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De Omnibus Dubitandum - Lux Veritas

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Buying organic food to avoid pesticides? You may want to reconsider

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[Editor’s note: The Environmental Working Group released its “dirty dozen” list of pesticides on March 8, 2017. EWG is highly critical of conventional agriculture, claiming farmers’ use of ‘dangerous pesticides’ poses substantial health risks. The organization urges consumers to buy organic food, which it claims uses less pesticides. However, this is not accurate because organic fruit and vegetable farmers use non-synthetic pesticides, which can be more toxic to humans and beneficial insects than targeted synthetic pesticides. Organic pesticides are often untested. GLP]

Do you seek out organic fruits and vegetables to avoid those on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, fearful of ‘dangerous pesticide’ on conventional foods? Organic farmers use a range of  ‘natural’ pesticides, many of which have not been tested, and some more toxic than synthetic ones.......

Chemicals detected on organic samples in the 2015 PDP              
          
Acetamiprid, Ametoctradin, Azoxystrobin, Bifenazate, Bifenthrin, Boscalid, Carbendazim (MBC), Chlorantraniliprole, Chlorpropham, Chlorpyrifos, Clothianidin, Clothianidin Other, Cyazofamid, Cyhalothrin, Total (Cyhalothrin-L + R157836 epimer), Cypermethrin, Cyprodinil, DDE p,p’, DDT o,p’, DDT p,p’, Dichlorvos (DDVP), Diflubenzuron, Dimethoate, Dimethomorph, Dinotefuran, Diphenylamine (DPA), Ethoxyquin, Etoxazole, Famoxadone, Fenamidone, Fenbuconazole, Fenpropathrin, Flonicamid, Fludioxonil, Fluopicolide, Fluopyram, Imidacloprid, Iprodione, Linuron, Mandipropamid, Methomyl, Methoxyfenozide, Myclobutanil, Novaluron, O-Phenylphenol, Omethoate, Oxamyl, Oxamyl oxime, Pendimethalin, Permethrin cis, Permethrin trans, Piperonyl butoxide, Propamocarb hydrochloride, Pyraclostrobin, Pyrimethanil, Pyriproxyfen, Quinoxyfen, Spinetoram, Spinosad, Spinosad A, Spinosad D, Spirotetramat, Sulfoxaflor, Tebuconazole, Tebufenpyrad, Thiabendazole, Thiacloprid, Thiamethoxam, Triflumizole..........
 
There is, however, a rule in the organic certification system that any residue present at 5% or less of the USDA tolerance will be considered “unintentional” and thus not a reason to deny organic certification. 62.1% of the 2015 organic detections met that criterion, but interestingly so do 74.6% of the detections on non-organic samples from the US and 70.1% of the detections from imported, non-organic samples. Not so different........To Read More...
 

Insect-resistant GMO cowpeas could be available to Ghanaian farmers in 2018

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Ongoing field tests on genetically modified cowpea (Bt cowpea) have produced successful results and will be ready for commercialisation and release onto the local market in 2018.  This was revealed by Principal Investigator in charge of the research project Dr Mumuni Abdulai.  According to Dr Abdulai … the ongoing trials as part of regulatory procedures before the variety can be commercialised, is at an advanced stage.  [T]he plan is to jointly release the cowpea onto the market at the same time as the variety will be ready for release in Nigeria and Burkina Faso where trials are ongoing as well.......To Read More.....

The Schism Between Science And Science Journalism

By Hank Campbell — March 8, 2017 @ The American Council on Science and Health

The American Council on Science and Health and RealClearScience got a national dialog going about the credibility of corporate science journalism when we published our infographic ranking media companies and non-profits on how well they covered the science, and how interesting they were.

It's not easy to do both. I enjoy Physics World and MIT Technology Review, for example, but when people who curate science articles for a living say they are not "compelling" I know what they mean. They mean much of the public will not find them as accessible as USA Today or publications written for a larger audience. That means the science messages will get lost.

But is a panel of science editors wrong for putting that in a chart? It seems they are, at least if people who get a paycheck from corporations with poor showing don't like how they are identified.

Obviously these panels will be subjective but immediately the knives were out for the group. The New York Times and Mother Jones, who have never found anything wrong with hand-picked IARC committees chosen specifically to declare that pesticides cause cancer, for example, questioned the integrity of the panel itself.

Well, the panel consisted of three very experienced editors, two with Ph.D.s in science, and all with years under their belts curating science articles for millions of people per month. That is as expert as it gets yet they were considered suspect and dismissed as just "opinions." Writers for the New York Times especially rallied around their paychecks in a breathtaking display of voluntary corporate altruism.


Reject it if you want, and embrace yourself and your friends in the logical fallacy of the cloak of Pulitzers past, but in the very next Science Tuesday print edition of the New York Times we were treated to an endorsement of acupuncture (digital version last week.) This was a tiny study, it invoked useless fMRI, and it was about alternative medicine. There is nothing essential about it for a science audience, much less deserving of being in the print edition of a top five newspaper.


It was a trifecta of woo, and yet partisan political journalists at anti-science sites still defended its inclusion because, well, Harvard.


