A Look into Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and the Use of Neonicotinoids: A View from two Extremes, part 1

A bee visiting the flowers of an Edgewortia chrysantha in Washington Park.

A bee visiting the flowers of an Edgewortia chrysantha in Washington Park.

The following posting is built around an article written by Jon Entine in response to Chensheng Lu’s claims that Neonicotinoides, synthetic Nicotine, a commonly used ‘group’ of insecticides in modern conventional agriculture, are at the heart of CCD.  There is a link to the original Entine article posted on his site, the Genetic Literacy Project ,it also appears, on the Science 2.0, website.  There is a second Entine article as well addressing more directly Lu’s ‘science and Entine’s conclusions that I will deal with in a later posting.   I began this after reading it several weeks ago on Facebook and was initially, convinced by it that Lu was in fact practicing bad science and that bothered me, because Entine’s article was ‘pushing’ me so hard to get to that conclusion.  Later, the topic kept popping up on my radar as I saw calls for bans of neonics here in the US.  I more recently was puzzled by what I found on the Xerces Society website regarding the issue…so I decided to look a little deeper.  What follows is still a beginning, an attempt to winnow the ‘wheat from the chaff’.  There are many more questions to ask if we are to make a responsible decision on this issue.  Such things are never simple when fallible humans and corporations are involved.

It is not my intent to review or critique the science on this issue.  I am not an entomologist nor an organic chemist.  My intent is to call the reader’s attention to the strategy used here by author and journalist Jon Entine.  It is one being employed by the conservative right today across many ‘environmental’ issues today.  It is important for the public to understand how the political ‘game’ is being played so that we can make decisions for ourselves that are in our best interest.

The orange highlighted text are my observations and comments.  Entine’s text is otherwise unedited.  I bring to this my own biases with more than 35 years of professional experience in the landscape industry, the last 27 working in public horticulture for the City of Portland Parks and Recreation.  I consider myself to be an ‘environmentalist’ and still have a current public pesticide applicator’s license in the state of Oregon.  I am no industry apologist and would put The World According to Monsanto on my must read list for all horticulturists, gardeners and citizens. I am tired and daily angered by the constant politicization of science for private gain and the holding of power. Please read on:

Bee deaths and neonics: Inside story of Colony Collapse Disorder, Harvard’s Chensheng Lu’s crusade I have linked the title to the original article for those you who would like to read it without my notes and comments.

Jon Entine | November 25, 2014 | Genetic Literacy Project 

The above two links will take you to Entine’s wiki page and the other to a look at Entine and the Genetic Literacy Project from the perspective of Mother Jones’, Tom Philpott, one of Entine’s harshest critics.

Reports that honey bees are dying in unusually high numbers has concerned many scientists, farmers and beekeepers, and  gripped the public (Implies that the public has been manipulated into an unreasonable belief). There have been thousands of stories ricocheting across the web (A description intended to get the reader to see such stories as scurrilous and not to be trusted), citing one study or another as the definitive explanation for a mystery that most mainstream experts say is complex and not easily reducible to the kind of simplistic narrative that appeals to advocacy groups (Again, a description intended to get the reader to see such organizations as scurrilous and not to be trusted).

This analysis examines this phenomenon: how complex science is reduced to ideology, how scientists and journalists often facilitate that–and its problematic impact on public policy, the environment and in this case the wondrous honey bee.  (It is common for critics such as Entine to accuse others of exactly what they themselves are doing, in this case, ‘reducing complex science to ideology to affect public opinion and policy.) Specifically, it examines two controversial studies, both authored by the same researcher, that have become the linchpin for those who argue that bees and potentially the planet are facing a Beemageddon. It addresses:

  • Who is Chensheng Lu, the nutritionist who has become the face of the movement claiming that Big Ag is threatening bees, humans and our food supply?
  • What are neonicotinoids, the supposed time bomb at the center of the controversy?
  • What role have journalists, most prominently Tom Philpott of Mother Jones, played in mis-reporting the bee death story?
  • Do prominent entomologists and beekeepers endorse Lu’s belief that the world faces a “bee crisis” as Lu’s research, held up by activists as seminal and groundbreaking, contends?
  • Will—or should—’neonics’ be banned as a precautionary measure?

