Beegate: How Green Activists Subverted Science
Written by David Zaruk
Almost ten years ago, when there were indications of stresses on honeybee populations (known as colony collapse disorder – CCD), different activists were jockeying for the right to claim this crisis for their campaigns.
Climate activists wanted to show bees were suffering because of warmer weather; biodiversity campaigners saw land-use issues as the source for the crisis; anti-GMO stalwarts wanted us to know there was something unknown in the pollen; anti-EMF fear-mongers wanted to highlight the confusion bees suffered due to our love of mobile technology.
Nobody mentioned the main causes (cold winters and Varroa mite) … seriously, who would donate to that???
In an early blog, the Risk-Monger had predicted that the anti-pesticides lobby would win this issue as their own … and how right he was! It doesn’t matter that there was no science behind the bees and pesticides campaigns; it doesn’t matter that the campaigners lied and fear-mongered their way to the top; it doesn’t matter that farmers, the environment and bees suffered from the consequences of their self-serving dogmatic bias. The organic food lobby, that funded these cosmopolitan zealots, focused the campaign on the most advanced, least detrimental line of crop protection products: neonicotinoids (neonics)
Watching this crisis unfold, the Risk-Monger saw an enormous amount of unethical, unscientific and unacceptable behaviour from the save-the-bees groups. This is the story of BeeGate – how activist scientists and seasoned campaigners used Age of Stupid tactics to trick policymakers, seduce the media and terrify the public – litigious liars and lamentable fear-mongers have caused incomprehensible damage to the public trust in dialogue, science and policy. Winning might be everything to these activists, but destroying food security and trust in policy and science hardly merits such hypocrisy!
The BeeGate Trilogy
In 2014, I leaked a confidential activist strategy document that showed how a group of anti-pesticide scientists aligned with the IUCN conspired to ban neonics – putting policy first and looking for evidence later. That was only the first part of the scandal. I then showed in Part 2 how the scientists were conflicted and funded by interest groups that would benefit from an increase in organic food sales. After that I revealed how activists worked their way onto the EFSA Bee Risk Assessment Working Group to game the RA process to ensure that the available field trial data would not comply, leading to EFSA’s limited advice that would result in a precautionary ban on neonicotinoids.
This blog exposed the misleading activist science, opportunism and campaign-driven malpractices of some of the anti-pesticide campaigners. They had met in 2010 to strategise what they needed to do to get neonicotinoids banned. One little problem: they put the campaign results first before they produced the evidence. One other little problem: they published the details of their campaign strategy online. I thought it was worth sharing. Within six months of my releasing this document in 2014, the taskforce seemed to have disappeared.
It was interesting to see who was behind the anti-neonic pesticide taskforce. These activist scientists were funded by a cabal of anti-industry, pro-organic foundations that had found a non-transparent way to fund their activists. They never published the amounts that were funded, for what, or even the full list of scientists belonging to the IUCN taskforce. A quick review of some of the main actors showed they did not include many of the leading bee researchers.
The third part of the BeeGate exposé showed how certain activist scientists had worked their way onto the EFSA Bee Risk Assessment Working Group to create the Bee Guidance Document. This document was never accepted into law since its guidelines for field trials were impossible to comply with. But that did not matter. It allowed EFSA to reject bee field trial data that did not comply with their proposed draft guidance, leaving the authority to advise that there was insufficient data (hence the need for the European Commission to conclude the need for a precautionary ban of neonicotinoids). One little point. This blog also shows that the European Commission had clear evidence that neonics were not the cause of an decline in pollinator health. But due to the bias of one DG Sanco director, the European Commission was able to ignore that evidence.