This kind of appeal to authority logical fallacy is everything that is wrong in science journalism. We shouldn't question the validity of a study on acupuncture because the writers are from Harvard?

Would Mother Jones accept a peer-reviewed study on atrazine that was done by Syngenta? Of course they wouldn't, they would actually dismiss it out-of-hand, even if every other scientist in America agreed with the findings, because Syngenta is not their political ally. Mother Jones writers are instead paid to undermine science and corporations and there is a similar anti-corporate mentality in academia. Yet when it comes to alternative medicine, which Mother Jones gets millions of dollars to advertise, their writers insist we have to give it a fair chance.

Teach the controversy! At least about the alternative medicine that Mother Jones readers and their corporate funders love.

To him, criticizing acupuncture, which has never been superior to a placebo in a double-blind clinical trial (that would instead make it medicine rather than an "alternative") is "trolling" but Mother Jones routinely dismissing the entire pro-science world as "industry front groups" is in the minds of Mother Jones writers (invariably, it is their go-to claim when they have no real argument) completely legitimate.

Why should the public trust their claims when they are clearly filtering the science they accept through the political beliefs of their readers and advertisers?

What hope does the public have for knowing who to trust?

At Nature, they discuss the hand-wringing of the New York Times, Mother Jones and others (outside academia, scientists nodded their heads in agreement) and put it in the context of a larger problem in science sensationalism (Nature 543, 150 09 March 2017 doi:10.1038/543150a - digital available now). Nature knows the real issue is that kind of sensationalism and a desire to get in corporate media, because Nature editors experience it every day. Just about every study will try to be in Nature first, and the claims they read will often be as provocative and scientifically sexy as possible. Being in a high impact journal means legitimacy. Activist groups will even groom high-profile scholars as senior authors to boost their chances of getting accepted.

Nature knows the difference, more often than not, because they have experts determining study validity, not journalists. Science is not going to come down in favor of acupuncture just because one political demographic in the audience overwhelmingly believes in it.

Compare that to corporate media, who love weak observational claims, the bolder and more ridiculous the better. It gets them attention, and that attention makes scientists want to appeal to corporate media like the New York Times writers because an appearance in the science section lends a veneer of credibility the same way appearing in Nature does. While Mother Jones writers will bow obsequiously to the name Harvard, Harvard is now bragging their acupuncture claim has been validated by the New York Times. Next, lots of woo sites selling acupuncture and other alternative facts about health will use that appearance in NYT to claim legitimacy.

Where are the New York Times science writers when it comes to objecting to this misuse of their science section? Nowhere to be found, it's a fellow insider and not to be criticized.

Science itself covers the entire cultural spectra. Science is about progress, it requires libertarian freedom to pursue, and the conclusions must be inherently conservative because peer reviewers are supposed to beSo whenever you can, get context from scientists and doctors rather than corporate journalists. Instead of trying to make corporate media more scientific, please help make independent science media like us as popular as corporate journalism.

