Tom's Corner

Time Line: The Events Behind “Tom’s Corner”

Welcome to “Tom’s Corner,” a blog about bee decline by Tom Theobald, founding member of the Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association. In July 2010 Theobald wrote an article about clothianidin and bees for Bee Culture magazine that ignited a conversation about the connection between systemic pesticides and declining bee populations in the United States. Timeline here:

The story continues to unfold…

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Federal Court Strikes Down Sulfoxaflor

Watch this decision on sulfoxaflor closely. Sulfoxaflor raised the same unanswered questions as clothianidin, but because the EPA had come under criticism for its outrageous abuse of conditional registrations, once again they tried to do an end run around the law. If they had given sulfoxaflor a conditional registration, there would of course have been conditions, which could have been tracked and monitored. Instead the EPA gave sulfoxaflor full registration which under the law would have meant that they would not have to revisit that decision for 15 years unless challenged. They were challenged, rightly so, and the court has found their decision lacking. According to Michele Colopy of the Pollinator Stewardship Council the EPA has 45 days in which to comply with the judges’ decision. We won’t have to wait long to see if the EPA does comply and follows its charter to protect people and the environment or tries to use some dodge to weasel out and carry out the wishes of their chemical handlers. Next we need to revisit their flawed decision to register clothianidin despite its clear failure to meet the requirements for registration. This isn’t over yet.

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Beekeeping homework: listen to this exceptional lecture

Take the time to listen to this exceptional lecture I received from Graham White in Scotland. It is an hour long but worth every minute if you are trying to understand the role of neonicotinoids in bee losses and wider environmental damages. Many of you have thanked me for my efforts and have asked how they can help. This is one of the ways. This is part of the homework. They count on our ignorance. Deny them that.

Graham White’s background comments:

The second Annual Plymouth Linnean Lecture was held on Wednesday 18th March 2015 at Plymouth University by Professor Dave Goulson and was entitled “Bees, Pesticides and Politics: the impact of neonicotinoids on UK bumblebees “. This video acts as a permanent record of the Linnean Lecture Series and we welcome your comments and feedback. The lecture was presented jointly by Plymouth University and the Linnean Society of London. It was hosted by Dr Malcolm Scoble (Scientific Secretary to the Linnean Society of London) and this video includes his introduction and a Q&A with the audience.

At the time of filming, UK was within a two year moratorium on neonicotinoid use, a measure imposed by the European Union but strongly opposed by the UK government and the National Farmers Union. With a particular focus on bumblebees, Professor Goulson describes the scientific evidence that these pesticides may be impacting on the environment. He’ll also discuss wider issues surrounding ongoing biodiversity loss in farmland and the future of farming.

Professor Dave Goulson received his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Oxford, followed by a PhD in butterfly ecology at Oxford Brookes University. He has held academic appointments at the University of Southampton and Stirling University and moved to the University of Sussex in 2013. He has published more than 200 scientific articles on the ecology and conservation of bumblebees and other insects.

He is the author of the popular science book and Sunday Times bestseller ‘A Sting in the Tale’ (2013), which has been translated into German, Dutch and Danish, which was followed by ‘A Buzz In the Meadow’ (2014). He also authored the scientific text ‘Bumblebees: Their Behaviour, Ecology & Conservation’ (2010) and founded the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (2006), a charity that has grown to 8,000 members. He was named the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Social Innovator of the Year (2010) and given the Zoological Society of London’s Marsh Award for Conservation Biology in 2013. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2013.

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Revisiting the “Leaked” Memo

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Early this morning while searching for something else I stumbled on this article, Leaked document shows EPA allowed bee-toxic pesticide despite own scientists’ red flags, by Tom Philpott for Grist Magazine. Naturally I couldn’t resist rereading it and I’m glad I did, because it is an excellent overview of what was happening at the time. The leaked memo was really just another public document that the the EPA would have chosen to hide, just as they had tried to hide the Cutler-Dupree Study that is the subject of the article and the leaked memo.

This so-called leaked memo was the seminal event which set off the growing scrutiny we see today. Philpott’s article is an important and informative reference point now, showing us how far we have come, but also how far we have not come.

The EPA has circled the wagons and raised the castle walls. EPA scientists have been effectively muzzled and can no longer speak with anyone unless through the EPA’s Orwellian Communication Department. The EPA has unleashed a barrage of phony gestures to make it look like they are doing something when they are not, and in many cases making things worse.

Clothianidin was granted full registration despite the failure of the core life cycle study, which has now been replicated for a cool million dollars but has yet to be peer reviewed or published, while author Cynthia Scott-Dupree tries to weasel the results into the public discourse nevertheless. For its part, rather than revisit and reassess its flawed decision on clothianidin and the failure of the core study the EPA has chosen instead to use its resources and taxpayer’s money to defend its failures in court.

So how far have we come? In some respects we have made great strides, but in many ways we are further behind now than ever. We’ve gotten no relief, only empty gestures, and things have gotten much worse. Five years later the EPA has effectively dug in it’s heals and has stonewalled the science. Congress is asleep at the wheel and the poisoning gets more massive every year.

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Stung by Dead Bees, California Lawyer reports on bee decline

Stung By Dead Bees is an exceptional article which appeared in California Lawyer in July 2015. It is a good overview of the many elements of the problems, including the recent lawsuits. Lots of detail, lots of reading, but remember, they count on our ignorance.

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Pesticide seed coatings

Here is a very good article by Larissa Walker of The Center For Food Safety and George Naylor, an Iowa corn farmer, Pesticide seed coatings: No good for farmers and bees.

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