Tom's Corner

We don’t have regulators, we have enablers

Here is an article about a new study conducted by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides and covered by Canada’s Globe and Mail that calls into question the effectiveness of neonicotinoid pesticides: Study disputes popular pesticides’ effectiveness.  

The new paper, which reviewed more than 200 studies on the topic, found use of the pesticides had little effect on crop yields because, in most cases, the threat to crops from wire worms and other pests was not high enough to justify the expense. Further, the pests quickly developed resistance to the chemicals.

“It doesn’t work now; this is a very important point,” Dr. Bonmatin said by phone from Paris. “The more you use insecticides, the more the pests become resistant.”

Researchers found other methods of pest control are more effective and less harmful to the environment. In addition to crop rotation, these methods include planting pest-resistant crops and the purchase of insurance, which is less expensive than pesticides.

In the United States at least, studies like this one are unlikely to have any effect at all because we don’t have regulators, we have enablers. 

The EPA is merely an extension of the pesticide industry and what we are subjected to is marketing, not agronomy.  Even if individual farmers choose to forgo neonics and fipronil they would be unable to find untreated seed because the chemical industry has created an unchallenged monopoly in the seed business.

This is the corporate state at work and until that stranglehold is broken, nothing will change.

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Neonics pervasive in the Great Lakes tributaries

Here is an article about the most recent paper on widespread environmental contamination with neonicotinoids, Controversial insecticides pervasive in Great Lakes tributaries.  This is by the US Geologic Survey, which has been taking a lead in these assessments for the past several years, unlike the EPA and USDA which seem to avoid any assessments and are strangely silent.  Also, check out this audio piece, Insecticides showing up in Great Lakes rivers, on Ann Arbor’s NPR station, Michigan Radio.

Click image to read full article at Environmental Health News



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Graham White’s interview in Acres U.S.A.

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

I think most of you new beekeepers, and probably many of the older ones as well, have been drawn to bees not only for the fascinating window into the natural world they offer, but because you are aware of the challenges the bees face and you want to help. Help meant getting a colony or two of bees, maybe more. Along with those came a commitment to their management, watching out for their welfare, protecting them from danger. Frequently this required some heavy lifting in the hot sun, but we’ve all done it, maybe grumbled a bit, but we’ve done it, because it was necessary.

What I’m attaching is some heavy lifting of another kind, the kind you do with your brain.  This is an exceptionally candid interview with Graham White, environmental educator and small scale beekeeper from Scotland. This interview will undoubtedly ruffle some feathers, but in my view, almost without exception these are feathers that should have been ruffled long ago. I believe Graham has done this not so much to criticize as to exhort us all to do better, his intentions are positive, not negative. We all need to listen closely to what he says here. smooth out our feathers and give some thought to what we can do better.

In the spirit of full discloser let me say that Graham and I have developed a warm friendship over the years as we’ve fought these pesticide battles together, at great distance by way of Skype. He has as much insight into and understanding of the neonic problems we face as anyone I know and over the years we have been in agreement far more often than not. The Acres article is the result of several hours of interviewing and by necessity many of the points had to be truncated for space. Despite this, everything Graham has to say merits your slow, thoughtful attention.

At least some beekeepers have to do the heavy lifting or it will only get much worse. Last winter, as near as we can estimate, Boulder County hobbyists lost about 80 percent of their colonies. How much worse should we let it get?

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Court Holds Bee-Killing Pesticide Approvals Violated the Law

This could be a major victory. We’ll see how the EPA responds. As many of you know, I was one of the beekeeper plaintiffs.


Court Holds Bee-killing Pesticide Approvals Violated the Law

EPA must analyze risks to endangered species

SAN FRANCISCO—A Federal Court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) systematically violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – a key wildlife protection law – when it approved bee-killing insecticides known as neonicotinoids. In a case ongoing for the last four years, brought by beekeepers, wildlife conservation groups, and food safety and consumer advocates, Judge Maxine Chesney of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held that EPA had unlawfully issued 59 pesticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for a wide variety of agricultural, landscaping and ornamental uses.

“This is a vital victory,” said George Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety legal director. “Science shows these toxic pesticides harm bees, endangered species and the broader environment. More than fifty years ago, Rachel Carson warned us to avoid such toxic chemicals, and the court’s ruling may bring us one step closer to preventing another Silent Spring.”

Seeds coated with bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides are now used on more than 150 million acres of U.S. corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops – totaling an area bigger than the state of California and Florida combined – the largest use of any insecticides in the country by far. Additional proceedings have been ordered to determine the correct remedy for EPA’s legal violations, which may lead to cancelling the 59 pesticide products and registrations, including many seed coating insecticides approved for scores of different crop uses.

The court’s ruling went against other claims in the lawsuit based on the plaintiffs’ 2012 petition and their procedural argument that EPA had not published several required Federal Register Notices. The beekeepers and others plaintiffs were relying on a petition filed in March of 2012, at which time the scientific evidence of the harm to bees, other critical species and the broader environment was far less developed. The original petition however is still lodged with EPA, and as such, its resolution is not yet fully decided.

“Vast amounts of scientific literature show the hazards these chemicals pose are far worse than we knew five years ago – and it was bad even then,” said CFS attorney Peter Jenkins. “The nation’s beekeepers continue to suffer unacceptable mortality of 40 percent annually and higher. Water contamination by these insecticides is virtually out of control. Wild pollinators and wetland-dependent birds are in danger. EPA must act to protect bees and the environment.”

The case is Ellis v. Housenger. The plaintiffs in the case are beekeepers Steve Ellis, Tom Theobald, Jim Doan, and Bill Rhodes; Center for Food Safety (CFS); Beyond Pesticides; Sierra Club; and Center for Environmental Health. They are represented by CFS’s legal team.



Neonicotinoids are a class of highly toxic insecticides designed to damage the central nervous system of insects, causing tremors, paralysis and death at even very low doses. Since the mid-2000s, their use through various methods has skyrocketed. Methods include sprays, soil drenches, tree injections and others. However, by far their greatest use in terms of U.S. land area affected is as crop seed coatings – a process by which agrichemicals are mixed together with large batches of seeds in order to coat them before the seeds are planted. Neonicotinoids persist in soil and are readily transported via air, dust and water both within and outside the planted fields. After seeds coated with neonics are planted, the chemicals spread far beyond the crop they are intended for and can contaminate nearby wildflowers, soil and water — all of which pose significant threats to bees foraging and nesting in the area. It has been known for several years that these chemicals can kill or weaken more than just the targeted pests. Non-target harm can occur to beneficial invertebrates, as well as to birds and other wildlife, through both direct and indirect effects.

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Tom Theobald interviewed by Linda Moulton Howe on Coast to Coast AM

Linda Moulton Howe began reporting on the bee losses very early on, starting with Dave Hackenberg’s sudden losses in 2006. I’ve done one or two interviews with Linda, but it had been two or three years since we’d spoken when she called in April to ask how the bees were doing. When I told her what had been happening since we last talked she asked for another interview, which appeared on the all night radio program, Coast to Coast AM, April 27, 2017.

While this interview was impromptu, with only 15 minutes to prepare while Linda powered up her studio, I think it does a good job of covering the major elements of the dilemma we find ourselves in.

Some of the figures I share in this interview are astounding and perhaps hard to believe, but the math is simple and anyone can do the calculations themselves. For the past two years I’ve spoken out on the massive environmental poisoning we are experiencing – the toxic equivalent of hundreds of billions of pounds of DDT, every year – and I’ve yet to see any challenge to these figures from the chemical industry. If I’m wrong, I invite them to come forward and show me where.

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