EU “independent” bee task force chair plotted to blame neonicotinoids for deaths then cook research to fit PR plan

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Research blaming pesticides for the decline in honeybees has been called into question by a leaked note suggesting that scientists had decided in advance to seek evidence supporting a ban on the chemicals.

[NOTE: Also read Hank Campbell’s analysis of this emerging scandal on the GLP in today’s Daily Digest. Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg has his take on the story on his site. The Genetic Literacy Project will have a more extensive report on this breaking story on Friday, December 5.]

[Note: The Genetic Literacy Project’s Jon Entine has reported extensively on the manipulation of research on bee health by activist scientists, most recently the inside story on Harvard nutritionist and organic activist Chensheng Lu, here.]

The private note records a discussion in 2010 between four scientists about how to persuade regulators to ban neonicotinoid pesticides.

The EU imposed a temporary ban last year after the European Food Safety Authority identified risks to bees. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs opposed the ban, saying that there was not enough evidence of harm to bees.

Many farmers have blamed the ban for high levels of damage to this winter’s oilseed rape crop from flea beetle.

The leaked note says that the scientists agreed to select authors to produce four papers and co-ordinate their publication to “obtain the necessary policy change, to have these pesticides banned”.

A paper by a “carefully selected first author” would set out the impact of the pesticides on insects and birds “as convincingly as possible”. A second “policy forum” paper would draw on the first to call for a ban.

The note, which records that the meeting took place in Switzerland on June 14, 2010, says: “If we are successful in getting these two papers published, there will be enormous impact, and a campaign led by WWF etc. It will be much harder for politicians to ignore a research paper and a policy forum paper in [a major scientific journal].”

The scientists at the meeting included Maarten Bijleveld van Lexmond, chairman of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, and Piet Wit, chairman of the ecosystems management commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, an influential network of scientists and environmental groups.

The Task Force, a group of scientists who advise the IUCN, published a report in June stating that neonicotinoids were “causing significant damage to a wide range of beneficial invertebrate species and are a key factor in the decline of bees”.

Read full, original articleScientists accused of plotting to get pesticides banned

  • Amelia Jordan

    These scientists have lost an incredibly amount of credibility if they were indeed colluding to have neonics banned instead of performing unbiased science. I wonder if they could be held liable for the damage that growers have suffered as a result of the ban.

    • DH

      No evidence of experiment cooking was found, just intent on finding the evidence. Pharma companies set out to find cures for disease all the time, does that intent invalidate the drug that they then find and validate as effective? No, it works becuase it was SHOWN to work. If their intent was to find evidence via careful experimental design and the those experiment found strong evidence, the evidence is still true, no matter what the intent was to find it or not. Sometimes scientists find things that they never intended to find! That is the nature of science, the result is true if it is repeatable and the experimental design is robust, no matter how you feel about it.

      • Amelia Jordan

        It sounds like you didn’t read the article.

        The scientists decided what they wanted the data to say even before they conducted the experiments in order to further a set agenda. That’s unethical and all their studies are subsequently tainted with their bias. They need to be reexamined for proper methodology.

        • DH

          I did read the article… and it said quote, “leaked note suggesting that scientists had decided in advance to seek evidence supporting a ban on the chemicals.”

          I too plan my experiments in advance and decided what question I am trying to answer. Nobody does experiments without first decided what those experiments are trying to answer. Yes, No or other, you still need to decided what the experiment is getting at. This requires planning.

          Then, after getting conclusive evidence, from their carefully planned experiments, they then decided on how to deliver this evidence. Scientists deliver data via papers, but since this was a large study with multiple parts, it requires multiple papers that must be coordinated on publishing date in order to have the most impact in the scienitific community and the political community (political since these are government scientists NOT academic scentists) And of coarse, they strategized whom would be the first author (if 20 people helped to various degrees, this is an important detail) and made so all the papers would come out in short succession.

