Pesticide debate creates a buzz at OSU

2014-02-18T23:30:00Z 2014-02-19T00:29:03Z Pesticide debate creates a buzz at OSUBy Bennett Hall, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times
February 18, 2014 11:30 pm  • 

The debate over neonicotinoids came to Corvallis on Tuesday when the Bayer CropScience Bee Care Tour made a stop at Oregon State University.

A unit of the German chemical and pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG, Bayer CropScience is a major manufacturer of “neonics,” a widely used class of pesticides that has been implicated in some high-profile bee die-offs, including one that killed thousands of bumblebees in Wilsonville last year.

The Bee Care Tour — which made stops at Washington State University and the University of California-Davis before rolling into OSU this week — presents Bayer as an environmentally sensitive company with a “commitment to bee health” that includes developing a treatment for parasitic mites and advocating for responsible neonicotinoid use.

On Tuesday, the tour’s elaborate traveling display was set up in the main ballroom of OSU’s CH2M Hill Alumni Center, highlighting the importance of bees in pollinating crops, offering honey samples and providing information on Bayer’s Bee Care Program.

Ecotoxicologist David Fischer, the director of pollinator safety for Bayer CropScience, spoke to an audience of nearly 75 people about bee colony collapse disorder and other threats to bees.

“What are the factors affecting bee health? I think the consensus is there’s a lot of factors,” Fischer said, citing poor nutrition, disease, parasites, genetic weakness, queen failures and pesticides.

But he denied that neonicotinoids pose a significant threat to bees.

“All studies on neonicotinoids do not show any link to widespread colony losses,” he told his audience. “They all say the same thing: Colony losses do not correlate to neonicotinoid use or pesticide residue in hives.”

Outside, however, a small group of rain-soaked protesters were telling a different story. Nine people, many of them in black and yellow bee costumes, crouched under umbrellas and held signs that said “Bayer kills bees,” “Ban bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides” and “Bee smart: Stop using garden chemicals.”

Several organizations were represented, including Occupy Corvallis, the Pacific Green Party and Beyond Toxics, a Eugene-based anti-pesticide group.

Protester Phil Smith, a member of Oregon Sustainable Beekeepers, called Bayer’s traveling bee health exhibition “a greenwashing tour.”

While it’s true that there are multiple causes contributing to honeybee declines, he said, the purpose of the tour is to divert attention from the dangers of neonicotinoids, which make enormous profits for Bayer.

“It’s all PR,” Smith said. “There’s a host of peer-reviewed studies now that clearly show they’re killing bees wherever they’re used.”

In an interview after his talk, Fischer denied that claim.

He argued that neonics are far safer for humans, domestic animals and wildlife than earlier generations of pesticides and insisted they are not hazardous to bees if used properly.

“Most problems affecting honeybee health are not related to pesticides,” he asserted. “It’s very important for homeowners and landscapers to follow the directions. In the Wilsonville incident, they just didn’t follow the label.”

OSU honeybee expert Ramesh Sagili said it’s true that there are multiple factors involved in the decline of honeybee populations and that there’s no conclusive evidence connecting neonicotinoids to colony collapse or honeybee declines.

But he also said it’s disingenuous for manufacturers to pretend that pesticides don’t play a role in the problem.

“We don’t have a number to put on them, but everybody agrees they are part of the problem,” Sagili said.

Even in cases where neonics don’t kill pollinators outright, he added, there is evidence of troubling sublethal effects such as interference with bees’ ability to navigate.

Above all else, he said, there needs to be much clearer labeling of neonicotinoids, especially for people who are not certified pesticide applicators.

“The labels should be very clear for home use,” Sagili said. “People have to understand that neonics are toxic to bees and are to be applied only when there is no other choice.”