Those “devastating” EPA reductions

Budget and personnel cuts reflect environmental progress and essential regulatory reforms
Paul Driessen
The Trump White House wants significant reductions at the Environmental Protection Agency: two dozen or more programs, including a dozen dealing with President Obama’s climate initiatives; a 20% downsizing in EPA’s 15,000-person workforce; and a one-fourth reduction in its $8.1 billion budget.
The plan requires congressional approval, and thus is hardly a “done deal.” Not surprisingly, it is generating howls of outrage. Former U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says the proposal would be “crippling,” and “devastating for the agency's ability to protect public health.”
One employee resigned because the cuts would prevent him from serving “environmental justice” and “vulnerable communities.” A congressman claimed EPA is “already operating at 1989 staffing levels,” and the reductions could mean “cutting the meat and muscle with the fat.”
A deep breath and objective assessment are in order.
1) Since EPA was created in December 1970, America’s environmental progress has been amazing. Our cars now emit less than 2% of the pollutants that came out of tailpipes 47 years ago. Coal-fired power plant particulate, mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions are 10-20 % of their 1970 levels. The white plumes above factory and power plant “smoke stacks” are 90% steam (water vapor) and plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide (which Obama EPA officials disingenuously called “carbon pollution”).
Our lakes, rivers, streams and coastal areas are infinitely cleaner and far safer to drink from or swim in. The notorious lead contamination in Flint, Michigan water occurred under Gina McCarthy’s watch, because her agency didn’t do its job. It was her EPA officials who also triggered the infamous Gold King Mine blowout that contaminated hundreds of miles of river water with arsenic and other toxic metals.
So much for “protecting public health,” ensuring “environmental justice,” and safeguarding our most “vulnerable communities.” It’s as if we’ve come full circle, and now need to be protected from EPA. In truth, that goes all the way back to the agency’s first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, who ignored his own scientists, banned DDT, and sentenced tens of millions of Africans and Asians to death from malaria.
2) EPA became bloated, incompetent and derelict in its fundamental duties largely because it became ideological, politicized and determined to control what it was never intended to regulate. Through mission creep, sue-and-settle lawsuits, and an eight-year quest to help “fundamentally transform” America’s energy and economic system, it attempted to regulate every rivulet, puddle and other “Water of the US,” stuck its nose in numerous local affairs – like the road to a nickel mine in Michigan – and colluded with environmentalists to block Alaska’s Pebble Mine before a permit application had even been submitted.
Most egregious was the agency’s use of alleged “dangerous manmade climate change” to justify its “war on coal,” its “Clean Power Plan,” and its determination to slash fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions by regulating nearly every factory, farm, hospital, mall, drilling project and vehicle in America.
EPA’s other chief climate crusade target was methane, which it called “an extremely powerful climate pollutant” and absurdly claimed is responsible for “a fourth of all global warming to date.” Methane is a tiny 0.00017% of Earth’s atmosphere – equivalent to $1.70 out of $1 million (and compared to 0.04% for CO2) and U.S. energy operations account for less than a tenth of all annual natural and manmade methane emissions. To control that, EPA wanted industry to spend billions of dollars per year.
It also demanded that cars and light trucks get 54.5 mpg by 2025. To meet that standard, automakers would have to downsize and plasticize vehicles, making them less safe and causing thousands of serious injuries and deaths – a reality that EPA ignored in its cost/benefit and environmental justice analysis.
When states, industries or experts raised questions about EPA’s “CO2 endangerment” decision, its biased and dishonest “social cost of carbon” analysis, or its use of “secret science” and highly suspect computer models to justify “climate chaos” claims – the agency railed about “intimidation” and “interference” with its mandate to “protect public health and welfare.” It’s time to take those questions seriously.
3) EPA obviously has too many anti-energy, anti-development staff, programs and dollars looking for more activities to regulate and terminate, to justify their existence. As these programs are properly and necessarily cut back, EPA budgets and personnel should likewise be reduced.
4) Complying with EPA and other government regulations inflicts staggering costs that reverberate throughout our economy, as businesses and families struggle to read, comprehend and comply with them. The Competitive Enterprise Institute calculated that federal regulations alone cost $1.885 trillion per year – prior to the epic regulatory tsunami of 2016 – with the Obama era alone generating $800 billion to $890 billion in annual regulatory burdens, the American Action Forum estimated.
EPA alone is responsible for well over $353 billion of the cumulative annual federal regulatory bill, CEI’s Wayne Crews estimated, based on 2012 data from the first four years of the Obama presidency. Just as disturbing, the total federal regulatory bill is equal to all individual and corporate tax payments combined.
Even more frightening, embedded in those federal regulations are fines and jail terms for some 5,000 federal crimes and 300,000 less serious criminal offenses. An absence of intent to violate the law, even failure to know and understand millions of pages of laws and regulations, even the mistaken assumption that no agency could possibly implement such an absurd rule, is no excuse. You’re still guilty as charged.
These regulatory burdens crush innovation, job creation, economic growth, and business and family wellbeing. They kill jobs, raise the cost of energy, food, products and services, reduce living standards, harm health and shorten lives. They violate any honest concept of “environmental justice.” Poor, minority, working class and other vulnerable families are hardest hit.
5) In fact, environmental justice is little more than a meaningless, malleable, phony concoction whose primary purpose is promoting progressive programs. Whatever EPA seeks to do advances justice and protects the vulnerable. Whatever an industry does or wants is unjust. Whenever anyone criticizes an agency action, it reflects racism or callous disregard for public health.
Only the effects of government regulations, and the actions of government regulators, appear to be exempt from recrimination, intimidation and penalties imposed in the name of environmental justice.
6) Fully 98% of all counties in the United States voted for Donald Trump and his vision for a less regulated, more prosperous nation, with fewer diktats from a Washington, DC that exempts itself from rules it inflicts on others. They did not vote for rolling back real environmental progress – and know full well that President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt are doing no such thing.
They also know there is ample room – and abundant need – for the proposed EPA reductions. That’s why a CNN/ORC poll after Mr. Trump’s February 28 speech found that 70% of Americans who watched felt more optimistic about the nation’s future, and his policies and priorities were what the country needs now.
7) If President Trump’s program, budget and personnel proposals for EPA are approved, many highly paid agency employees will lose their jobs. That’s always painful, as thousands of coal miners, power plant operators and other employees in communities impacted by heavy-handed EPA regulations can attest – and as the powerful new documentary film “Collateral Damage” demonstrates.
However, downsizing is often essential to the survival of a company – or a country. As President Obama was fond of saying, elections have consequences. Let’s hope Congress and the Trump Administration move forward on EPA restructuring, stand firmly in the face of the predictable forces of professional outrage, and do a good job explaining why these changes are absolutely essential.
 
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death and other books on the environment.
 
 

Pesticide-Sperm Count Link Is Impotent

By Steven Milloy June 20, 2003, FOXNews.com @ Junk Science.com

“Scientists for the first time have shown a link between levels of widely used agricultural pesticides in men’s bodies and the number and quality of their sperm,” shrieked USA Today this week.

Steady, USA Today. Underwear, rather than pesticides, is a more probable explanation.

McNews had the wool pulled over its eyes by University of Missouri-Columbia eco-activist researcher Shanna Swan, who has been crusading since the mid-1990s to link pesticides with supposed reduced sperm counts.