Note that all of the quotes included in this piece–and the written report in its entirety–were reviewed by the entomologists and beekeepers who are quoted. The quotes are in context and approved.  (While I only checked with one of those quoted, Scott Black of the Xerces Society, he stated that his comments were not in context and that he had never seen the completed ‘article’.  Nor were Entine’s use of his words herein approved.)

Chensheng Lu was in his element last week at a speech at Harvard Law School. The School of Public Health professor was lecturing on his favorite subject–his only subject these days, as it has become his obsession. (This opening is playing off of the general public ignorance of academic life of a professor. All professors specialize, narrowing their chosen field of study to produce and publish research in recognized journals. Such ‘focus’ is how any of us becomes an ‘expert’…we choose one thing, to learn it inside out, giving us less time to ‘keep up’ on everything else.  It is often a tenure requirement that they do so.) He is convinced, unequivocally, that a popular pesticide hailed by many scientists (Since this is an ‘attack’ on a scientist the ‘hailing scientists’ should be listed and vetted as far as their credentials and affiliations to organizations and funders, to be fair.) as a far less toxic replacement (Specifically, how much less toxic? Define so that the reader can understand the scope and scale of the problem.) for farm chemicals proven to be far more dangerous (Again, how much more and in what ways?) to humans and the environment, is actually a killer (All insecticides by definition are ‘killers’, so this is a purposely inserted inflammatory word intended to influence the reader into dismissing the accused as a whacko!) in its own right.

“We demonstrated that neonicotinoids are highly likely to be responsible for triggering Colony Collapse Disorder in bee hives,” claimed Lu. The future of our food system and public health, he said, hangs in the balance.

Lu is the Dr. Doom of bees (A label intended to influence the reader to accept the author’s position). According to the nutritionist–but not clear to most other experts in the field (This is to re-establish that Lu is not an expert)– colony collapse disorder (CCD), which first emerged in 2006, can be directly linked to “neonics”, as the now controversial class of pesticides is often called, and also to genetically modified crops (There are in fact other suspected causes out there as well, while others attribute CCD to a ‘complex’ of causes.  Entine adds, ‘genetically modified crops’ here.  At no time does he examine the relationship, if any, between GMO’s and CCD.  He appears to add it in as another ‘red flag’ for his readers to react to.). Phased in during the 1990s, neonics are most often used by farmers to control unwanted crop pests. They are coated on seeds (They may also be applied to growing crops later), which then produce plants that systemically fight pests (Many pollinators, like the European Honey Bee of agriculture, but including hundreds of other insects and other pollinating animals, ingest nectar and/or pollen and would also then consume some quantity of Neonicotinoids.  How are the affected by these insecticides?).

To many environmental activists, the pesticide does more harm than good, and they’ve found their champion in Chensheng Lu. It’s been a busy fall for the professor, jetting back and forth between Boston and Washington, with forays around the United States to talk to adoring audiences. He presents himself as the defender of bees, and this fiery message has transformed a once obscure academic into a global “green” rock star, feted at events like last week’s lunch talk at Harvard. (This entire paragraph works to describe Lu as a shallow, attention starved, in a way, venal man. Such flawed men should not be trusted, is the implication.)

The sudden abandoning of hives by honey bees known as Colony Collapse Disorder has emerged as one of the hottest science mysteries in recent years. Lu has authored two extremely controversial papers on CCD: one in 2012 and a second published this past spring. He and his two beekeeper colleagues – there were no entomologists on his tiny research team – contend that neonicotinoids present a mortal threat to bees. Not only that, Lu claims, neonics endanger humans as well, accelerating Parkinson’s Disease.  (Entine makes no other mention of this in either article to refute this ‘accusation’.  It is used here only as an accusation to impart more suspicion to Lu.)

