Tag Archives: Bayer

FT: Syngenta and Bayer funded a $3m field study – but dismissed its conclusions

9 Jul

The un-named author of a recent FT View opens by reminding readers of many factors often cited by scientists that may be behind the decline in bee populations across Europe and the US: habitat loss, disease and nutritional stress.

There are an estimated 3tn honey bees across the world. With their wild relatives they have been providing an essential service to mankind for millions of years.

The role that certain pesticides play in their decline has been fiercely disputed by environmentalists, farmers and industry lobbyists. In an earlier FT article Chloe Cornish recalls that previous studies indicated that neonicotinoids do harm bees, but were criticised because they were laboratory-based and did not replicate complex real world conditions.

. It was conducted over a year at 33 sites across the UK, Hungary and Germany, over an area spanning 2,000 hectares. It concludes that neonicotinoids — a widely used group of pesticides applied to seeds before planting — can indeed damage the ability of bees to establish new populations.

The $3m field study was joint funded by the chemical companies Syngenta and Bayer companies which produce most of these pesticides, and The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s contributed £400,000.

The findings add to an accumulating body of scientific research suggesting that “neonics” are a big contributor to the problem. They have played a part both in the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which commercial bees suddenly and mysteriously die off, and also in the tragic decline of wild bee populations in Europe and the US.

Facing denial in the face of this growing evidence lead authors Richard Pywell (right) and Richard Shore (left) told reporters in London that they were braced for hostility, acknowledging that this was a contentious area. Bayer and Syngenta have dismissed the report’s conclusions as simplistic and inconsistent— reminding the writer of the tactics once used by tobacco companies to fend off health-related regulation.

The implications are grim. Bees and other pollinators play a role in the production of about a third of the food eaten. Without them, basics such as coffee, chocolate and almost every fruit and vegetable would become scarce at best.

Neonicotinoids may not be solely responsible for the bee crisis. But of the many stresses contributing to declining populations, pesticide use is the easiest to control. A hungry and sick bee is more likely to die if it is also poisoned. The scientific findings point to the need for action.

EU regulators decided the link was worrying enough to place restrictions on the use of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and another neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, in 2013. This moratorium comes up for debate again later this year – meanwhile regulators are re-evaluating the three and will present their findings in November. FT View ends:

“On the latest evidence, the partial ban should be extended. The danger, of course, is that farmers will resort to using something with equally nefarious effects — the western world’s record for regulating pesticides is terrible.

”It is time that changed. It is time to look after bees as well as they look after us”.

 

 

 

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Spotlight on Bayer-Monsanto neonicotinoid field trials

23 Sep

Farming Today (23.9.16) seems to be unaware of the content of the neonicotinoids research studies obtained by Greenpeace after a freedom of information request to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Bayer intends to make these public at the International Congress of Entomology next week.

This is not good news for Bayer, debt-laden since its takeover of Monsanto and reported to have seen its shares ‘drifting downwards’.

bees-3

Reports in the Guardian and EurActiv inform readers that the research studies, conducted by Syngenta and Bayer on their neonicotinoid insecticides, showed that Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin seriously harmed colonies at high doses, but found no significant effects below concentrations of 50 parts per billion (ppb) and 40ppb respectively.

Bees and other insects vital for pollinating three-quarters of the world’s food crops, have been in significant decline, due – it is thought -to the loss of flower-rich habitats, disease and the use of pesticides.

Consider the cumulative effect of neonic residues ingested from planting dust, water and treated seeds

However researchers note that pollinators in real environments are continually exposed to cocktails of many pesticides, rather than single chemicals for relatively short periods. As Matt Shardlow, chief executive of conservation charity Buglife, said:

“These studies may not show an impact on honeybee health [at low levels], but then the studies are not realistic. The bees were not exposed to the neonics that we know are in planting dust, water drunk by bees and wildflowers, wherever neonics are used as seed treatments. This secret evidence highlights the profound weakness of regulatory tests.”

prof-goulsonProfessor Dave Goulson explained, on Farming Today, that there were 20,000 species of bees and that neonics are neurotoxins that harm bumble bees, wild solitary bees and all insects. He added that there are a huge number of studies indicating the damage done and only a few that find them safe.

He reminds us on his blog that a recent Swedish study, published in the most prestigious scientific journal in the world (Nature), showed huge impacts of neonics on bumblebees and solitary bees when the chemicals were used by farmers ‘as directed on the label’ and adds a warning:

“Remember that, 50 years ago, the agrochemical industry assured us the DDT was safe, until it turned out that it wasn’t. Later, they told us that organophosphates were fine, except they weren’t. Do you believe them this time? I don’t”.