Reporter Bennett Hall can be contacted at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. tommiller
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    tommiller - July 12, 2014 4:20 am
    Philosolapis, spraying such chemicals doesn’t kill bees but ya it affects their health. Last time I had visited a bee control event which was hosted by bee removal sacramento team and they also suggest to go with natural pesticides in place of chemical pesticides. Natural measures like planting catnip or a neem tree in garden keep bee and other pest away. Know more on http://pinnaclepest.com/
  2. Madronna
    Report Abuse
    Madronna - February 20, 2014 11:44 am
    We cannot prove that neonics killed 50,000 bumblebees at a Portland lot after spraying of a neonic pesticide on linden trees there? It strains credulity to come up with any other explanation.
    We cannot likewise prove that Bayer showed up uninvited on the OSU campus with hired scientists to plead its case because it is running scared in terms of its profitable line of neoncis as more European Union nations outlaw these on the basis of scientific data tying bee deaths to neonics--and farm and garden stores in the UK are refusing to sell these pesticides for that same reason. But what are the odds?
    I for one don't believe that Bayer's visit is a spontaneous gesture of environmental goodwill.
    I call on my fellow Oregonians who care about the fate of the pollinators so essential to our food crops to look at Dr. Gary Rondeau's well-researched data (with links to original research) on the sustainable beekeepers' site: http://oregonsustainablebeekeepers.org/
    And then use your brains and conscience to support the "pollinator protection bill" in the Oregon legislature (HB 4139).
    And as for Bayer reps, I know this is not what you are paid to do, but perhaps you could relay a suggestion to your higher-ups to get on the bandwagon with products that really help rather than ravage the environment.
  3. occupystephanie
    Report Abuse
    occupystephanie - February 19, 2014 9:41 pm
    Thank you, Gary, for the information.

    The full-speed-ahead model of "better living through chemistry" has indeed left us with a sad legacy of harm to natural systems. Corporate profit is a powerful driver these days, and I was glad to learn of thoughtful research that delves into more than instant deaths from toxicity. I found interesting the research ongoing now at OSU about neonics affecting the bee's navigational abilities in light of the fact that bees are observed not returning to their hives.

    Pollinators are so very important to our food supply. We must be good stewards rather than despoilers for our own sake as well as theirs.
  4. Gary
    Report Abuse
    Gary - February 19, 2014 8:55 pm
    Quite a tirade from WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G. I guess pesticides are only good and should never be questioned. The problem is, of coarse, that sometimes the best laid plans of men run astray. Smoking seemed like a harmless pleasure for a long time. Mercury was a play thing. Lead in our gas made the engines run smoother - no problem. DDT was the miricle of the 20th century - until it became clear we were about to loose our national bird. Afer the fact - we learn and we restrict what is not such a good idea to be spreading about in the environment, but we are still dealing with the damage from organo-chlorine pesticides, lead and mercury.
    The neonics seemed to solve the problem of toxicity ot mammals that organophosphates and other modern insecticide classes have. They do that pretty well, although there are some new studies where concerns are being raise about neonics in developing children. But the bigger problem is that ehy represent a new and untested class of chemicals that have a few unexpected problems. First, this class of chemical attacks receptors on the post synaptic membrane, where the neonic molecules bind essentially permanently. This means that residual toxin levels cause direct physilogical effect and residual levels can accumulate at the active sites over time. The neonics are water soluble, so they work as systemic chemicals where they will move to nectar nd pollen - which they do, often at residual levels ~5ppb, but sometimes as with the bee kills investigated by the ODA last summer, at levles of 40ppb or more even when applied according ot label insrutcions. (out of label applications resulted in levels >10,000ppb). The problem is that there is research that shows bees die when exposed to 4 and 8 PPB after about 30 days of exposure. But bees naturally live for several months, especially winter bees. This delayed toxic effect is more pronouced with the neonics than with other pesticide classes. Coupled with a mode of delivery that naturally exposes the bees to the toxin, and relatively long life time of these chemical in plants and in the oil, and we have a real residual exposure problem.
    Then there is the new evidence that several of the neonics have dettrimental effects on the bee's imune system. Recently, it was reported that one of the problem viruses, often vectored by the varroa mite, DWV, is found to replicate in adult bees that are exposed to the neonics, but the virus does not replicate in adult bees NOT exposed to the neonics. In fact exposing the bees to an organophsphate did not cuase the virus to replicate either - just the neonics. Bee colonies ypically go down wiht multiple pathogens present. This suggests immune system failure, and we have evience the neonics are part of this equation.

    For more info and many of the original scientific papers - visit www.OregonsSustainableBeekeepers.org
  5. occupystephanie
    Report Abuse
    occupystephanie - February 19, 2014 7:46 pm
    How very interesting that this article has attracted a Canadian group dedicated to lawns, turfgrass and pesticides. Mr Gathercole was a real person but is currently retired but the group still uses his name and Norah G is an acronym. I would not recommend visiting the site I give a link to below--it is inflammatory and profane.

    Clearly this Gathercole has absolutely no association with the fine old family of that name in our town.

    http://www.plcao.on.ca/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=4&p=3043

    Force Of Nature is the brainchild of William H. Gathercole and his entourage. Norah G is actually an acronym for the stable of anonymous producers and writers that contribute to this e–newsletter and have now replaced Mr. Gathercole. They consist of people from the following industries : Distribution, Fertilizer, Golf, Lawn Care, Manufacturing, Municipal, Nursery, and Orchard.