Lu reached folk hero status (Descriptor used to undermine Lu’s image) among environmentalists last May when the Harvard School of Public Health launched a promotional campaign touting his latest, controversial research: “Study strengthens link between neonicotinoids and collapse of honey bee colonies,” the press release claimed (For some reason the reader is to gather from this that the Harvard School of Public Health, a mainstream and respected institution, should be suspected of irresponsible action for doing so?). Before the study was even circulated, stories in some mainstream publications including Forbes ran the release with only a pretense of a rewrite. (Now Forbes is not to be a trusted source either, leaving only…The Genetic Literacy Project? as a reliable source for information on the topic?)

The story exploded on the Internet. Many environmental and tabloid journalists painted an alarmist picture based on Lu’s research (Alarmist is one of those key, ‘warning’, words used to label potentially damaging information, individuals or organizations. It is a ‘tactical’ word often used as an early action to preempt a perceived attack. It can work through a defusing process, keying doubt or suspicion in the reader): “New Harvard Study Proves Why The Bees Are All  Disappearing,” “Harvard University scientists have proved that two widely used neonicotinoids harm honeybee colonies,” and “Neonicotinoid Insecticide Impairs Winterization Leading to Bee Colony Collapse: Harvard Study” are three of thousands of blog posts and articles. (Can bloggers, through a cursory review of a topic get it wrong or miss pertinent information? Of course. They, we, we’re all human and all subject to error, and bias…including the author, and Entine. Why, I ask is Lu being bunched with these guys? To discredit him apparently, but Lu, unless he is specifically trying to manipulate his ‘followers’ cannot be held responsible for their actions or errors.)

Behind the headlines

Although public opinion has coalesced around the belief that the bee death mystery is settled, the vast majority of scientists who study bees for a living disagree—vehemently (This is a potentially damning statement for Lu, if it’s true. Who are these scientists? Entomologists presumably. I assume Entine is referring to researchers actively working on CCD. He is being very specific in this article. This can be a tactic to shrink a ‘field’ to a manageable size, in which the researchers are limited and known. Who is doing research currently that is included? What is that research…, specifically what are its goals? Is it ‘pure’, basic, research or is it targeted? What are its goals? Who is paying for it? These are very important questions here if we are to decide this for ourselves as readers.)

How could a “Harvard study” and a sizable slice of the nation’s press get this story so wrong? (Good question! As well as the question, or did they?  Other researchers are at work addressing this and related issues.  The press may be aware of at least some of this work.  There are questions regarding the use of neonics in general, not just as to how they may impact bees and other pollinators, though these studies are ongoing and not yet rigorously tested. This is how science proceeds.  First, there are problems, or questions that are defined.  A hypothesis is then made as a possible solution, then an experiment is designed to test it.  Results are collated and conclusions are made if possible.  Then it is repeated, until it is thoroughly understood.  Then it is published in particular journals for peer review.  After this, it is accepted…or not.  Science is a method, a process.  The science looking into neonicotinoids is ongoing along with other pesticides and how they interact with each other.  Reporting science in process is part of the public process.  Reporting science helps to keep the public informed…as long as the journalist does not hunt and pick to present a particular view and is honest in his/her presentation of it to their audience.)

The buzz that followed the publication of Lu’s latest study is a classic example of how dicey science can combine with sloppy reporting to create a ‘false narrative’—a storyline with a strong bias that is compelling, but wrong. It’s how simplistic ideas get rooted in the public consciousness. And it’s how ideology-driven science threatens to wreak public policy havoc. (I love this paragraph! It says so much! Standing science on its head is commonplace in politics today. This is the same strategy being employed by the ‘global warming’ deniers right now! That because something has not played out to its ultimate predicted end, it may not be true! This logic demands an impossible threshold of proof, before acceptance. That warning signs, any supportive evidence of a theory is just that, theoretical, until it plays out in its entirety. Does Entine understand that many people, scientists, environmentalists, activists and others, suspect that he and the industry that is profiting today, of spinning the very same ‘false narrative’ stories out to the public today? I’m sure he does!  This paragraph is an unfounded description of the state of affairs as Entine ‘sees’ it today.)