 

 

 

Rebrand Monsanto? Will the 99% be fooled?

29 May

bayer logoThe FT reports that Bayer, which has made a bid to take over Monsanto, has a relatively squeaky-clean brand, with ‘lots of positive connotations’. This, despite the company being rocked by scandal in 2001 when its cholesterol drug Lipobay was found to have serious side-effects and its production of a neonicotinoid insecticide which may have contributed to the decline in the bee population.

“Its oldest brand is aspirin, after all,” says Torben Bo Hansen, head of Philipp und Keuntje, a German advertising agency, adding “But for large parts of the population Monsanto is evil personified.”

In another FT article, Dirk Zimmermann explains: “Bayer is by no means an exemplary company. After all, their business model is the same as Monsanto’s — they also sell genetically modified seeds that are resistant to the herbicides they produce. None of this is compatible with the idea of sustainable agriculture, or at least our understanding of it.”

Monsanto is opposed because of its leadership in producing and promoting genetically modified organisms – Germany is one ‘no-go’ area where 1m hectares of land are farmed organically. Countries producing GM crops are shown below (in dark blue):

countries growing gm crops 15

Monsanto is also widely associated with the production and promotion of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which the World Health Organisation said last year was probably carcinogenic. The EU is currently debating whether to relicence glyphosate, with many European governments opposed.

countries ban label gm crops 14Countries banning or labelling GMOs (compiled by Canadian campaigner)

“One option for Bayer would be to drop the Monsanto name if the transaction went through”. Is rebranding the answer?

The Brand Failures blogspot recalls that when massive amounts of radioactive material were released from the UK’s Windscale atomic works in 1957, following a serious fire, the local community in Cumbria were understandably terrified about the health implications of uncontained radiation. Rather than close the plant down, the government believed the best way to put distance between the disaster and the nuclear plant as a whole was to change the name, from Windscale to Sellafield.

“The potential is definitely there for Bayer’s brand to suffer in a takeover,” adds Hansen. “One option for Bayer would be to drop the Monsanto name if the transaction went through, to prevent that “negative sentiment carrying over to the new company” said Jeffrey Stafford, analyst at Morningstar (investment management).

99%-3

But as Brand Failures records, in many cases, including Windscale/Sellafield and the Post Office/Consignia, the 99% are no longer so easy to fool.

 

 

 

 

Are wealthy corporates gaining ground with government and farming media?

13 Jan

igdThe Institute of Grocery Distribution has been tracking shoppers’ attitudes to GM foods since the 1990s and revisited the topic last year  (May 2012).

Like the Farmers Guardian, the Scottish Farmer is giving prominent coverage to GM–friendly articles, covering Mark Lynas’ change of mind this week and returning to the May IGD report, asking: Are consumers calming down?

In fact, as the report finds, attitudes have remained fairly constant over the past decade. Though somewhat masked by more favourable answers to minor questions about awareness – which will reinforce the corporate-political persuasion that the ‘stupid’ populace needs even more ‘education’ – the main facts reported in the Scottish Farmer are that in spring 2012:

  • 51% of shoppers said in effect – don’t know
  • 13% were strongly opposed
  • 3% were strongly in favour

Were they being economical with the truth? See the chart from the IGD website:

IGD findings

And why don’t they ask how many would buy the stuff? I guess because they don’t want to hear the answer.

This fear is also behind the time and money spent by the GM industry world-wide to resist labelling, succeeding in California recently, despite nationwide polls indicating a politically bipartisan vote of over 90% in favour of labelling genetically modified food.

The content and stance of the BBC’s Farming Today and the Farmers Guardian has overwhelmingly changed for the worse over the years and the writer did not renew her FG subscription this year. See its tone in 2002:

Labelling GM foods (Farmers Guardian 10.5.02)

The EU is proposing to amend a directive which would make it compulsory to label all food containing GM ingredients or derivatives. It has also applied an informal moratorium on approvals for GM food crops.

Now the US is preparing to demand that the WTO overturns the proposed amendment and is threatening a trade war if Brussels does not back down.

Countries including China, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and New Zealand have sought to implement restrictions on GM imports or introduce compulsory labelling. In each case they have backed down after the USA threatened action at the WTO.

As Tom Macmillan said at the Oxford Farming Conference: the promotion of GM technology is not driven by any desire to feed the world’s poor or improve the natural environment but by Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer’s desire for ever-increasing profit.

Paterson & Lynas are wrong: GM results to date have been poor: Tom Macmillan, Soil Association

8 Jan

tom macmillan2Briefly and imperfectly reported by the ardently pro GM Farmers Guardian, at the Oxford Farming Conference, Tom Macmillan, innovation director at the Soil Association, responded to comments by the former environmentalist Mark Lynas and Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson.

