Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Bayer Squirms on Colony Collapse Disorder
I agree with Tom Philpott. This is not a rebuttal at all. It is actually an admission that no such rebuttal is forthcoming nor will be forthcoming.
The product has already been banned in key markets in
Europe and you would surely expect to see Bayer on their
best game. Instead we have a weak ‘but
your agency approved it’ comment.
The present level of institutional integrity is so undermined in terms of public confidence that such defenses no longer work, if they ever did.
We have a problem Bayer, and the size of the market is not big enough for you to bet the whole company trying to defend it. We all know that the EPA testing standards are routinely skated around and that is plausibly permissible when there is no creditable pathway to more serious harm.
Here the pathway is obvious and measurable. That the bee threshold is way lower than originally hoped for is disappointing. A field proof using the entire
US corn crop was a bit over the top, and it has
bee industry. From now on all losses are
accumulating to Bayer’s account in the inevitable class action suit. I suspect someone is trying to make it to retirement before the proverbial C### hits the fan. US
The agro chemical industry is big enough to do this right. It takes years to introduce a new product for good reason. Large multi year field tests are needed and I see that detailed biological studies are needed in surrounding wilds and fields in order to assess impact.
That may still have missed colony collapse disorder but it would pick up a lot of effects that are happening under the radar.
Update: Bayer responds to criticism of its potentially bee-killing pesticide
BY Tom Philpott
20 DEC 2010 8:56 AM
I recently wrote about a study, funded by the German chemical giant Bayer, purporting to show that Bayer's blockbuster pesticide clothianidin doesn't harm honeybees when applied as a treatment to seeds.
The EPA had required the study before it would register clothianidin. Years before it finally got the study in 2007, the EPA granted the neonicotinoid pesticide "partial registration," and farmers promptly began to apply it to millions of acres of farmland across the country. Meanwhile, a mysterious phenomenon called "colony collapse disorder" arose -- across the nation, beekeepers were finding it increasingly impossible to keep their hives alive.
To make a long story short, the EPA eventually accepted Bayer's study and granted clothianidin full registration in early 2010. But as I reported earlier, a leaked document (PDF) from November shows that two EPA scientists had reviewed that Bayer study and found it wanting. The study had "deficiencies," they wrote, that rendered it unacceptable.
The study was clearly flawed -- it appeared to let test and control bees range widely and forage on both clothianidin-treated and non-treated fields. "When I looked at the study,"
entomologist James Frazier told me in a phone interview, "I immediately
thought it was invalid." Penn State
Well, Bayer has now responded to critiques of the study on its website. Lamenting the "unauthorized release" of the recent EPA memo, the agrichemical giant declared:
The study referenced in the document is important research, conducted by independent experts and published in a major peer-reviewed scientific journal. The long-term field study conducted in accordance with Good Laboratory Practices (GLP) by independent experts using clothianidin-treated seed showed that there were no effects on bee mortality, weight gain, worker longevity, brood development, honey yield and over-winter survival. The EPA reviewed and approved the study protocol prior to its initiation and it was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Economic Entomology*. Upon reviewing the results of the long-term trial, the Agency noted the study as "scientifically sound and satisfies the guideline requirements for a field toxicity test with honey bees.
"Independent experts," huh? Not really -- Bayer paid for that study.
But here's the important thing about that response: It contains no substantial defense of the methodology, and no attempt to explain its obvious flaws. The response, essentially, is that the EPA initially approved the study, therefore it is valid. Of course, in that "unauthorized release," EPA scientists explicitly withdrew approval citing "deficiencies"
-- and Bayer has no comment on those concerns.
For me, Bayer's hollow response actually raises the level of alarm about what clothianidin is doing to our honeybees rather than mutes it.
As I reported before, EPA continues to stand behind Bayer despite its own scientists' concerns. If you want to let the agency's administrator, Lisa Jackson, know what you think about that decision, check out Pesticide Action Network's petition.