Bees are important to our food supply. They help pollinate roughly one-third of crop species in the US, including many fruits, vegetables, nuts and livestock feed such as alfalfa and clover. That’s why the mystery of CCD is so troubling. (In complete agreement here.)

One of the central problems with Lu’s central conclusion—and much of the reporting—is that despite the colony problems that erupted in 2006, the global bee population has remained remarkably stable since the widespread adoption of neonics in the late 1990s. The United Nations reports that the number of hives has actually risen over the past 15 years, to more than 80 million colonies, a record, as neonics usage has soared. (Again, his position is that the theory is false because it has not played out to a catastrophic end…yet.)

Country by country statistics are even more revealing. Beehives are up over the past two decades in Europe, where advocacy campaigns against neonics prompted the EU to impose a two-year moratorium beginning this year on the use of three neonics. (As stated earlier hives are absolutely essential to agriculture. Hive keepers, agriculture, is extremely motivated to meet the needs of pollination. Many species can increase in numbers if an effort is made to support their basic need, even while they face increasing threats.)

Last February, the government of Australia, where neonics are used extensively, reaffirmed that “honeybee populations are not in decline despite the increased use of [neonicotinoids] in agriculture and horticulture since the mid-1990s.” Its central finding was just the opposite of what many in the media have reported: The APVMA (Australian equivalent of the EPA) concluded, “[T]he introduction of the neonicotinoids has led to an overall reduction in the risks to the agricultural environment from the application of insecticides.”  (This is a potentially very powerful claim. This should be more fully explained and defined so that we can better understand.  What risks have been ‘reduced’? And, can those reductions be attributed to the use of neonics or, are there other factors at work here as well?  Where’s the science here?)

According to statistics Canada honey bee colonies have increased from 521,000 in 1995 to 672,000 in 2013, a record. North American managed beehive numbers have held stable over the last two decades. (Both of these paragraphs look at statistics at a gross level. They don’t prove the author’s contention. Etine is arguing here that CCD is in fact not an issue and because of that Neonics are not a threat. As within any species, populations are subject to trends and variability from year to year. A great many factors influence any given population and it is at least as likely that the many positive forces at play in a colony’s habitat ‘soften’ the blow of the neonics, an insecticide, on a colony’s health, just as they do for human beings. Health is a very complex balancing act with many overlapping factors and systems. The author’s statistics don’t prove his point.)

So how did the narrative that the world faces a beepocalypse become settled wisdom? The media have widely conflated two parallel but different phenomena: Bee deaths related to CCD and bees dying from other causes.

Bee health took a sharp hit in the 1980s and has been struggling during the winter months for decades coinciding with the global spread of the parasitical Varroa destructor mite and the sub-lethal effects of miticides used to control the parasite. But these overwinter losses, while troubling, haven’t translated into declines in the overall bee population because bees reproduce rapidly in warmer months.

The bee health issue erupted into the public consciousness in 2006, when bee die-offs mysteriously spiked—in California to as high as 80%.   (These statements beg the question: what are the ‘real’ threats out there? Including the idea that the conditions created by the overall practice of large scale conventional agriculture, everything from large field monoculture, chemical fertilization and the overall use of a range of pesticides [all killers of something in the environment] maybe working together to bring about an erratic decline to the general health and well being of the many organisims, plants, fungi, etc., that comprise a healthy system, even while they may be resulting in an increase in overall production.  The bees, and other pollinators, are a piece of this larger agricultural environment and so, are subject to its influence.  It is a very complex ‘soup’.)

