Junk Science - Garbage Policy

Washington Examiner    By T. Becket Adams   July 6, 2015 

This was forwarded to us from Carlen Jupe, CSBA Sec/Treas: "Just received this story from the Washington Examiner passed on by Peter Borst, about how easily media and even scientists can be duped about issues. This may be one of the most critical articles of our time. Read it and consider.
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/junk-science-garbage-policy/article/2567516

Here's the section pertaining to: "The Death of the Bee"

Though the European Union is considering lifting its ban on neonicotinoids, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is under pressure to restrict the same chemicals for the same reason: to save bees.

After years of headlines about a pending "beemaggedon," the Obama administration announced a strategy in May to stem what it characterized as an unprecedented decline in the number of America's pollinators, particularly the honeybee.

Part of the plan includes speeding up EPA's scheduled review of neonicotinoids.

The press hailed the strategy as a moment of redemption for threatened bee populations.

"After the sting of vanishing bees, White House pollinates protection plan," CNN reported, discussing the "effort to help the declining bee and butterfly populations."

"After years of devastation, the American honey bee finally has the White House's attention," Quartz reported May 19, stating in a separate article that "the world is finally trying to save the bees."

Many other outlets welcomed the decision, including the New York Times, National Public Radio and the Wall Street Journal, which reported that there has been a "surge in honeybee deaths."

As newsrooms reported on the White House's announcement, few — if any — asked whether there has been an actual decline in honeybees.

"The whole 'mass death' thing is off," biologist and beekeeper Randy Oliver told the Examiner, claiming that media is purposely confusing the issue by not giving full context.

"In the United States, the number of colonies is increasing. Simply look at the number of colonies available for almond pollination each year," he said. "The acreage of almonds is increasing each year, so the demand for colonies is increasing each year. And it's all across the world. African countries, Canada, many European countries are increasing their numbers [of colonies]."

Beekeeper and biomedical researcher Peter Borst said the numbers are much better than people are led to believe.

"The number of managed bee hives in the world [have risen] from 50 million in 1960 to more than 80 million today. But this figure only reflects managed colonies, not wild colonies. It is hard to know the real number of 'unkept' honeybee colonies in the world," he wrote in the American Bee Journal, suggesting that Africa has at least 310 million.

Borst told the Examiner, "In most areas where honeybees are kept, the numbers are going up, not down."

He and Oliver cited several reasonable and non-shocking explanations for past fluctuations in bee numbers, including the drop-off a few decades ago in the number of recreational beekeepers.

"It's a cyclical thing. People lost interest in [beekeeping] in the '80s and '90s, especially when it got to be harder to take care of bees," Borst said. "Now there's a huge resurgence in beekeeping as a hobby, because people are reading about it in the papers and now they want to be part of the solution."

This is not exactly new, he said.

A decline of bees and wasps in England, for example, has been going on for at least a century, Smithsonian's Sarah Zielinski reported in December.

"Changes in agricultural practices since the 19th century may be a major culprit in the pollinators' decline," she wrote in an article titled, "Bees and Wasps in Britain Have Been Disappearing For More Than a Century."

The same issue of changing agricultural practices holds true in the United States, an important bit of context that the White House fails to account for in its representation of honeybee populations as massively failing.

By comparing current hive numbers to those of the 1940s, the White House claims that bee populations are in a precipitous decline.

Left out of this picture, however, is the fact that the number of farmers, many of whom kept bees, has also declined since the '40s, as post-war agricultural practices trended toward larger farms, University of Missouri economics professor John Ikerd wrote in Small Farm Today Magazine.

Since the mid-'90s, when the supposedly harmful neonicotinoids hit the market, there has not been a massive drop in the number of honey-producing hives.

Furthermore, recent Department of Agriculture statistics show there were 2.74 million honey-producing hives in the United States in 2014, an increase of 4 percent from 2013.

Honeybee numbers in the United States are at a 20-year high, according to Agriculture statistics.

Separately, the European Academies Science Advisory Council said in a report analyzing Europe's pollinators that drawing any conclusions about trends from honeybee data "requires a differentiation between 'losses' and 'declines.' "

"Losses are the deaths of colonies which may occur in the temperate regions especially over winter," the report reads. "However, declines may occur both in the number of beekeepers or in the numbers of colonies maintained by each beekeeper. The latter are particularly heavily influenced by socioeconomic factors, by the price of honey, the presence or absence of subsidies, or the popularity of beekeeping as a hobby."

From Oliver's point of view, reporters don't appear interested in getting to the bottom of these nuanced and non-sexy details.

Oliver said a cable news correspondent once called him for information on reports that bees were dying off in record numbers.

"I asked him if he wanted the facts or if he just wanted some printable sound bites to makes a sensational story. The reporter pretty much said he wanted the second. The conversation ended after that," he said.

Read entire article at: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/junk-science-garbage-policy/article/2567516