The latest chapter in Swan’s crusade began in April when she reported that a small sample of men from Boone County, Mo., had lower sperm quality than similarly small samples of men from Los Angeles, Minneapolis and New York City.

Based on further “analysis,” Swan now reports in a study published in the June 18 Environmental Health Perspectives, the 50 Missouri men had higher levels of metabolites of widely used pesticides (alachlor, diazinon, atrazine and others) in their urine than the 50 Minneapolis men.

Swan concluded: “This is the first population-study to demonstrate links between specific biomarkers of environmental exposures and biomarkers of male reproduction in humans. Given the current widespread use of these pesticides, if further study confirms these findings, the implications for public health and agricultural practice could be considerable.”

Doubtful.

In the first place, I’m not quite sure what the dreaded “implications” of Swan’s data are since all men in the study were fertile. They were, in fact, the partners of pregnant women recruited at prenatal clinics.

Secondly, there’s no known biological support for Swan’s idea that pesticides affect sperm quality. Tests do not indicate that alachlor, diazinon and atrazine, for example, produce toxic effects in the reproductive systems of laboratory animals.

A reproductive biologist from the Environmental Protection Agency told USA Today that rodent studies suggest that even the highest pesticide levels found in Swan’s subjects would have been too low to affect sperm quality.

And just because the Missouri men had lower sperm counts and higher pesticide exposure than the Minneapolis men doesn’t automatically mean that pesticides have anything to do with sperm production.

A University of Virginia fertility expert told The Associated Press that he was skeptical of the findings because of the lack of historical documentation of the effect of toxins on sperm.

Sperm counts are known to vary geographically. There is no certain explanation for the phenomenon, although some studies indicate that men in colder regions seem to have higher sperm counts than men in warmer areas.

And it’s really not surprising that men from the agricultural Boone County, Mo., would have more pesticide exposure than an urban area such as Minneapolis.

Swan’s data simply aren’t unexpected and her tenuous conclusions aren’t surprising given her track record of eco-activist, anti-pesticide “research.”

Though anti-pesticide activists have tried for years to link pesticides with declining sperm counts, one key fact stands in their way — there’s no evidence that sperm counts are even declining, much less that pesticides are involved.

In 1999, researchers published in the Journal of Urology a review of all 29 studies from 1938 to 1996 reporting semen analyses of fertile men. They concluded, “there appears to be no significant change in sperm counts in the U.S. during the last 60 years.”

Sperm counts and quality depend on many factors. One that Swan overlooked in her study was the effect of tight-fitting underwear.

In 1996, Dutch researchers reported in the British medical journal The Lancet the results of their study of the effect of underwear on sperm quality and quantity.

They reported that men who wore tight-fitting underwear produced 50 percent less sperm than men who wore loose-fitting underwear. Sperm motility was reduced by two-thirds among the men who wore tight-fitting underwear.

Maybe the Missouri men in Swan’s study wore tighter underwear than their Minneapolis counterparts. I don’t know. Neither does Swan — she didn’t check.

I do know that Swan has absolutely no evidence that implicates pesticides and exculpates all other potential factors. Regardless of the explanation for Swan’s reported observations, sperm quality differences apparently did not affect anyone’s fertility.

Perhaps it’s time for Swan to spend time reconsidering the quality of her crusade.

Steven Milloy is the publisher of JunkScience.com, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and the author ofJunk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams (Cato Institute, 2001).

Will Republicans Drain the Regulatory Swamp?

April 6, 2017 by Dan Mitchell @ International Liberty


On major economic issues, it does not appear that Republican control of Washington makes much of a difference.
  • Efforts to repeal Obamacare have bogged down because GOPers are willing to deal with the fiscal wreckage of that law, but don’t seem very comfortable about undoing the interventions and regulations that have caused premiums to skyrocket.
  • Efforts to cut taxes and reform the tax code don’t look very promising because House Republicans have proposed a misguided border-adjustment tax and the White House seems hopelessly divided on how to proceed.
  • Efforts to restrain government spending haven’t gotten off the ground. A full budget is due next month, but it’s not overly encouraging that Trump’s proposed domestic cuts would be used to expand the Pentagon’s budget.
Let’s see whether we get a different story when we examine regulatory issues.

We’ll start with some good news? Well, sort of. It seems the United States has the largest and 4th-largest GDPs in the world.

You may think that makes no sense, but this is where we have to share some bad news on the regulatory burden from the Mercatus Center.



Economic growth has been reduced by an average of 0.8 percent per year from 1980 to 2012 due to regulatory accumulation. Regulations force companies to invest less in activities that enhance productivity and growth, such as research and development, as companies must divert resources into regulatory compliance and similar activities. …Compared to a scenario where regulations are held constant at levels observed in 1980, the study finds that the difference between the economy we are in and a hypothetical economy where regulatory accumulation halted in 1980 is approximately $4 trillion. …The $4 trillion dollars in lost GDP associated with regulatory accumulation would be the fourth largest economy in the world—larger than major countries like Germany, France, and India.
By the way, this data from Mercatus gives me an opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of even small variations in economic growth. It may not make that much difference if the economy grows 0.8 percent faster or slower in one year.