          NONE of this questions the work that they did. There is zero evidence of experimental misdoing. The work that they did is literally not being questioned what-so-ever. This is a none news piece, not even worth the electrons its printed on. There was an agenda, do experiments to answer the question of whether these new class of drugs affect bees. The result is not disputed, they found that they do. Then they decided on what order to publish to maximize the effect (all scientists want to advance their careers do this) It doesn’t matter whom does the experiments as long as they are published in full detail so they can be verified by 3rd parties. This body of work is published in full detail and is available to be duplicated. If you wanted, you could repeats these experiments.

          What you should worry about is why a politician decided to violate their privacy and order the IT department to open their emails and have them searched for anything they could use to discredit their work. Why would any honest man/woman do this? You don’t see bias in searching through private emails in a pathetic attempt to discredit honest scientists?

          Come on! Open your eyes.

          • Amelia Jordan

            You and I seem to disagree on the ethics of deciding what the outcome of an experiment and policy should be even before the science has been conducted. I see that as unethical, and you… don’t?

          • DH

            You can’t decided on an outcome before you do it…. that is impossible……that is called magic…..and other than in the heart of little girls, it doesn’t exist. Now let me try to explain this to you. Let’s say your car won’t start and you notice that it is leaking fuel. You decide that based on that observation, that it is possible that a hole in your car is leaking fuel.

            Based on this observation, would you:

            A) Check your ignition system.
            B) Check your car battery.
            C) Check the underside of the car for a hole in the gas tank.

            If you choose C), then you made an observation, made a hypothesis for the reason behind this observation, then did an experiment (checking the fuel tank) and your conclusion would be either (Yes, there is a leak, or No, there is no leak).

            This is exactly what these scientists did and what any logically person does. The “leaked notes” are just people discussing their experimentally design (deciding how to get under the car… you would need a car jack and a flash light) and how they would publish their results and whom their audience is (you decide to tell mom and dad by phone about your car fuel, because you think they will loan you their car while yours is at the repair shop).

            If this hasn’t reached you let and than I have run out of ways to reach you.

          • Amelia Jordan

            You are being deliberately obtuse. The scientists in question wanted a specific outcome, the outright banning of neonics. They then decided, in detail, the steps they needed to take in order to make it appear that a ban on neonics was justified.

            That is unethical because it made subsequent studies biased for the agreed upon initiative while putting the agendas ideology over objective observation.

            Instead of asking “Are neonics so harmful they should be banned?”, the goal became “What studies/policies can we conduct/influence to get neonics banned?”

            That is unobjective science and certainly unethical.

          • DH

            The article has zero evidence of any of what you just said….

            Can you link some of your published work since you quote, “have my MSc in Entomology and am making my career in agricultural research.”

            I would love to read your works.

          • Amelia Jordan

            I think the memos are evidence enough that the people going into the studies weren’t unbiased and objective, and that makes their conclusions suspect.

            I don’t owe you any information on my employment or otherwise, so whatever questions you ask that don’t have to do with the article, I’m not answering them. You’re a stranger on the internet.

          • justaguy

            Awwwwwwww, won’t link your work eh? What are you hiding? What lies are you hiding behind?

            First things first, you are not published. You are no scientific presence.

            Second: Here’s your twitter; https://twitter.com/robot_insect

            Third: You went/go? to WSU, which one of these did/go you work for? You are not on the graduate student list. I know a couple of these people personally, so save me the trouble and tell me who or I’m going to email them myself.
            http://entomology.wsu.edu/directory/faculty/

          • Wow. Doxing someone on a comment thread. Real classy.

          • justaguy

            How does one doxx a public twitter page?

          • Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent – Rachel Carson. Like Carson, I felt obliged and compelled to raise the alarm, and have done so with scientific publications in respected journals, and by informing the general public of an impending catastrophy with my book “Disaster in the Making”. My credentials as a toxicologist can be downloaded from http://www.toxicology.nl

          • Ur Momma

            Play that Silent Spring card and spook folks… Your tactics are getting predicable.

          • Benjamin Edge

            If I see fuel leaking out of my gas tank, I don’t have to design an experiment to determine what is causing the fuel spill under my car. Typically, you design experiments to answer questions that do not have an obvious answer.

