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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Pesticide battles: who will pick up the torch?

The loss of my friend Graham White (scroll down for a remembrance of Graham) brought home to me very clearly that those of us who have been fighting the pesticide battles for decades need to pass the torch to a younger generation while we are still here to answer questions and offer guidance.

While my focus for the past 15 years has been the neonicotinoid family of pesticides and the toll they have taken on honey bees, the challenge goes far beyond the honey bees and far beyond the neonicotinoids.

I stumbled on these two videos a day or two ago and listened to refresh my own memory.

 

They were done about 10 years ago. I was struck by how little has changed in the intervening years. Ten years of poisoning have continued at massive levels while the regulators drag their feet.

So for those of you who share our concerns over what is being done to the earth and it’s inhabitants, including us, I bring these 2 interviews back to the surface to provide a context to the issues we face today.

I also encourage those of you who are interested to scroll back through earlier postings. While far from complete, they provide much of the history of the battles we have waged. It is the homework, the stuff you need to understand if there is any hope of confronting the issues with knowledge and intelligence. The more you know the better you will be able to confront the challenges.

Here’s the torch. My hope is that some of you will pick it up.

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Pollinators and Power: Jeff Anderson interviewed by Terry Oxford

Click to listen to Jeff Anderson interviewed by Terry Oxford at Pollinators and Power podcast.

When I post something like this Jeff Anderson interview on Tom’s Corner it is usually with a preface from me, but I could hardly do better than the words of Terry Oxford. This is another powerful interview by Terry, who in addition to her podcasts, has her 15 minutes of fame as the San Francisco Rooftop Beekeeper.

“Jeff Anderson, owner of California Minnesota Honey Farms is a long time migratory beekeeper with thousands of hives and a front line activist fighting the powerful pesticide interests in our regulatory agencies, the EPA, USDA, BIP and powerful Ag Public Universities.  All are entrusted to care for bees and beekeepers, but they don’t. They protect the chemical industries interests or as Jeff calls them, The Bayer Boys.  For years Jeff has done everything he could to protect his bees from agro-chemicals.  This interview was hard for me.  Its long because I just couldn’t cut his words.  What he has to say is so telling, so critically important and the impact on me has been lasting. I didn’t sleep for two nights after this interview.  Jeff never wanted to be an activist but the system was set against bees and nature ever surviving our crops.  An impressive man, I really honor his work and depth of knowledge and experience.  Please listen…it heats up as it goes.” -Terry Oxford

This is an excellent interview by Terry, well worth your time if you want to understand the history and perhaps the future of some of the monumental challenges we face in the world of agriculture and pesticides. Jeff Anderson and I have been fellow travelers on these issues for more than 20 years, but even I found this conversation enlightening, bringing clarity to things I had been involved in, but that had blurred a little with time. Jeff is an invaluable keeper of many of the details and he is an invaluable resource to all of us.

These are extremely important issues we face, which go far beyond bees and beekeepers. Interviews like this don’t just fall off the shelf, they take many hours of effort. Please take the time to honor the work of Terry and Jeff.

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In very unusual move, EPA reopens public comment period for neonicotinoids

The EPA is required to evaluate and determine if toxic chemicals should be re-registered  on a 15 year cycle and several of the heavily used neonicotinoids have come up for review: clothianidin, thiamethoxam, imidacloprid, dinotefuron and acetamiprid. Typically there is a 30 day comment period as a part of the review process, there was one in 2018 and a 30 day extension, two more in 2020,  which closed on May 4th.

In collaboration with leading scientists who have been intimately connected with the controversy over the neonicotinoid family as outspoken critics and casualties, the Pollinator Stewardship Council and the Ecdysis Foundation filed three excellent letters at the close of the most recent comment period.  These are powerful reflections on the neonics, collectively calling for a ban on all outdoor uses.  Click here to read the Ecdysis Foundation’s Letter to the EPA.  Here’s the Pollinator Stewardship Council’s Letter to the EPA dated April 24th, 2020. And a second letter to the EPA from the Pollinator Stewardship Council dated May 3rd.

