Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ten reasons why the BBKA should not take Bayer's money

Several people have asked me why I think the BBKA should not take money from pesticide manufacturers in return for endorsing their products. That the question even needs to be asked seems to me a sad comment on the moral vacuum that many people inhabit these days, but here are some of the reasons that occur to me:

1. It is unnecessary. On the BBKA's own figures, the money from product endorsement could be replaced by a small increase in the annual membership fee - £1.00-£1.50 - depending on which BBKA document you read.

2. It is unethical. Do the Royal Horticultural Society endorse herbicides? Does the AA (the Automobile Association or Alcoholics Anonymous) endorse whisky? Do the Metropolitan Police endorse crack cocaine? Then why does the BBKA feel the need to endorse products that are toxic to bees?

3. It is unconstitutional. Nowhere in the BBKA Constitution can I find any passage that gives the executive the power to accept sponsorship money from corporations with a vested interest in selling compounds harmful to bees.

4. It damages their credibility. Do the BBKA expect to be taken seriously as advocates of bees and beekeeping, when a significant proportion of their income is derived from profit-seeking corporations with contrary aims?

5. It is against the stated objects of the BBKA. The BBKA constitution states: "The objects of the BBKA shall be: to promote and further the craft of beekeeping; to advance the education of the public in the importance of bees in the environment". Exactly how are either of these objects furthered by endorsing pesticides?

6. It is unprecedented. I know of no other beekeeping organization in the world that takes money for endorsing pesticides.

7. It makes the BBKA a laughing stock among other European beekeeping organizations, who have been campaigning for years against the use of pesticides that are toxic to bees, and which have killed billions of bees in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere. The BBKA should be showing solidarity with our European colleagues, not spitting in their faces.

8. It is against the wishes of a significant number of UK beekeepers. If the feedback I have received is indicative of the proportion of beekeepers who have an opinion on this subject, then far more of them are against the idea than for it.

9. It creates a dangerous precedent. The BBKA are proposing to endose products based solely on the data supplied by the manufacturer, without any requirement for independent testing. Once they have shown themselves susceptible to product endorsement, and have become dependent on the income, it will be all too easy to put their stamp on more and more products, until they lose all vestiges of the credibility they once had.

10. Bayer - one of the most vilified and untrustworthy corporations on the planet - will gain far more from this exercise that the paltry few thousand pounds they are handing to the BBKA. Their single aim is to make a profit - the bigger the better - and they are doing it by selling ever-increasing quantities of products that have been proven to be deadly to bees and all other insects - with the BBKA symbol on the label.

I could go on, but if you are not convinced by now, I would be wasting my time.

But I will add one more question: why is the BBKA executive so very, very keen to accept Bayer's money?

They have suppressed discussion of this subject on their web forum (banning me in the process); they have censored beekeepers' comments from their own web site, once they realised that they were all opposed to their position (see for details); they have published endless propaganda on this subject in their newsletters; they have refused to print opposing points-of-view; the president, Tim Lovett, has personally canvassed his own Surrey branch with an outrageous piece of propaganda that reads as if it was written by Bayer's PR agency, making clumsy links between rejecting endorsement proposals and 'extremism'; the president and two of the technical committee have strong links to the pharmaceutical industry, while another member of the technical committee, Norman Carreck is a strong advocate of chemical agriculture who has publicly supported GM and described crop rotation as 'old-fashioned'.

I think there is more to this than the BBKA executive is admitting. What do you think?

Further reading:

Evidence That Pesticides Are Seriously Messing Up Our Honey Bees


FollowMeChaps said...

As a BBKA member I completely endorse these views.

I have no interset in organisational politics but it does seem there is more to this than meets the eye. The whole issue has left me suspicious of the BBKA executive's motives.

Whilst the BBKA have made public the motions for consideration at the ADM in Decembers BBKA News this has been done far too late for any serious discussion/feedback from branches to their delegates. Was this planned?

ds said...

The British Bee Killer Association has a lot of answers to provide - mainly how can they even begin to morally justify the acceptance of corporate money for pesticide endorsement??? - a truly despicable conflict of interest at least.

Tim Lovett and the BBKA webmaster should republish/restore all censored BBKA forum entries removed because of contrary opinions put forward by BBKA members not toeing the agri-chemical friendly line of the BBKA - more seriously prejudicial acts by a UK Registered Charity!!!

SHAME ON YOU!! Mr. Lovett

rupert said...

I am not a member of the BBKA. I, too, endorse the original post. I would go further and say that, sadly, the BBKA now has no credibility and if it continues to be Bayer's puppet, it is actively being detrimental to bees and beekeepers. I am sure that originally the association was formed to encourage beekeeping and beekeepers. Exactly how this can be done when the present president is endorsing insecticides is difficult to understand. Perhaps he has become so far removed from the BBKA's stated aims that he has forgotten that bees are insects. Perhaps he should become a comedian. He is certainly a laughing stock.

robin850 said...

Why would any organization that purports to promote Nature also endorse a chemical company?

Something rotten is happening at the core of the BBKA.

Devils Advocate said...

I agree with two points:

9) BBKA certainly should have independent testing. By not doing so they leave themselves open to this sort of abuse. The fee received should take account of the cost of such testing.

10) Yes - the BBKA should take much more money. Why aren't the agri-companied pouring millions into Tim Lovett's research fund? (Although I guess that would be frowned on, too).

Otherwise I cannot agree with this blog. We must have these chemicals for today's world to survive. Do we want to go back to the days of the Irish potato famine?

The agri-co's will not go away, and for the BBKA to attempt to protect our bees by endorsing the least-damaging chemicals seems a sensible approach.

I am a beekeeper with 25 years experience and a good number of hives, have little to do with the BBKA other than be a member, and have no connexion at all with Bayer or any similar concern.

The Barefoot Beekeeper said...

Bad example. The Irish potato famine was the inevitable result of monoculture - which is exactly the problem we have now, with almonds, wheat, maize - you name it. Why aren't the agri-chem corps pouring money into bee research? Because they have no vested interest in any bee-pollinated crops!

Devils Advocate said...

Why is it a bad example? You are surely not suggesting that monoculture is abandoned? That is not possible unless you want most of the population to starve because the food is too expensive.

ds said...

" . . . We must have these chemicals for today's world to survive." . . . I'm pretty sure history will prove that *these chemicals* are responsible for a high proportion of todays health issues. Actually, what we need is a return to a balance & harmony with Mother Nature where she is in control, not the agri-chem boys and their shareholders. As we watch the list of extinct species grow at an alarming rate we need to be aware of how our dominance over an ecosystem we do not understand has started to spin out of control.

. . . . and a fair share of the world is starving, with high prices only one of the problems!!

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