But, as just noted, a loss of 0.8 percent annual growth over 32 years has been enormously expensive to the U.S. economy.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has a depressing array of data on America’s regulatory burden. Here’s the chart that grabbed my attention.


And here’s a video on the burden of red tape from the folks at CEI.



Who deserves the blame for this nightmare of red tape?

The previous president definitely added to the regulatory morass. The Hill reported last year on a study by the American Action Forum.
The Obama administration issues an average of 81 major rules, those with an economic impact of at least $100 million, on a yearly basis, the study found. That’s about one major rule every four to five days, or, as the American Action Forum puts it, one rule for every three days that the federal government is open. “It is a $2,294 regulatory imposition on every person in the United States,” wrote Sam Batkins, director of regulatory policy at the American Action Forum, who conducted the study.
And there was a big effort to add more red tape in Obama’s final days, as noted by Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal.
Since the election Mr. Obama has broken with all precedent by issuing rules that would be astonishing at any moment and are downright obnoxious at this point. This past week we learned of several sweeping new rules from the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, including regs on methane on public lands (cost: $2.4 billion); a new anti-coal rule related to streams ($1.2 billion) and renewable fuel standards ($1.5 billion).
As you might expect, the net cost of Obama’s regulatory excess is significant. Here’s some of what the Washington Examiner wrote during the waning days of Obama’s tenure.
According to new information from the White House, finally released after a two year wait, the total burden of federal government paperwork is more than 11.5 billion man-hours a year. That’s almost 500 million man-days, or 1.3 million man-years. More importantly, it’s 35 hours every person in the country (on average) has to spend doing federal paperwork every year, on average. …Time is money, and paperwork time alone costs the country almost $2 trillion a year, or about 11 percent of GDP.
But it’s not solely Obama’s fault. Not even close.

Both parties can be blamed for this mess, as reported by the Economist.
The call to cut red tape is now an emotive rallying cry for Republicans—more so, in the hearts of many congressmen, than slashing deficits. Deregulation will, they argue, unleash a “confident America” in which businesses thrive and wages soar, leaving economists, with their excuses for the “new normal” of low growth, red-faced. Are they right?
They may be right, but they never seem to take action when they’re in charge.
Between 1970 and 2008 the number of prescriptive words like “shall” or “must” in the code of federal regulations grew from 403,000 to nearly 963,000, or about 15,000 edicts a year… The unyielding growth of rules, then, has persisted through Republican and Democratic administrations… The endless pile-up of regulation enrages businessmen. One in five small firms say it is their biggest problem, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.
Though I would point out that President Reagan was the exception to this dismal rule.
That being said, who cares about finger pointing? What matters is that the economy is being stymied by excessive red tape.

So what can be done about this? President Trump has promised a 2-for-1 deal, saying that his Administration will wipe out two existing regulations for every new rule that gets imposed.

Susan Dudley opines on this proposal, noting that Trump hasn’t put any meat on the bones.
Like pebbles tossed in a stream, each individual regulation may do little economic harm, but eventually the pebbles accumulate and like a dam, may block economic growth and innovation. A policy of removing two regulations for every new one would provide agencies incentives to evaluate the costs and effectiveness of those accumulated regulations and determine which have outlived their usefulness. Mr. Trump’s statement doesn’t provide details on how this new policy would work.
Ms. Dudley points out, however, that other nations have achieved some success with similar-sounding approaches.
…his team could look to experiences in other countries for insights. The Netherlands, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom have all adopted similar requirements to offset the costs of new regulations by removing or modifying existing rules of comparable or greater effect. …The Netherlands program established a net quantitative burden reduction target that reduced regulatory burdens by 20% between 2003 and 2007. It is currently on track to save €2.5 billion in regulatory burden between 2012 and 2017 by tying the introduction of new regulations “to the revision or scrapping of existing rules.” Under Canada’s “One-for-One Rule,” launched in 2012, new regulatory changes that increase administrative burdens must be offset with equal burden reductions elsewhere. Further, for each new regulation that imposes administrative burden costs, cabinet ministers must remove at least one regulation. Similarly, Australia’s policy is that “the cost burden of new regulation must be fully offset by reductions in existing regulatory burden.” The British began with a “One-in, One-out” policy, requiring any increases in the cost of regulation to be offset by deregulatory measures of at least an equivalent value. In 2013, it moved to “One-in, Two-out” (OITO) and more recently to a “One-in, Three-out” policy in an effort to cut red tape by £10 billion.
The bottom line is that progress will depend on Trump appointing good people. And on that issue, the jury is still out.

The legislative branch also could get involved.

In a column for Reason, Senator Rand Paul explained that the REINS Act could make a big difference.
…13 of the 15 longest registers in American history have been authored by the past two presidential administrations (Barack Obama owns seven of the top eight, with George W. Bush filling in most of the rest)…federal lawmakers should pass something called the REINS Act—the “Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act. The REINS Act would require every new regulation that costs more than $100 million to be approved by Congress. As it is now, agencies can pass those rules unilaterally. Such major rules only account for about 3 percent of annual regulations, but they are the ones that cause the most headaches for individuals and businesses. …the REINS Act did pass the House on four occasions during the Obama administration. Lack of support in the Senate and the threat of a presidential veto kept it from ever reaching Obama’s desk.
But would it make a difference if Congress had to affirm major new rules?

