Sunday, 11 August 2013
Bees and Neonicotinoids – The Prometheus Syndrome One More Time!
As I am researching and writing two books on agriculture, I was very interested in the BBC Horizon Special Programme that was transmitted on Friday August 2nd 2013. Its title was “What’s Killing Our Bees?” The answer to this question, in brief, is that there are three possible candidates: Varroa mites; insecticides (in particular neonicotinoids); and agricultural practices. Self-evidently what is happening is complex and we need scientific research to help us to understand better what is actually happening. And this programme was full of various scientists explaining their research projects. So, well done the BBC, for presenting a balanced and informative programme, and for providing some of the scientists with opportunities to say things that point towards the hidden forces at play.
One of the valuable features of the internet and the web is that it is now very easy to do background checks on the people and the organisations that appear in TV programmes. Thus, one can add to the information that has been transmitted in a programme, and this sometimes puts matters in a completely different light.
Being quite interested in bees (my grandfather was a bee keeper) and quite enthralled with these beautiful and amazing insects, I wanted to know more about the research that is being undertaken. So I visited the web site of Rothamsted Research to read more about their research to understand the affects of the Varroa mites on bee behaviour. Here I learned that the research is supported by Syngenta, which, if you are not aware, is one of those large agrichemical/biotech multinationals that I have previously mentioned in my blogs.
Of course such companies are free to support research into bees, but let us be clear about this: they are not doing so because of a love of bees. What they want is information that can be used to support their vested interest, which is basically to sell as much insecticide as possible, and to ensure that they have a marketplace where this is possible. And the fact that they are supporting Rothamsted Research, will affect what people from this organisation will say, not just about Varroa mites, but also about neonicotinoids and other pesticides.
“What are you saying Paul? Surely you are not suggesting that the fact that Syngenta support research at Rothamsted, will influence what Rothamsted employees write and say, not just about the research that Syngenta supports, but also about other matters?” To which I would reply, if you want to believe that this is not the case, feel free to do so, but I suggest that you read the story of the emperor’s new clothes. We live in a world where, as I stated in my short story Encounter with a Wise Man, people advise in their own interest. Scientists are no different – they are not going to bite the hand that feeds them. This is why it is important that we have freedom of speech and a free press, so that the vested interests of scientists, their employers and the scientific establishment are exposed, and a dose of reality is allowed to be added to that which scientists would have you believe.