Economists, in ‘predatory’ journal, challenge Syngenta study finding neonics pose ‘low risk’ to bees

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Editor’s Note: This article discusses the attack on a Syngenta study by economists published in the Environmental Sciences Europe titled “An experiment on the impact of an neonicotinoid pesticide on honeybees: the value of a formal analysis of the data.” Environmental Sciences Europe is known as a predatory “play for play” journal, meaning it often publishes articles by activist scientists who could not get their work accepted by more mainstream academic journals. The GLP profiled ESE after it republished the discredited GMO rat tumor study by Gilles-Éric Séralini, without peer review, after it had been retracted from a more mainstream publication. It also published a letter from activist scientists and anti-GMO campaigners, including Vandana Shiva, Consumer Reports Michael Hansen and colleagues of Séralini,, claiming there is “no scientific consensus” in support of GMO safety, despite the fact that more than 275 independent science oversight agencies have concluded otherwise.

A study by a global agrochemical company that concluded there was only a low risk to honey bees from a widely used agricultural pesticide has been described as “misleading” in new research published by statisticians at the University of St Andrews.

A major study conducted by Swiss agrochemical company Syngenta on the effects of the neonic thiamethoxam on honey bees in the field concluded that there was only a low risk to honey bees.

New research conducted at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM) by Dr Robert Schick, Professor Jeremy Greenwood and Professor Steve Buckland shows even large and important effects could have been missed because the Syngenta study was statistically too small.

The Syngenta study involved two experiments: an experiment conducted at two locations and a maize experiment at three locations. At each location the experiments used pairs of fields – in one field the crop was treated with thiamethoxam at levels normally used by farmers, in the other field the crop was untreated.

The Syngenta study concluded that because the experiments involved so little replication …  a formal analysis of the data “would lack the power to detect anything other than very large treatment effects … Therefore a formal statistical analysis was not conducted because this would be potentially misleading”.

The St Andrews team believe this is fundamentally wrong because formal statistical analysis is only potentially misleading if the wrong method is used and because the mere inspection of the results is always potentially misleading because it is an entirely subjective procedure.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: New research debunk honey bee pesticide study