Given how agencies will lie about regulatory burdens, it wouldn’t be a silver bullet.

But,based on the hysterical opposition from the left, I’m betting the REINS Act would be very helpful.
REINS would fundamentally alter the federal government in ways that could hobble federal agencies during periods when the same party controls Congress and the White House — and absolutely cripple those agencies during periods of divided government. Many federal laws delegate authority to agencies to work out the details of how to achieve relatively broad objectives set by the law itself. …REINS, however, effectively strips agencies of much of this authority.
That sounds like good news to me. If the crazies at Think Progress are this upset about the REINS Act, it must be a step in the right direction.

Let’s close with a bit of evidence that maybe, just maybe, Republicans will move the ball in the right direction. Here are some excerpts from a Bloomberg story.
The White House estimates it will save $10 billion over 20 years by having rescinded 11 Obama-era regulations under a relatively obscure 1996 law that lets Congress fast-track repeal legislation with a simple majority. …In all, the law has been used to repeal 11 rules, with two more awaiting the president’s signature… About two dozen measures with CRA’s targeting them remain, but because the law can only be used on rules issued in the final six months of the previous administration, Congress only has only a few more weeks to use the procedure.
Before getting too excited, remember that the annual cost of regulation is about $2 trillion and the White House is bragging about actions that will reduce red tape by $10 billion over two decades. Which means annual savings of only $500 million.

Which, if my math is right, addresses 0.025 percent of the problem.

I’ll take it, but it should be viewed as just a tiny first step on a very long journey.

P.S. The Congressional Review Act was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Yet another bit of evidence that he was a surprisingly pro-market President.

P.P.S. If you want some wonky analysis of regulation, I have some detailed columns here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Scientists challenge Center for Biological Diversity report claiming wild bees near extinction

Richard Levine | April 4, 2017 | Genetic Literacy Project

The headlines, even after years of often-hyperbolic reports about an impending ‘beepocalypse’ and other bee health problems, were startling. “Hundreds of North American bee species face extinction: study,” wrote Reuters. Others, like Voice of America, published similar articles. TIME Magazine even produced a video to accompany an article titled “More than 700 North American Bee Species Are Headed Toward Extinction.”

What prompted this sudden burst in journalistic angst? The articles were based on a report released by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) in early March, “Pollinators in Peril: A systematic status review of North American and Hawaiian native bees.” According to its solo author—Kelsey Kopec—749 North American wild bee species are in decline and almost half of them are at serious risk of extinction. The culprits? Habitat destruction, pesticide use, climate change, and urbanization. The CBD called it a comprehensive, “first-of-its-kind analysis.”.......To Read More.....

Swamp Diving: The EPA's Secret Human Experiment Regime

By John Dunn and Steve Milloy April 11, 2017

The authors have written numerous essays since 2010 for American Thinker on  California's Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA)'s and the U.S. EPA's scientific misconduct related to air pollution human effects science, and more recently on the discovery that the U.S. EPA was sponsoring and paying for illegal and unethical experiments exposing human subjects, even children, to small particle air pollution at high levels.  Small particles originate from natural and man-made sources, such as dust, smoke, and engine and industrial emissions. The U.S. EPA claims that small particles are toxic and lethal and cause cancer..........The Nuremberg Code; the Helsinki Accords; the Belmont Report; and U.S. common law, statutes, and regulations, to include state laws and the Federal Code "Common Rule" and EPA rule 1000.17, all prohibit human experimentation that might cause harm to the subjects.  ........To Read More......

Earth Day has become polluted by ideology and ignorance

By Jeff Stier and Henry I. Miller April 20, 2017 Learn Liberty, A Project of IHS 

The first Earth Day celebration was conceived by then-US senator Gaylord Nelson and held in 1970 as a "symbol of environmental responsibility and stewardship." In the spirit of the time, it was a touchy-feely, consciousness-raising, New Age experience, and most activities were organized at the grassroots level.
In recent years, Earth Day has evolved into an occasion for environmental Cassandras to prophesy apocalypse, dish antitechnology dirt, and proselytize. Passion and zeal routinely trump science, and provability takes a back seat to plausibility.

nstead of a genuine concern for nature, many of those stumping for Earth Day this April 22 will share opposition to environment-friendly advances in science and technology, such as agricultural biotechnology, fracking, and nuclear power. Another pervasive sentiment will be disdain for the capitalist system that provides the resources to expend on environmental protection and conservation. (It's no coincidence that poor countries tend to be the most polluted.)

Distortion of Science The Earth Day Network, which organizes Earth Day events and advocacy, regularly distorts science to advance its cynical agenda. This year's event, ironically enough, is dedicated to "Environmental and Climate Literacy," which is indeed sorely needed, given Earth Day's manipulation and misappropriation of our commitment to protecting the environment.

Consider, for example, the network's disingenuousness about fracking: "Fracking causes a lot of environmental harm and poses a threat to the health of a population near a fracking site due to contaminated water and the increased risk of asthma and other respiratory illnesses." In 2011, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson conceded that she was "not aware of any proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."