“Neonicotinoids hurt farmers and society far more than they help us.” – Ecdysis Foundation

“We urge EPA to use this review process to impose a total ban on the use of neonics for all outdoor applications, including foliar, drench and seed treatments.” – Pollinator Stewardship Council

“In order to protect pollinators and agricultural sectors that rely on pollination services, US EPA must make a comprehensive science- based decision to end the current neonic uses.” – Pollinator Stewardship Council

In a very unusual move, 2 weeks after the close of what was to be the final comment period, the EPA granted another 30 day extension, supposedly at the request of “stakeholders” who wanted more time. As if 60 days in 2018 and another 60 days in 2020 open for comment were not enough.

My guess is that the poison industry was caught flat footed by the quality of the PSC letters and perhaps others like them. They thought re-registration would be a slam dunk by an EPA well under their control, but now they are nervous and want more time to strengthen their arguments. It will be interesting to see what the source is of the letters filed in the next 30 days.

It may already to late for the environment unfortunately. These neonics are toxic poisons with half lives of years. It will take decades for the environment to purge itself of these chemicals even if they are stopped today. The evidence is that as a consequence of their heavy and widespread use that most of the U.S. is poisoned at toxic levels, far above the EPA’s Threshold For Environmental Damage. Their effect is cumulative and irreversible, meaning that even the tiniest doses, over time, can result in death. To approve the re-registration of these poisons knowing what we know pushes the controversy into the realm of criminality – knowingly poisoning the earth and the people for profit.

Take the time to read carefully and absorb what is said in the 3 letters, and if you haven’t already done so you might consider submitting a letter of you own, if for no other reason than to balance what is likely to be an industry lobbying tsunami.

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Remembering Graham White

Graham White who kept bees in Scotland, click the image to read White’s interview in Acres U.S.A. magazine.

Sadly, I have to be the bearer of sad news. We have all lost a great warrior in the battle against neonicotinoids and on a personal level I have lost a wonderful, inspiring friend. On Tuesday, March 3, 2020,, Graham White of Cold Stream, Scotland lost his 2 year struggle with cancer and passed away peacefully in a Palliative Care Facility in Edinburgh.

As nearly as I can recall, Graham and I probably connected in late 2010 or early 2011 when I had my 20 minutes of fame as the Colorado beekeeper who got the infamous “Leaked Memo” on the EPA’s faulty registration of clothianidin.  We both recognized early on that we were kindred souls and the friendship grew from there.

Graham was a fierce and articulate fighter in the battle against neonicotinoids and the perversion of the EPA and the poison industry. He was an invaluable and irreplaceable resource. We fought these battles together and I gained greatly from Graham’s wisdom and counsel.

In the last few years we spoke nearly every morning by way of Skype and I never failed to come away from those morning conversations inspired and enlightened. Graham had a classical education and a rich full mind. He could speak with knowledge and authority on a wide range of subjects and in a morning I might learn about Shakespeare, rare guitars, wood stoves, opera, the ancient history of Great Britain or an endless number of other topics, along with a large dose of pesticide strategizing. I began to jokingly call Graham “Mister Encyclopedia,” and indeed he was. At this time of year Graham would have been plying the local marshes to collect frog spawn for the small pond in his yard. He had wide and eclectic interests. The frogs will have to do without him now.

Graham’s passing is a loss to all of us. For me it leaves a huge hole in my life. My mornings will never be the same and I will remember on every awakening how my days once began.

Rest in peace, my friend. It was my honor to have known you and be counted as a friend.


Graham’s legacy can, indeed must, transcend his passing. If even a few will take the time to do the homework, understand what Graham was attempting to teach the world and take up the torch to carry those ideals forward, Graham’s work lives on. Click the image of Graham above to read the Acres U.S.A. interview he did. It was one of his longest and it covers much of his life history and nearly all of the elements of the pesticide wars.

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Pollinators and Power: Tom Theobald interviewed by Terry Oxford

I did these two interviews recently with Terry Oxford on her podcast, Pollinators and Power. Some minor corrections on Interview #1: the Colorado County Bee Inspector position was created in 1891, not 1861, and I have been a beekeeper for 44 years, not 35. On Interview #2, a little more serious error. I refer to the toxic equivalent of neonicotinoids to DDT in millions of pounds, it should be billions.

Interview #1 – on how regulatory agencies and land grant universities protect the pesticide industry over pollinators and people.

Interview #2 – Hear Tom speak about the outcome and non-win of Center for Food Safety’s recent settlement with the EPA and poison industry.

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