”Mark Lynas is right that improving productivity across agriculture, including in organic farming, has an important part to play in feeding the world sustainably. Through our Duchy Originals Future Farming programme, the Soil Association is investing in research and innovation to help farmers develop and share novel approaches to help improve productivity in environmentally responsible ways.

”Lynas acknowledged that meeting this challenge globally is in large part about ensuring existing techniques are available to the poorest farmers in the world, and much also depends on directly tackling poverty and on rich countries adopting more sustainable consumption habits”.

Mark Lynas is wrong, ‘seriously mistaken’: “Banging on about GM crops, as Lynas did today, is a red herring.”

This, Macmillan continued, because the results to date have been poor:

  • The UK Government’s own farm scale experiment showed that overall the GM crops were worse for British wildlife.
  • US Government figures show pesticide use has increased since GM crops have been grown there because superweeds and resistant insects have multiplied.

He warns that “Lynas, Paterson and other GM enthusiasts must beware of opening floodgates to real problems like this.”

After citing the Benbrook study, reported here some time ago, he referred to the situation in this country:

  • Most of the British public do not want GM.
  • The recent British Science Association survey cited by Owen Paterson shows that public concern over GM food has not lessened – it shows that attitudes have not changed significantly.
  • The share saying they agree that GM food “should be encouraged” has actually dropped from 46% in 2002 to 27% in 2012.
  • The Government has kept people in the dark by opposing labelling of meat and milk from animals fed on GM.

The Soil Association supports practical innovation that addresses real needs, is genuinely sustainable and puts farmers in control of their livelihoods. Where GM crops have been planted they are doing the opposite, locking farmers into buying herbicides and costly seed, while breeding resistant weeds and insects.

Tom Macmillan stresses that the drive to promote GM technology is not due to any desire to feed the world’s poor or improve the natural environment but by Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer’s desire for ever-increasing profit. He ends:

“Meeting the challenge of providing better nutrition for more people sustainably calls for joined-up research that takes an ecological approach, responds to people’s real needs and respects farmers’ know-how”.


Soil Association article in full:

http://www.soilassociation.org/news/newsstory/articleid/4780/oxford-farming-conference-soil-association-response-to-owen-paterson-mark-lynas-talks

Environment Minister Owen Paterson said to have believed the “bedtime GM fairytale” told to him by biotechnology corporations – and by MP George Freeman?

28 Dec

gmfree cymru

Dr Brian John, spokesman for GM-Free Cymru, has reacted to the government’s latest drive for GM crops following a meeting – largely unnoticed by the media – of Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer and BASF with their industry body, the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC), Science Minister David Willetts, Lord Taylor, academics from UK universities, research institutes and representatives of the National Farmers Union (NFU).

The summary of the meeting which was written by the ABC and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, shows plans to:

  • spend more taxpayers’ money on R&D for GM crops and on “education”
  • promote GM crops in developing countries
  • remove regulatory and political barriers

Earlier this month it was widely reported that Owen Paterson, the Cabinet minister in charge of food and farming, said that genetically modified food should be grown and sold widely in Britain and consumer opposition to the technology is a “complete nonsense”.

GM-Free Cymru catalogues Paterson’s errors and – speaking for the group – Dr John says:

“What we have here is a classic example of a Government minister taking an aggressive stance on something which he knows absolutely nothing about.

“We challenge him, on the basis of hard evidence, on every single point which he makes. GM crops and foods are not wanted and not needed, and they harm both the environment and human health. Mr Paterson should seek better advice in future, or choose his friends more carefully.”

GM Education reports that discussions covered:

  • how a pro-GM agenda could be promoted in the UK ;
  • the encouragement of UK scientists to call for weaker regulation of GM crops in Europe;
  • and developing a more pro-GM approach to science in school curriculum.

MP George Freeman, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture is a supporter of GM technology and caused an outcry when he wrongly described M&S broccoli as having been genetically modified. GeneWatch has found details of GM industry funding for Freeman’s group in the Register of All-Party Groups:

National Farmers Union
Crop Protection Association
National Institute of Agricultural Botany
British Society of Plant Breeders
Agricultural Biotechnology Council,
Agricultural Industries Confederation
Maltsters Association of Great Britain
National Association of British and Irish Millers
Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board
.

It is provided via Front Foot Communications Ltd who act as the group’s secretariat. Funders include the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (representing the biggest GM crop companies BASF, Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, Pioneer (DuPont), Monsanto and Syngenta); the National Farmers Union (NFU), the Crop Protection Association, and the Agricultural Industries Confederation – see page 508.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology in Agriculture should  be free of vested interest – honest and impartial.