    I am reporting their entries as abusive.
  6. WILLIAM H GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G
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    WILLIAM H GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G - February 19, 2014 5:02 pm
    STEPHANIE IS WRONG !

    Stephanie’s STATEMENTS ARE FALSE, and is clearly NOT an expert on pest control products. There is no evidence to suggest a link between neonicotinoid insecticides and bee colony collapse disorder. Neonicotinoid insecticides do not harm bees. Bee-keepers are harming bees, and not neonicotinoid insecticides. Neonicotinoid insecticides, like imidacloprid, are widely used for the control of insect pests in lawns, gardens, ornamental plants, and agriculture. Since 2006, anti-pesticide activists like Stephanie and bee-keepers have falsely alleged that there are so-called links and causes between the neonicotinoid insecticides like imidacloprid and bee colony collapse disorder. However, researchers have not been able to identify a single cause of bee colony collapse disorder. The weight of the scientific evidence clearly shows that neonicotinoid insecticides do not affect bees. The exposure of bees to neonicotinoid insecticides is at very low levels, far too low to cause harmful effects. Neonicotinoid insecticides will cause no harm to bees since treated plant tissues contain only tiny amounts of ingredient, bees are not feeding on the plants, and pollen contains barely detectable levels. If some anti-pesticide activists like Stephanie and bee-keepers were not so scientifically illiterate, they would know that scientific research shows that, as reported through EPA’s and Health Canada’s vast toxicology database, no harm will occur to bees with pest control products. Bee colony collapse disorder is the fault of bee-keepers and their mismanagement practices. Bee-keepers are responsible, and not neonicotinoid insecticides. In their usual method of arriving at scientifically illiterate conclusions, the anti-pesticide activists like Stephanie and bee-keepers have somehow concocted the imaginary danger that neonicotinoid insecticides was the reason for bee colony collapse disorder. Of course, this is a myth ! Anti-pesticide activists like Stephanie and bee-keepers are the least qualified to provide any advice concerning neonicotinoid insecticides. Anti-pesticide activists and bee-keepers allege, with no scientific proof, that neonicotinoid insecticides somehow cause bee colony collapse disorder. This is a myth ! When used properly, neonicotinoid insecticides cause no harm, and do not hurt bees. If we had less pesticide use in the environment, we would still have bee colony collapse disorder, because many bee-keepers are not competent to manage their hives. For more information regarding BEES, go to The Pesticide Truths Web-Site ... http://wp.me/p1jq40-2ba http://wp.me/p1jq40-6WJ http://wp.me/p1jq40-6H8 WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G http://pesticidetruths.com/ http://wp.me/P1jq40-2rr
  7. WILLIAM H GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G
    Report Abuse
    WILLIAM H GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G - February 19, 2014 4:59 pm
    STEPHANIE IS WRONG !

