A report by Friends of the Earth has exposed how the major multinational petrochemical and seed corporations have developed sophisticated, multi-pronged public relation campaigns backed by industry-supported scientists and experts, in order to sow doubt and establish controversy about the role of pesticides in recent bee declines.
There is strong evidence that exposure to a class of neurotoxic pesticides called neonicotinoids–the fastest-growing and most widely used class of synthetic pesticides–are a key contributing factor to bee declines. That’s why they’ve been banned in Europe, but not in the U.S.
Numerous studies have revealed that neonicotinoids can kill bees outright by attacking their nervous systems, while low levels of exposure have been shown to disrupt foraging abilities, navigation, learning, communication, memory and suppress the immune systems of bees, making them more vulnerable to disease and pests.
So what do giant companies like Germany’s Bayer do in response to limit attempts to ban neonicotinoids? One strategy – they publish kids’ comics like “Toby and the Bees,” part of an insidious propaganda campaign to deflect attention away from their toxic pesticides and just place blame on mites.
Bayer’s “Crop Protection” products (including herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and seed growth) topped $10 billion in sales in 2012. Its leading neonic product, imidaclorprid had sales of $1.1 billion and its shared interest in clothianidin, was worth over $439 million.
Here’s an excerpt from “Toby and the Bees.” This is not a joke.
Dear parents, At Bayer, we have been committed to animal health and protection of the environment for many years. This book is intended to help children understand the role that honey bees play in conserving our flora and fauna.
Dear children, Do you also like eating honey? You probably know that honey comes from bees, but do you know what else bees do for us? Where do they live? These and many other questions are answered when Toby meets Mr. Bumble, the beekeeper. We hope you enjoy reading “Toby and the Bees.”
“If honey keeps us healthy, does that mean that the bees never get ill?” asks Toby thoughtfully. Mr. Bumble (the bee keeper) shows the children a book about bees and says, “Even bees sometimes become ill.” “Tiny creatures called mites also live in the beehive. If there are too many of them, the bees become ill.”
Unfortunately, in the story Mr. Bumble neglected to tell the kids about Bayer’s neonicotinoids killing bees.