In 2013, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he had "not seen any evidence of fracking per se contaminating groundwater." And just last year, the Obama EPA released the findings of its major report on fracking, which relied on 950 sources and was expected by activists to make the case against the technology.

The report was unable to cite any confirmed cases of water contamination. Under pressure from left-liberal members of Congress in the waning days of the Obama administration, the EPA changed the scientific conclusion of the draft report, which originally stated that there was "no systemic effect" on drinking water as a result of fracking.

Without any additional science or cases of contamination, EPA officials who sought to paint fracking in the worst possible light but who were confronted by the paucity of documented contamination wrote that, in "limited cases," such as in a rare fracking fluid spill, contamination could take place. In other words, not unlike riding your bike through New York's Central Park, fracking is not a zero-risk proposition.

Earth Day organizers and others pushing for across-the-board fracking bans rather than reasonable safeguards wish to "educate" us about the environment by suggesting that we should get our energy without any risk whatsoever.

Environmental Indoctrination of Children Even those who can forgive these activists for pressuring regulators and members of Congress to cook the books on scientific reports may be troubled by their campaign to indoctrinate students.

A few years ago, seventh graders at a tony private school near San Francisco were given an unusual Earth Day assignment: make a list of environmental projects that could be accomplished with Bill Gates's fortune. This approach to environmental awareness fits in well with the "progressive" worldview that the right to private property is subsidiary to undertakings that others think are worthwhile” the redistributive theory of society.

And how interesting that the resources made "available" for the students' thought experiment were not, say, the aggregate net worth of the members of Congress but the wealth of one of the nation's most successful, most innovative entrepreneurs.

Rachel Carson's Egregious Lies Another Earth Day assignment for those same students was to read Rachel Carson's best-selling 1962 book "Silent Spring, an emotionally charged but deeply flawed excoriation of the widespread spraying of chemical pesticides for the control of insects. As described by Roger Meiners and Andy Morriss in their scholarly yet eminently readable 2012 analysis, "Silent Spring" at 50: Reflections on an Environmental Classic," Carson exploited her reputation as a well-known nature writer to advocate and legitimatize "positions linked to a darker tradition in American environmental thinking: neo-Malthusian population control and anti-technology efforts."

Carson's proselytizing and advocacy led to the virtual banning of DDT and to restrictions on other chemical pesticides even though Silent Spring was replete with gross misrepresentations and scholarship so atrocious that if Carson were an academic, she would be guilty of egregious misconduct. Carson's observations about DDT were meticulously rebutted point by point by Dr. J. Gordon Edwards, a professor of entomology at San Jose State University, a longtime member of the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society, and a fellow of the California Academy of Sciences.

If Carson were an academic, she would be guilty of egregious misconduct.

In his stunning 1992 essay, "The Lies of Rachel Carson," Edwards demolished her arguments and assertions and called attention to critical omissions, faulty assumptions, and outright fabrications. Consider this from Edwards:
This implication that DDT is horribly deadly is completely false. Human volunteers have ingested as much as 35 milligrams of it a day for nearly two years and suffered no adverse effects. Millions of people have lived with DDT intimately during the mosquito spray programs and nobody even got sick as a result. The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 1965 that "in a little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million [human] deaths that would otherwise have been inevitable." The World Health Organization stated that DDT had "killed more insects and saved more people than any other substance."

Meiners and Morriss conclude correctly that the influence of  Silent Spring "encourages some of the most destructive strains within environmentalism: alarmism, technophobia, failure to consider the costs and benefits of alternatives, and the discounting of human well-being around the world." Sounds like the doctrine of the organizers of this year's Earth Day.

Ecofundamentalism One of the United Kingdom's great contemporary thinkers, Dick Taverne, aka Lord Taverne of Pimlico, discusses the shortcomings of New Age philosophy in his perspicacious book, "The March of Unreason. Taverne deplores the "new kind of fundamentalism" that has infiltrated many environmentalist campaigns” an undiscriminating back-to-nature movement that views science and technology as the enemy and as a manifestation of an exploitative, rapacious, and reductionist attitude toward nature. It is no coincidence, he believes, that ecofundamentalists are strongly represented in antiglobalization and anticapitalism demonstrations worldwide.

In this, Taverne echoes the late physician and novelist Michael Crichton, who argued in his much-acclaimed novel "State of Fear"  that ecofundamentalists have reinterpreted traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths and made a religion of environmentalism. This religion has its own Eden and paradise, where mankind lived in a state of grace and unity with nature until mankind's fall, which came not after eating a forbidden fruit, but after partaking of the forbidden tree of knowledge” that is, science. This religion also has a judgment day to come for us in this polluted world ” all of us, that is, except for true environmentalists, who will be saved by achieving "sustainability."

Environmental Alarmism One of Crichton's characters argues that since the end of the Cold War, environmental alarmism in Western nations has filled the void left by the disappearance of the terror of communism and nuclear holocaust, and that social control is now maintained by highly exaggerated fears about pollution, global warming, chemicals, genetic engineering, and the like. With the military-industrial complex no longer the primary driver of society, the politico-legal-media complex has replaced it.