    Occupy-Stephanie’s STATEMENTS ARE FALSE, and she is clearly NOT an expert on pest control products. There is no evidence to suggest a link between neonicotinoid insecticides and bee colony collapse disorder. Neonicotinoid insecticides do not harm bees. Bee-keepers are harming bees, and not neonicotinoid insecticides. Neonicotinoid insecticides, like imidacloprid, are widely used for the control of insect pests in lawns, gardens, ornamental plants, and agriculture. Since 2006, anti-pesticide activists and bee-keepers have falsely alleged that there are so-called links and causes between the neonicotinoid insecticides like imidacloprid and bee colony collapse disorder. However, researchers have not been able to identify a single cause of bee colony collapse disorder. The weight of the scientific evidence clearly shows that neonicotinoid insecticides do not affect bees. The exposure of bees to neonicotinoid insecticides is at very low levels, far too low to cause harmful effects. Neonicotinoid insecticides will cause no harm to bees since treated plant tissues contain only tiny amounts of ingredient, bees are not feeding on the plants, and pollen contains barely detectable levels. If some anti-pesticide activists like Stephanie and bee-keepers were not so scientifically illiterate, they would know that scientific research shows that, as reported through EPA’s and Health Canada’s vast toxicology database, no harm will occur to bees with pest control products. Bee colony collapse disorder is the fault of bee-keepers and their mismanagement practices. Bee-keepers are responsible, and not neonicotinoid insecticides. In their usual method of arriving at scientifically illiterate conclusions, the anti-pesticide activists like Stephanie and bee-keepers have somehow concocted the imaginary danger that neonicotinoid insecticides was the reason for bee colony collapse disorder. Of course, this is a myth ! Anti-pesticide activists and bee-keepers are the least qualified to provide any advice concerning neonicotinoid insecticides. Anti-pesticide activists and bee-keepers allege, with no scientific proof, that neonicotinoid insecticides somehow cause bee colony collapse disorder. This is a myth ! When used properly, neonicotinoid insecticides cause no harm, and do not hurt bees. If we had less pesticide use in the environment, we would still have bee colony collapse disorder, because many bee-keepers are not competent to manage their hives. For more information regarding BEES, go to The Pesticide Truths Web-Site ... http://wp.me/p1jq40-2ba http://wp.me/p1jq40-6WJ http://wp.me/p1jq40-6H8 WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G http://pesticidetruths.com/ http://wp.me/P1jq40-2rr
  8. occupystephanie
    Report Abuse
    occupystephanie - February 19, 2014 3:07 pm
    One participant in the event came out and told us that at least half of the people there were not convinced by Bayer's "evidence". The GMO and pesticide apologists are always fond of saying that "100% of the science is on their side--a very unscientific thing to say!
  9. JMS
    Report Abuse
    JMS - February 19, 2014 1:31 pm
    What part of "...implicated...including one that killed thousands of bumblebees in Wilsonville last year..." do you not understand?
  10. Philosolapis
    Report Abuse
    Philosolapis - February 19, 2014 11:45 am
    You go Mary Addams!
  11. Philosolapis
    Report Abuse
    Philosolapis - February 19, 2014 11:44 am
    Do you seriously think spraying all these chemicals everywhere has nothing to do with the bee deaths? Seriously? Seriously? Come on.
  12. occupystephanie
    Report Abuse
    occupystephanie - February 19, 2014 8:37 am
    With all due respect to Mr. and Mrs. Gathercoal, I would rather trust in the opinion of the bee expert quoted in Mr. Hall's article:

    "OSU honeybee expert Ramesh Sagili said it’s true that there are multiple factors involved in the decline of honeybee populations and that there’s no conclusive evidence connecting neonicotinoids to colony collapse or honeybee declines.

    But he also said it’s disingenuous for manufacturers to pretend that pesticides don’t play a role in the problem.

    “We don’t have a number to put on them, but everybody agrees they are part of the problem,” Sagili said.

    Even in cases where neonics don’t kill pollinators outright, he added, there is evidence of troubling sublethal effects such as interference with bees’ ability to navigate.

    Above all else, he said, there needs to be much clearer labeling of neonicotinoids, especially for people who are not certified pesticide applicators.

    “The labels should be very clear for home use,” Sagili said. “People have to understand that neonics are toxic to bees and are to be applied only when there is no other choice.”
  13. WILLIAM H GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G
    Report Abuse
    WILLIAM H GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G - February 18, 2014 11:47 pm
    NEONICOTINOID INSECTICIDES ARE ENVIRONMENTALLY-FRIENDLY

    There is NO unambiguous evidence to suggest that neonicotinoid insecticides are to blame for the decline in bee populations. Under normal use, neonicotinoid insecticides will NOT pose a problem. In the European Union, prohibition against neonicotinoid insecticides was a reaction to over-heated rhetoric. In fact, studies in both Europe and in North America have proven there is NO accumulation and NO bio-accumulation after 10 consecutive years. Why are neonicotinoid insecticides environmentally-friendly and cause no harm to bees ? It is because they are coated on agricultural seed, and the seed is buried in the soil, so it is inaccessible to the bees. Moreover, neonicotinoid insecticides have extremely low toxicity to humans, extremely low toxicity to other mammals as well as birds and fish. They have NO persistence beyond the levels that you would expect in an agricultural field for one year. Additionally, there is NO reason to believe that neonicotinoid insecticides persist in water over long periods of time. Science and statistics DO NOT support demands to recklessly prohibit against neonicotinoid insecticides used in the agriculture industry. There are NO valid reasons for their prohibition. If we had less pesticide use in the environment, WE WOULD STILL HAVE Bee Colony Collapse Disorder, because MANY BEE-KEEPERS ARE NOT COMPETENT TO MANAGE THEIR HIVES. For the whole truth regarding bees, go to The Pesticide Truths Web-Site ... http://wp.me/p1jq40-7zT http://wp.me/p1jq40-6WJ http://wp.me/p1jq40-2ba http://wp.me/p1jq40-6H8 http://wp.me/p1jq40-7ty WILLIAM H. GATHERCOLE AND NORAH G http://pesticidetruths.com/ http://wp.me/P1jq40-2rr
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