Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Britain's biggest farmer bans neonicotinoids

I'm glad to be able to bring you good news for once - the Co-op, which owns 25,000 hectares of farm land in Britain - has banned the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on all its farms to protect honeybees.

>> Simon Press, senior technical manager at the Co-op group said: "We believe that the recent losses in bee populations need definitive action, and as a result are temporarily prohibiting the eight neonicotinoid pesticides until we have evidence that refutes their involvement in the decline."

>> Laboratory tests suggest that one of the banned chemicals, imidacloprid, can impede honeybees' sophisticated communication and navigation systems. It has been banned in France for a decade as a seed dressing on sunflowers. Italy, Slovenia and Germany banned neonicotinoids last year after the loss of millions of honeybees. And the European Parliament voted earlier this month for tougher controls on bee-toxic chemicals.

>> Paul Monaghan, the Co-op's head of social goals accused the UK government of failing to recognise that "pesticides could be a contributing factor" in the breakdown of nature's number one pollinating machine.

Full story here

The BBC Today programme ran a very good piece about the decline in UK honeybees. There was an interview with a senior executive from the Co-op who said that they had decided to ban all 8 neonicotinoid pesticides from all the farms which the Co-op owns - and they are going to give £150,000 for emergency research - including pesticides; they are also proposing a 10 point plan to assist honeybees in the UK, which they are planning to implement throughout the Co-op's farming operations and stores.

The Co-op spokesman said that although there was no conclusive proof that neonicotinoids were the primary cause of honeybee collapse - what was glaringly self evident was that no serious research was going on in the UK into pesticides and honeybees.

You can listen again to this segment of the programme for a short time by visiting this page - then choose the '0845' section of the programme from the menu on the page - "0845 Britain's biggest farmer, the Co-op, will launch a 10-point rescue plan for the honeybee, after a steep decline in numbers. Science correspondent Tom Feilden reports on the package which even includes a ban on a group of pesticides."

With depressing predictability, the BBKA's spin doctors have massaged the story on their web site to make it sound like the Co-op are donating money to the BBKA - and guess what - NO MENTION WHATSOEVER OF PESTICIDES! There can be no doubt now that the BBKA executive have been 'nobbled' by Bayer - they dare not even utter the 'P' word.

Monday, January 12, 2009

BBKA: Assessing the Damage

At their Annual Delegates Meeting on January 10th 2009, the British Bee Keepers Association executive learned just how divisive their pesticide endorsement policy really is: they got their way, but with only a 60/40 majority - hardly a resounding success. Despite their arrogant censorship, both on their web site and in their newsletter, and full-bore propaganda from the current president and others, they have won a Pyrrhic victory: they are left with the knowledge that nearly half of their branches contain a majority of members who disagree with their flagship policy.

Of course, they may yet appreciate the damage they have done and recant, but I won't be holding my breath.

So where does this leave British beekeepers who do not wish to be represented by an association whose governing clique seem to care more about their own agenda than either the welfare of bees or the views of their members? Disappointed, disheartened and disenfranchised.

We all have to go with our consciences on this issue. For myself, I cannot belong to any organization that wishes to associate itself with the likes of Bayer or Syngenta - companies that spend millions on lies and propaganda to persuade people that their toxic rubbish is somehow 'good for you' - and in the case of Bayer, frequently caught out and prosecuted for killing and maiming its victims. If the BBKA want to be mentioned in the same sentence as that form of pond slime, then they too become tainted, as far as I am concerned.

I will not be renewing my membership of BBKA, as I believe they have shown themselves to be unworthy to represent British beekeeping. Their refusal to support the German beekeepers after the disastrous Bayer poisoning incident last May; their inability to admit that ANY pesticides may be a problem for bees; their arrogant censorship of comments from their website and refusal of any exec member to join in discussion of the subject on their forum; the utter lack of any response from president Tim Lovett to questions and comments from many people; enough is enough. Until I see serious reforms I will have nothing to do with them.

Bees are under threat - we all know that - and if we use our common sense to look at what has changed in the world between 1850 and today that could be contributing to their decline, two principal factors are clear: big changes in the way bees are 'managed', and the more recent but pervasive spread of chemical agriculture.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is a key indicator of madness. It's time to take off the blinkers and re-think the way we do things.

See also:

Yorkshire Post

Pesticides in beehives

GM Crops Implicated in CCD