GMOs and cell phones did it? (Intended to indicate just how ‘crazy’ these people are.  This heading goes to identifying, and lumping together, the larger group of similar ‘alarmists’ who are targeting both ‘accepted’ and very profitable technologies.  ‘These whackos are everywhere!’)

The event was dubbed CCD by a team of entomologists because of the unique characteristics of the deaths: the unusual abandonment of hives by the oldest bees leaving behind larvae, the queen and food stores.

Advocacy groups originally pointed to cell phones and genetically modified crops as the likely culprits, and some fringe organizations (A label meant to demean and devalue said organizations), like the Organic Consumers Association, still do. But CCD gradually subsided.

Dennis van Engelsdorp, a University of Maryland entomologist who was part of the research team that named CCD, has written to me that there has not been a single field CCD incident in the last three years, except cases linked to the Nosema fungus. (No CCD? No reason to look any further at Neonicotinoids.)  Confusing the picture, overwinter bee deaths also increased in the years after the CCD scare, reaching 30% or more in the US and in some European countries. Confounding doomsayers, losses plummeted to 21.9% over the winter of 2011-2012, jumped again during the following year’s frigid weather, then settled back into the low 20s.  (This works to establish that there is some ‘normal’ range of annual dieback in hives.  Not a surprising event in any living system.  What is normal here?  Entine has been playing fast and loose with statistics.  What does the bonafied research actually show?)

In some states, like North Dakota, which is the largest honey producer in the US, the number of bee colonies has hit an all-time high.  (A statistic without context, so meaningless.  What factors are at play here?  Bee colonies are directly manipulated by their keepers and so their numbers are not a simple and direct response to their environment.)

The recent trend in Europe is also encouraging. In April, the EU released a report called Epilobee that surveyed bee health in 2012-2013. Seventy-five percent of bees suffered overwinter losses of 15% or less, a level considered well within the acceptable range in the US. Only countries in Europe’s far north, home to 5% of the bee population, and which suffered through a bitter winter, experienced losses of more than 20%.

In short, most entomologists (Again, who are these entomologists and what are their affiliations?) scoff at media references of a beemageddon.

But that’s exactly what Lu claims.

Hyping the “Harvard” studies

Mother Jones, in its coverage led by food reporter Tom Philpott, has been particularly relentless in its promotion of Lu’s controversial views. It’s run more than a dozen articles about the alleged mortal threat posed by neonics. Upon the release of Lu’s most recent study, Philpott titled his article, “Did Scientists Just Solve the Bee Collapse Mystery?”

There were no “scientists” (Again, Entine discredits Lu. Apparently Entine, as a journalist, is uniquely qualified to determine who is legitimate and who should have a say.) behind the Lu study, of course—only Lu himself. But rather than seeking out views of established experts in the field, he had Lu and only Lu answer the question he posed.

“[C]oming on the heels of a similar [study] he published in 2012, the CCD mystery has been solved,” he wrote. Philpott now unqualifiedly refers to neonics as “bee killer chemicals.”  (And Entine, unqualifiedly claims that, what, Neonics don’t kill bees?  Neonics are insecticides.  They are applied to crops to control/kill pest insects.  Bees are insects.  As a licensed applicator, though one who rarely used insecticides, there are always off target effects…collateral damage.  Bees are not somehow ‘shielded’ from their effects.)

Who is Chensheng (Alex) Lu, the Dr. Doom (Then turn him into a joke to further undermine his legitimacy.) of honey bees? He is an environmental researcher with the Harvard School of Public Health with no formal training in entomology. His two bee papers are “Harvard studies” only in the sense that the only scientist who conducted the studies has a Harvard faculty appointment; his co-authors are local beekeepers. Both studies appeared in one of the most obscure science journals in the world, a marginal Italian journal. (Presumably, Lu, along with his Phd. learned the scientific method, has Entine?)