            When designing an experiment, you should develop a hypothesis and develop a test to determine if that hypothesis is correct or not. You don’t say, like Amelia pointed out, that we are going to get neonics banned and here are the tests we need to generate the results to get that done. That is biased from the start, and bias is the enemy of good research.

          • Benjamin Edge

            I think you have a problem with reading comprehension. You are really stretching to rationalize what is obvious from that leaked document.

            I also find it pretty hypocritical for someone going by the moniker of ‘justaguy’ to accuse someone else of using a fake name. On top of that, you dox someone’s personal information while you keep your profile private. That takes a lot of nerve.

          • justaguy

            Can you not read….?

            This document is about planning publication order. In order to publish, the experiments would have been COMPLETED! I don’t know how more clear I have to be with you.

            Look, I’ll quote it for you.

            Should be prepared for publication :
            1) An article by Dr. Tennekes on neonicotinoid pesticides and Haber’s Rule
            based on his report. (This article entitled The Significance of the
            Druckey-Kupfmüller Equation for Risk Assesment – The Toxicity of
            Neonicotinoid Insecticides to Arthropods is Reinforced by Exposure
            Time, has presently been peer reviewed and will be published by the
            Journal Toxicology

            2) An article by Tessa van Dijk on « The effects of neonicotinoid pesticide

            pollution of Dutch surface water on non-targetspecies abundance based
            on her MSc thesis based on her MSc thesis (in preparation).

            3) Now available knowledge on the effects of neonicotionoid insectides on
            honey bees will be compiled in an article by Laura Maxim, Jean-Marc
            Bonmatin and Jeroen van der Sluijs.

            4) A compilation on the quantitive and qualitative use of neonicotinoid
            pestides in Europe will be made by Vicky Kindemba (decided upon after
            the meeting).

            All completed work…… work that took months to years.

          • This was the evidence that prompted the IUCN to develop a strategy to achieve a total ban on neonics. It was very clear in 2010 that environmental pollution with these chemicals was going to cause a catastrophy of unprecedented proportions. To suggest that these scientists were conspiring to deceive and manipulate scientific journals is preposterous.

          • IUCN is well known for its activism and rejection of empirical evidence. There is almost no one in the organization with expertise in bees, let alone the interaction of bees with various chemicals, and with the expertise to do cost benefit analysis of various competing chemicals. The records clearly show the ideological bias of the group, with Hank Tennekes at the very head of the group of scientists willing to put crass ideology ahead of science. But 2010, there was no field evidence linking “environmental pollution” let alone neonics to any catastrophe. That’s the language of college sophomores, not scientists. The body of evidence over the past five years, in fact, makes it clear, without any question, that the varroa mite is the primary driver of problems in hives, spreading disease and other problems. The field evidence is overwhelming. Independent reports from the US, Australia, Canada and Europe stand in direct contrast with your rather frightening hysteria Hank. Read the latest report from Health Canada (oh, Health Canada is part of the world wide conspiracy of Big Chem and Big Gov to suppress the REAL TRUTH). Read the studies by the US task force (oh, I forget, they are on the take to…only the IUCN is capable of assessing the fact). The fact is that places that widely use neonics but no do not have a vary problem are doing great (like Australia) and places that do not use neonics but have varroa mite problem are fairing poorly. This is from the http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23873722: ‘In location like Vancouver Island where neonicotinoid use is relatively small, annual colonies losses the past few years have ranged 60‐76% and have been attributed mainly to Varroa mite.’

          • Even under-conscientiously their opinion affect their work.

          • Howie_Roark

            Like the ban on DDT as a result of Silent Spring, whose claims have never been reproduced in a lab to this day?

      • Howie_Roark

        No neonicotinoid content in pollen or sap of affected crops

        -Lorenz, Gus, et al.

