and you will be doing your bit to create a gene pool from which survivors may emerge, capable of overcoming the problems we have imposed on them over the last 150 years or so. There are lots of people all over the world willing to help you start - see

Wholesome Honey Back On The Menu

Raw, untreated honey, served in the comb, used to be the norm – and many believe that this is the way honey should be eaten.

Better still, honey that is guaranteed to come from bees that have never had any synthetic chemicals in their hive is once more available under the label of the Wholesome Food Association, which has been promoting locally produced, chemical-free food since 1999.

WFA Managing Director, Sky McCain says, “We want people to be able to buy locally-grown, wholesome food from people they trust to do the job well. Local, certified organic honey is virtually impossible to buy in the UK – it is almost all imported – so we are pleased that in some areas we can now offer a locally-made honey that has been produced to our chemical-free standards.”

Raw, untreated honey is mostly produced by beekeepers who use 'top bar hives' – a low-tech, and often home-made hive that enables bees to build honeycomb to their own design, rather than to the pattern dictated by the pre-formed wax 'foundation' used in conventional hives.

Philip Chandler, author of 'The Barefoot Beekeeper', is pioneering this style of beekeeping in Britain. He comments, “Honeybees have been suffering for the last 150 years from the same sort of abuses as other factory-farmed animals. They have been badly housed, overworked, over-medicated and are now dying out as a result of this abuse and widespread poisoning of the land by pesticides. We want to sound the alarm now, before it is too late, and show how bees can be kept in a more natural way, without the need for chemicals to keep them alive.”

“We need much wider support to stop them being wiped out by agricultural chemicals, as has happened recently in Germany, and a few years ago in France.”

“We are disappointed that the British Bee Keepers Association, instead of protecting the interests of the bees, has taken money from the agri-chemical corporations for endorsing pesticides similar to those that have been killing bees by the million in Europe.”

“Beekeepers who follow chemical-free practices will welcome this initiative by the Wholesome Food Association and the public will, we hope, welcome the opportunity to be able to buy honey that is as pure as bees can make it.”


The top bar hive, mostly used in Africa before being introduced to Britain and the USA, is best suited to small-scale beekeeping, and so is particularly suitable for 'back yard', home beekeepers, smallholders and those wanting to produce enough honey for their family and friends.

Free plans for building a top bar hive, together with a popular support forum and more information about The Barefoot Beekeeper, can be found at

Membership of the Wholesome Food Association is open to anyone in Europe who grows and sells food to WFA standards and sells it in their local area – now including beekeepers. Details are on their web site at


Wholesome Food Association

The Barefoot Beekeeper


BBKA statement on pesticides