Lu emerged out of academic obscurity (Entine’s choice of descriptors again to diminish Lu.) two years ago with the publication of his first study on bee deaths. He promoted a simple explanation, the kind that energizes activists: A new class of pesticides, promoted by large chemical companies as a safer alternative to older chemicals, was a hidden killer.

“I kind of ask myself,” Lu told Wired in 2012. “Is this the repeat of Silent Spring? (The old title conjures up images and a world that industry today still wants to be forgotten in history’s dust, reason enough for Entine to place it prominently in his closing.  To rally the forces?)   What else do we need to prove that it’s the pesticides causing Colony Collapse Disorder?”  (Being snide always helps clarify the issue.)

The second coming of Silent Spring? Almost from the day his first study was published, Lu was making grandiose claims. By his own admission, he is the definition of an activist (Apparently a ‘dirty’ word now, akin to liberal or feminist and in conflict with objective science or purposeful corporate science.) scientist. He is on the board of The Organic Center, an arm of the multi-million dollar Organic Trade Association, a lobby group with strong financial interest in disparaging conventional agriculture, synthetic pesticides and neonics in particular—a conflict of interest that Lu never acknowledges and to my knowledge no other journalist has reported. (Entine, should make the same disclosures he expects from Lu.  Lu’s association with these ‘organic’ groups is an almost laughable accusation, but this isn’t the first time it’s been made. Entine has turned the same arguments made by his Organic ‘opponents’ of the multi-billion dollar agro-chem trade groups, who directly and hugely profit from the sale and use of these chemicals, against the Organic groups.  The named Organic groups work in a defensive manner to protect themselves from the Agro-Chem companies and doing so drains their resources.  The practice of conventional, chemical heavy, agriculture poses a direct threat to the very existence of organic agriculture, that depends on the intact complex web of life within healthy ecosystems to produce ‘organic’ food, by disrupting this very complex ‘web’.  The Agro-Chem groups are actively working to increase their sales and have been doing so effectively.  The practice of conventional agriculture by farmers leads to an increasing dependence on the use of purchased offsite resources, energy and equipment.  At the simple level of production it requires the use of more purchased inputs without end.  Whereas, organic, works to limit offsite purchases by building up the health of a farm system and thus its independence from the Agro-Chem industry.))

Earlier this month, OTA announced it had hired Lu to tout the benefits of organics, including promoting the dangers of neonics.

Many of the world’s top scientists have challenged his research. Dennis vanEngelsdorp called Lu’s first study “an embarrassment” (After having listened to several of Dennis’ recorded talks on bees I have trouble imagining that he would be happy with Entine ‘using’ him in this way to support his attack.  Listen for yourself.) while Scott Black, executive director of the bee-hugging Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, characterized it as fatally flawed, both in its design and conclusions

(I wrote to Black asking for his comments regarding Entine and Entine’s use of him here.  Here’s his response:

HI Lance:  Jon Entine has a great ability to take things out of context to make his case.  I had a scientific disagreement with Dr. Lu over what interpretations could be made from the data presented in his paper.  I do not recall that I ever said “fatally flawed” and I have never talked with Mr. Entine.  I did say that I thought the paper was flawed and that I thought the conclusions were overstated. 

That said of course Mr. Entine does not delve into the work that Xerces has done to illuminate this issue.  http://www.xerces.org/neonicotinoids-and-bees/ http://www.xerces.org/beyond-the-birds-and-the-bees/

We agree with Dr Lu that there is a lot of scientific evidence in the peer reviewed literature to support that this class of chemicals (as well as other highly toxic, systemic, persistent insecticides) are highly problematic from a pollinator standpoint, water quality standpoint and from a beneficial insect standpoint.

Mr. Entine has taken a disagreement over a single study and blown it way out of proportion.)


University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum, who chaired the National Academy of Sciences 2007 National Research council study on the Status of Pollinators in North America called it “effectively worthless” to serious researchers. “The experimental design and statistical analysis are just not reliable,” she said.