  • Sb_2014

    It appears that Science has its own corruption problems. *sigh*

    • gritnix

      Not really. Science has truthfulness built in. No credible research has been found or duplicated to say that neonics are the smoking gun they’ve been made out to be. That’s the hallmark of good science. Repeatability. Humans sometimes have corruption problems, so always follow the science and evidence.

  • Cairenn Day

    Considering all the folks that claim that the agri business industry is ‘cooking the research’ , I am not really surprised to see the other side doing it.

    My dad always said that folks that were sure ‘others’ were doing something, ‘knew’ that because they were doing it or aware of folks on their side doing it.

  • The anti-gmos and organic activists always point to Big Tobacco as an example of how science is distorted. There is no bigger example of scientific corruption than their own propaganda. Now we have evidence they colluded with WWF. These things further erode trust in enviros.

    • DH

      No evidence of experiment cooking was found, just intent on finding the evidence. Pharma companies set out to find cures for disease all the time, does that intent invalidate the drug that they then find and validate as effective? No, it works becuase it was SHOWN to work. If their intent was to find evidence via careful experimental design and the those experiment found strong evidence, the evidence is still true, no matter what the intent was to find it or not. Sometimes scientists find things that they never intended to find! That is the nature of science, the result is true if it is repeatable and the experimental design is robust, no matter how you feel about it.

      • hyperzombie

        does that intent invalidate the drug that they then find and validate as effective?

        Pharmaceuticals are double blinded for this reason.

        • DH

          Yes, and these results are peer-reviewed and published in such a way that they are repeatable. If you have a problem with them, please repeat the experiments and publish your results. If peer-review and detailed repeatable publishing isn’t enough for you, then stop using tv’s, computers, cars, planes, and medicine because all of these started as peer-reviewed articles and detailed publishing that allowed companies to repeat this work and produce these products you enjoy everyday.

          • hyperzombie

            Hmmm, WTF? I was just bringing up the FACT that pharm studies are double blinded to weed out researchers and patient bias. No meds are deemed effective without a DB study, peer review or not.
            Peer review does not validate a study, reproduction does, and this is where these studies FAIL..

          • DH

            Prove it. Do the experiment and prove it. That is the nature of science. You are claiming that it could not be repeated, and I’m only claiming that it is available to be repeated. Therefore, it falls on you to do so. Experiment away and tell the results as soon as you publish.

          • hyperzombie

            Do the experiment and prove it.

            No need to, it has already been done 100s of times. There are dozens of other similar studies that come to the opposite conclusion, plus there is reality, which also disproves the neonicotinoids bee death hypothesis.

          • JonasN

            “[A]ll of these started as peer reviewed articles and detailed publishing ..”!?

            You must be kidding! Or rather, you don’t have the faintest idea of what you are talking about. Yes, probably the latter … you don’t sound like somebody with that sense of humor.

      • Benjamin Edge

        Pharma companies develop chemicals that they think have a chance to work.

        Then they test them to see IF they work, not to prove that they work.

      • Howie_Roark

        …no evidence of neotics affecting bees, either, cupcake

  • JP

    So I read the leaked paper you linked to and found no smoking gun. The note about the first published author was more about protecting him from attacks from the chemical industry.

    Also these farmers losses: The UK govt figures (HGCA) put at 2.7% for oil seed rape, due to the unusually warm autumn.

    Your head line is simply click bait.

    • Benjamin Edge

      2.7% doesn’t sound like much, unless you are one of the farmers whose production is cut by 25% or more. But we’ll give emergency approval to spray an organophosphate that is more toxic to handle, or a less effective pyrethroid that has even worse effect on non-target insects. Or we’ll allow field spraying of neonics on a case by case basis, which is the worst way you can use neonics. Sounds like a great strategy to me .

    • Howie_Roark

      you forgot the part where EU rapeseed production declined by 35-50% due to a flea beetle outbreak as a result of the moratorium.

      Second, 2.7% would account for more than the average farmer’s profit margin, putting them in debt.

      Third, there has been absolutely no affect to the US bee population.

      Finally, Canadian research has shown that there is no presence of ‘neotics’ in pollen or sap