Environmental activist groups have grown in their ambitions over recent history, they have moved from climbing trees, trying to stop bypasses being constructed, to scaring governments into bending to their will. One of the most recent examples of this power being exerted, involved the honey bee. Neonicotinoids were chosen as the bad guy. A campaign to have the pesticides banned was formulated
Over the last few years the media has been full of doom and gloom, not just about the future with global warming causing ever greater natural disasters, but the imminent demise of the honey bee. They drag Albert Einstein into the fray with the quote: ” If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than 4 years to live “. A quote that Einstein did not produce.
With every scare these days, there is scientific research to back up the claims of environmentalists. First the newspapers are outraged at the prospect, apparently following close behind are the environmentalist groups. The government “has to be seen to be doing something”. Whether to follow the early science produced and ban outright. Or to suspend until more research is done. The second choice requires bravery from a group that is famous for lacking resolve in the face of a head-on media and environmentalist charge.
What is not heard is the response from the producers of the pesticide. Any response is simply drowned out. Would these well capitalised organisations not have a strong public relations operation? It would seem not.
How did this modern scare story gather so much momentum so quickly.
Science 2.0 has a step by step guide showing how environmentalists worked to achieve a ban on Neonicotinoids. It is also worth reading the other articles on the site on Neonicotinoids.
Despite the pressure applied the EU and UK government, specifically the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Britain has followed option 2. A short suspension allowing time for more research and simply allowing some of the heat to leave the issue. DEFRA has its own version of research peer review, which decided that the scientific evidence was of too low a grade to justify a full ban. Not just the poor quality of model based projections of imminent disaster. The research completed, to a large degree, concentrated on the honey bee, whereas there are many other pollinating species that were ignored; there little prestige or media interest in researching neonicotinoid impact on fruit flies.
Recently DEFRA released its National Pollinator Strategy document; a guide for government departments indicating how they can adapt legislation to benefit these insects. It provided little evidence that a ban was imminent.
The environmental groups wishing for a ban may not have completely lost, neither have they yet won. The more they adopt this strategy, hopeful, less effective it becomes. It is still largely up to fellow scientists to blow the whistle on poor science, before it turns into poor policy.