Beekeepers have been skeptical as well. Lu’s findings contradicted what they witnessed in the fields. If neonics were a mystery killer, then not using them should translate into healthier bee stocks; but that’s not what has happened. (What exactly has been happening? The practice of agriculture is very complex. There is also no standardized, industrial approach. Soils, climate, resident populations of wild and colonizing plants, animal and fungal life, all vary. Farmers working from experience on their land choose what practices and when they will utilize them. It is bad science when Entine simplifies the situation to one of no neonics or with neonics.)

“In places where neonicotinoid pesticides have been banned, such as France and Italy, there’s no evidence that honeybee populations have rebounded,” noted Hannah Nordhaus, beekeeper and author of the bestseller The Beekeepers’ Lament.

Lu has been defiant since the stinging expert rejection of his first paper. He suspects the fingerprints of a Big Ag conspiracy of chemical companies, USDA and entomologists who he believes are ignoring the dangers to bees. (This is, “the name it first so it is less likely to be used against you later”, strategy.) Those are damning charges if true, but Lu had yet to present any evidence to back them up—until the publication of his newest paper last May.

Lu monitored 18 hives, a small number for such a complex study, comparing two different pesticides in different locations. He fed bees high fructose corn syrup laced with two neonics, imidacloprid and clothianidin, for 13 weeks. It was an odd choice because bees in fields usually only feed for as few as two weeks. Six of the 12 colonies fed neonics eventually ended up showing substantial deaths over the winter, as did one of the six control colonies.

According to Lu and his beekeeper (a diminishment of beekeepers)  co-authors, this proved that neonics cause CCD.

To seasoned observers of the bee controversy, the “new” study looked like more of the same. “Lu’s sample sizes are astonishingly small,” May Berenbaum told me, ticking off a litany of problems. ”He never tested for the presence of pathogens, so his conclusions dismissing other likely causes don’t follow from his data. The whole study just doesn’t hold together. And I’m not being a fusspot here. It’s unfortunate this was presented as a Harvard paper because it gives this credibility that it doesn’t deserve.” (This is indeed a major error by Lu. I would ask where are the other studies, done by so called reputable scientific institutions? It would seem there is ample support to challenge his hypothesis: do neonicotinoids present a substantial threat to bees? Do neonicotinoids play a role in Colony Collapse Disorder? If we are suggesting a ban of their use for this reason, there should be research clarifying, justifying such an action. Otherwise it makes one wonder is the dearth of experimental research on this topic indicative of industry efforts to suppress such a move? No research. No action. A win for industry. Are they not interested in improving their abysmal public image?)


There is too much biased science out there cited and spun by corporations, politicians, stilted think tanks and even from regulators whose lineage can be traced back along corporate lines. What we need is good science, science not intended to serve a particular ideology, industry or political ambitions of some climber. Confusion leads to political stalemate, resulting in inaction which further reduces our options as society as we continue chugging along in an increasingly mechanized, industrialized and urbanized world, a world stripped of its resources for profitable reasons, that is less resilient and beautiful than what it once was. What will our grandchildren think? Will they accept our explanation of ignorance? How far will a shrug of the shoulders take them?

As I read through this once again, I am struck by the fact that Entine’s article does little to illuminate the subject. It would appear that Entine’s intention was to stifle discussion. He repeatedly demeans and disparages Lu’s credentials, methods and results. He clearly defines this whole subject area to be within the purview of only select experts while ridiculing Lu’s passion for bees. He emphatically insists that not only is there no link between neonics and CCD, but that there is absolutely nothing to worry about with regards to bee health, that bees, in general are in a stronger, healthier position with the use of neonics than without. The lesson here is a more commonly occurring one, that the inexpert public is unqualified to even question the world that corporate America would give us…for a fee. The invisible hand, of the capitalist economy, will not only make the most rational economic decisions for us, but will do the same for the health of our planet, its life and our children. We would have, it seems, absolutely nothing to worry about according to Mr. Entine and his privately funded Genetic Literacy Project.


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