American Beekeepers Must Condemn the EPA and fight Big Pharma

Open Letter to the British Bee Keepers Association

January 10 2011

Since 2001, the British Bee Keepers Association has been receiving in the region of £17,500 per annum from pesticide manufacturers Bayer, Syngenta, BASF and Belchim in return for the BBKA's endorsement of several insecticides as 'bee-friendly'.

The BBKA policy of accepting money from such corporations, taken without consulting the membership, has been condemned by many of its members, other European bee keeping associations and some NGOs as unethical.

While the Executive have now changed their mind again and claim to be about to drop the direct endorsement of pesticides, they have not ruled out accepting money from pesticide manufacturers under other pretexts.

And there are still some very important questions that remain unanswered.

We call on the BBKA to sever all financial ties to manufacturers, sellers and promoters of any substance known to be or likely to be toxic to bees or other insects.

Philip Chandler, Friends of the Bees
Dr. Hugh Salvesen, Trustee, Natural Beekeeping Trust

This letter is supported by:

  • Dr David Bellamy OBE

  • Dr Karim Vahed, Entomologist & Reader in Behavioural Ecology, University of Derby

  • Dr. Andreas Daugsch, PhD, Post-Doc researcher at Unicamp University, Brazil

  • L. R. B. Mann M.Sc Ph.D applied ecology consultant, beekeeper of 21 y Whangaparaoa, New Zealand

  • Dr David Heaf, beekeeper, Wales

  • Dr Henk Tennekes, toxicologist, Netherlands

  • Manfred Hederer, President, German Professional Beekeepers Association

  • John Salt, ex-President, Moray Beekeepers Association

  • Michael Young MBE

  • Michael Weiler, Dipl.Ing.agr and beekeeper, Advisor for Biodynamic Beekeeping

  • Thomas Radetski, Association for the Development of Ecological Apiculture, Germany

  • James Fearnley, author and researcher

  • The Trustees of the Natural Beekeeping Trust

  • Alys Fowler

  • Chris Packham

  • Chris Baines, independent environmentalist and champion of wildlife gardening

  • Michael Thiele, GaiaBees

  • A.E. McArthur, MIL, Emeritus editor of Scottish Beekeeper magazine 1995 - 2005

  • Kate Canning FRSA, member Twickenham & Thames Valley BKA

  • Tom Petherick

  • Alan Beat

  • Nicholas Evans, author

  • Brigit Strawbridge

  • Biodynamic Association

  • G√ľnter Friedmann, professional Master Beekeeper, Leader of the German group of Demeter-certified Beekeepers

  • Sky McCain, Wholesome Food Association

  • Nick Delaney, Somerset beekeeper

  • Patrick Moulesdale, Somerset Beekeeper

  • Nick Mole, Pesticide Action Network UK

  • Rebecca Hosking MSc, MBE, farmer

  • Tim Waygood, farmer

  • Maddy Harland, editorial director, Permaculture Magazine

  • Teresa van Dijk, research scientist, Netherlands

  • Emma Hockridge, Head of Policy, Soil Association

  • Lord Peter Melchett, Soil Association

  • Amanda Williams @helpthebees

  • Graham White, environmental campaigner, writer, beekeeper

  • Pete Riley, GM Freeze

  • Philipp Mimkes, Coalition against BAYER Dangers (Germany)

  • Jessie Jowers and Carlo Montesanti, Bee Guardian Foundation

  • Matt Adams, CEO, The Good Gardeners Association

  • Miss Adebisi Data Adekunle Slow Beekeeper (UK & Nigeria)

  • Satish Kumar, peace campaigner

  • Patrick Holden CBE, Director, Sustainable Food Trust

  • Carol and Neil Klein

(A number of other people wrote to indicate their support, but were unable to include their names here due to conflicts of interest, or for other reasons.)

These are the key questions that need answering if the BBKA wishes to be seen as fairly representing the interests of British bees and bee keepers:

(1) When the BBKA Executive made the decision to endorse the initial four insecticides, what due diligence procedures did it employ that led to the conclusion that these insecticides were 'bee-friendly'? Did the manufacturers provide peer-reviewed, independent research to back up their claims?

(2) Was the Executive aware, for example, of the research (i) published in 1995 - 6+ years before the decision - that demonstrated deltamethrin (one of the endorsed pesticides) to be deadly to bees, even in extremely small doses? And the research (ii) published 1993 that clearly states 'Cypermethrin is highly toxic to bees'?

(3) If the Executive was aware of this research, what led it to ignore or override its findings?

(4) If the Executive was not aware of this research, does it still consider that it undertook due diligence before endorsing these pesticides?

(5) Did the Executive, during the subsequent years of endorsement, keep a review on published research about the endorsed pesticides?

(6) And is the Executive familiar with the research (iii) published in 2005 that shows both cypermethrin and deltamethrin to be 'highly toxic to honeybees'? If not, please review your answer to Q5.

(7) It is clear from Dr Bernie Doeser's review of the science (sent to BBKA November 2 2010) that the very pesticides the BBKA endorsed are very far from being 'bee-friendly'; in fact three of them are among the five most toxic pesticides in their class.(iv)

In the light of this review, do you still think you made the right decisions? And will you be taking up Dr Doeser's generous offer of expert help and advice in such matters?

(8) In the light of the above, the BBKA executives who were responsible for the endorsement policy appear to have been either:
(a) negligent in their assessment of published research, or

(b) reckless in their endorsement of products known to be toxic to bees.

Which do you consider to have been the case?

(9) Why did the BBKA Executive fail to support their colleagues in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Belgium in a call for the systemic, neurotoxic, neonicotinoid insecticides Imidacloprid, Thiamethoxam and Clothianidin to be removed from the European list of permitted agricultural chemicals? (v)

(10) What measures do you propose to put in place to ensure that:
(a) BBKA takes a firm stance against the introduction into our environment of unnecessary toxic chemicals, especially the widely-condemned neonicotinoids? (vi)(vii)

(b) BBKA members are not again embarrassed by having to apologize to the rest of the world for being represented by a body that endorses bee-killing chemicals?

(c) Members of the BBKA Executive, whether elected or co-opted, make a full, public declaration of any financial, academic or research interests that they hold in partnership with pesticide companies, the agricultural, pharmaceutical and food industries, - or any other industry that could be deemed a conflict of interest.

(d) BBKA supports the organic/pesticide-free farming movement, including the Soil Association, the Wholesome Food Association, Garden Organic and the Biodynamic Agricultural Association, in their encouragement to farmers to use non-chemical growing methods?

'When the logic of history hungers for bread and we hand out a stone,
we are at pains to explain how much the stone resembles bread.'

Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic, 1948

Update 16th January 2011

Following the ADM on 15th January, BBKA spin doctors posted this message on their site. What they failed to mention was that the executive pre-empted the motion from Twickenham BKA and forced a change to the wording, which, had it been voted through, would have stopped them accepting money from pesticide companies under any pretext. They have thus demonstrated that they have no intention of cutting financial ties with these corporations.

The questions above remain un-answered, along with the following:

  • When exactly did they withdraw from the endorsement contracts?

  • Why are they refusing to let the membership have sight of the contracts? Citing 'commercial confidence' isn't sufficient.

  • Why do they refer to the pesticide manufacturers as the 'crop protection' industry? The BBKA has no mandate or responsibility to promote the agri-chemical industry.

  • Why do they not publicly and formally support the other UK, European and international agencies (environmental & apicultural) in calling for a ban on the use of neo-nicotinoids, especially in the UK?

Help to get neonicotinoids suspended in the UK pending further research