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1May 2013

UPDATED* / Media swarm - Europe moves to keep neonicotinoid pesticides off crops where bees are busy

via Western Farm Press

As regular tracker readers surely all know, something is killing off honey bees across large stretches of the world including North America and Europe. Nobody has shown overwhelming evidence of a specific reason for this die-back, aka colony collapse disorder. But agricultural commissioners in the European Union moved this week against one of the prime suspects: a class of pesticides used widely on crops. Farmers soon, if this sticks, will have a hard time getting permits to use these "neonicotinoid" formulations on crops that attract the world's most common pollinating livestock.

   The expected  ban is not as sweeping as some agri-environmentalists hoped and lacked a strong enough vote to be open-ended in time, therefore is to be in force for two years. It  fits generally under the precautionary principle - a tenet of low-risk living. It has more adherents in European governing circles than in those of the US. It means better safe than sorry. The reponsibility is on the would-be users of a new and unproven product to demonstrate persuasively that it has a high chance of doing no great harm, rather than on regulators or other parties to provide data-backed reason to restrict or stop its use. (People who want suspect things proven safe as in hurts nobody ever or at least asymptotically close to it, are engaging in rhetoric and not the kind of science that reasonable regulators easily accomodate. That's why fluoridation and vaccination are, as they should be,  legal.)

   OK then. One wonders how European press, which means mainly Brits for us English-only trackers, covers the news compared to who ever wrote it up in the US mainstream media. If time allows, I'll gather separately stuff from dedicated environmental news outlets, many of which tend toward green activism and would, with precautionary principle flags flying, support the ban.

   UK and other coverage outside US and Canada:

There are plenty more. But onward to...

Sampled US coverage:

  • NYTimes - David Jolly (datelined Paris): Europe Bans Pesticides Thought Harmful to Bees: After a rundown of news and what the immediately-involved regulator has to say, first quotes comes from  the pesticide manufacturers lambasting the regulation and asserting that the scienntific support for it is woeful. But the closing quotes, important as a wrap-up to readers who get that far, is from a Friends of the Earth man. The story, for a readership that hasn't already been bombarded with news on this issue over the last year or more, provides context and explanations as it goes.
  • AP (Brussels) Raf CasertEuropean bees find pesticide relief ; A short, punchy wire story. Essentials, not much more.
  • *AP (UPDATE) Seth Borenstein: FEDS: MANY CAUSES FOR DRAMATIC BEE DISAPPEARANCE ; I was grumbling that few of the pieces had much new science in them. Oh well, thought I, breaking news. There IS new science news, however. At a time that is not a good fit for the EU's one-boot-fits-all strategy, the US EPA and Food and Drug Administration released a report that has a regular rogues' lineup of reasons, perhaps working in concert,  for the bee collapses. And, as Borenstein pointedly notes, it puts the nionic drugs near the bottom of the pile of possible perps.
  •  Adam Vanbergen)Voice of America - Rosanne Skirble: EU Hopes Pesticide Ban will Halt Bee Decline; Uh oh, pic with the VOA story looks like no bee to me. More likely a hoverfly. I looked around, found near-proof , page 7. Further checking reveals Skirble's source Vanbergen took the photo. I then Goggled up another copy of it, but labeled hoverfly. And it is on the VOA server! Perhaps somebody cropped out the i.d. and hoped nobody would notice? Or else the label just got lost along the chain of custody? Anyway.. ... story is fine, illustrates via Vanbergen that evidence is suggestive, hardly conclusive, and many factors may be conspiring to cause CCD.
  • Washington Times - Editorial: Bugged about bees . There's no need for a pesticide ban to do more harm than good ; Hmm, lousy syntax in that hed. The copy reads as though a pesticide industry lobbyist wrote it.
  • Forbes - Jon Entine: The Politics of Bees Turns Science on its Head -- Europe Bans Nionics While Local Beekepers, Scientists Say Action is Precipitous ; Entine is a known stickler for not letting emotion and politics seep into science. It's supposed to work the other way around. Good idea in anybody's book. But his piece prominently cites one study's estimate of how many billions of euros this ban could cost European farmers per year. He links to the study, thank you very much Jon. A look at it shows it to be financed by Bayer CropScience and Syngenta. They make the substances in the crosshairs. There is a presumably good chance politics or some other non-objective skew seeped into the study's execution. All Entine needed to do is say in his story that it was an industry-sponsored study.
  • BloombergBusinessweek - Bernhard Warner: In a bid to Save Bees, Europe Bans Some Pesticides ;

Yikes, gotta stop, this is about to get way too long. The stories have variety with no enormous difference in slant in US v. UK-Europe. It is interesting to note that a few more outlets east of the Atlantic spelled out the pesticides' class name in headlines. That shows how much in the news they already have been. If anybody were to wade through all this stuff, he or she would have a good handle on the news and its background. Collectively, then, the story got told.





I have trouble typing neonicotinoid, too, to the point where I set up a text-expanding shortcut that autocompletes the word whenever I type ".neo" ... must be some sort of common difficulty involved in how mind & fingers coordinate that particular sequence of letters.

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