This politico-legal-media complex peddles fear in the guise of promoting safety. French writer and philosopher Pascal Bruckner captured its tone nicely: "You'll get what you've got coming! That is the death wish that our misanthropes address to us. These are not great souls who alert us to troubles but tiny minds who wish us suffering if we have the presumption to refuse to listen to them. Catastrophe is not their fear but their joy."

The tiny-minded misanthropes have enjoyed some dubious "successes." They have effectively banished agricultural biotechnology from Europe, put the chemical industry on the run, and placed the pharmaceutical industry in their crosshairs.

Lord Taverne believes these are ominous trends that are contrary to the principles of the Enlightenment, returning us to an era in which inherited dogma and superstition took precedence over experimental data. Not only do the practices of ecofundamentalism retard technologies and the availability of products which, used responsibly, could dramatically improve and extend many lives and protect the environment, but they strangle scientific creativity and technological innovation.

A Defense of Science, Reason, and Democracy With Congress, the administration, and many Americans now firmly on the side of more sensible, more limited regulation, it would behoove the Earth Day activists to collaborate in good faith and to support advances in environment-friendly technologies and business models. Among these, we would include ridesharing services, Airbnb, modern genetic engineering applied to agriculture, and state-of-the art agricultural chemicals, all of which enable us to do more with less but have been vilified by activists.

We are not sufficiently naive to expect that to happen. Rather, we suspect that activists' ecofundamentalism will continue to undermine the health of civilized society and of democracy.

Lord Taverne observed that when you defend science and reason, you defend democracy itself. Well said, Milord, and happy Earth Day to you.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology. Jeff Stier is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, DC, and heads its Risk Analysis Division.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bias at The New York Times? ‘The Truth is Hard’ when reporting on bees and neonicotinoid pesticides

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The line between deliberately manipulating a story and poorly reporting the facts is perilously thin.

At Sunday’s Oscars, the United States’ ‘paper of record’ launched an advertising blitz positioning itself as the highbrow ethical responder to the spate of so-called ‘fake news.’ “The truth is hard…to find…to know,” the add, widely circulated on YouTube, proclaimed, somberly.

It’s a powerful message, one that the public and the media should reflect upon—including the leadership at the Times

itself. Whether a journalist presents a story in good faith but wrongly can be a matter of healthy debate. But increasingly, a more troubling ethical line is being crossed: some writers choose to arrange facts, or even invent them, in ways that grey out nuances to advance a storyline arrived at before independent reporting even commences.



That leaves the editor as the public’s final integrity life-line. But to fulfill their responsibility, editors need to be aware of their own biases, or they risk crossing over from being guardians of the truth to creators of biased or even fake news.

Which brings us to the New York Times’ coverage of food and farming issues, most recently its coverage of what has come to be known in recent years as “beemageddon”— concerns about the health of one of nature’s most important pollinators, the bee.

Are bees facing extinction as many environmental advocacy groups and some scientists claim; and are neonicotinoid pesticides the key reason behind their health problems, as many activists, and the Times, suggest?

Times’ Michael Pollan on presenting only one side of complex issues

Covering food and modern farming has not been the Times strong point. Journalist and foodie MIchael Pollan’s articles on the virtues of organic food and the dangers of ‘industrialized agriculture’ have been a Times’ staple since the early 2000s. In 2013, he bragged in a video interview with a fellow activist that he long has exploited the willingness of his editors to forego traditional vetting because they share his reflexive anti-industry perspective. View the video here:



[From the video]:
The media has really been on our side for the most part. I know this from writing for the New York Times…. [W]hen I wrote about food I never had to give equal time to the other side. I could say whatever I thought and offer my own conclusions. Say you should buy grass fed beef and organic is better, and these editors in New York didn’t realize there is anyone who disagrees with that point of view. So, I felt like I got a free ride for a long time.
It’s startling that a reputable journalist would boast about manipulating editors who shared a reflexively and uncritical anti-industry—and in this case, an anti-science—worldview. Pollan went on to bemoan that because of pushback from the science community, he now finds it increasingly difficult to present only his biased side of the story:
There is something called the Food Dialogues presented in various places to talk about how food is produced and greater transparency. … So, I think they have kind of spooked the newspapers into realizing they need to give equal time on this issue and it is an issue with two sides.
NY Times frames simplistic narrative on bee health controversy

Two recent Times articles on the swirling farm controversy about bee health and food—one two years ago and another last week—raise serious questions about whether the paper’s editors are still wearing ideological blinders on stories involving ‘villainous’ agri-businesses.


In 1994, the Times wrote an editorial about “The Bee Crisis,” in which it noted an alarming 50% crash in feral bees in New York state. It blamed that primarily on pesticides. The next year, the phase out began of the most common pesticides—pyrethroids and organophosphates—used to protect crops pollinated by bees. While effective, these chemicals were known to kill beneficial insects and pose serious human health hazards.

They were replaced by what then and now were considered by most entomologists to be a far safer alternative—neonicotinoids, a class of insecticides whose introduction in the mid-1990s coincided with a stabilization of the global bee population. While sometimes sprayed for particular fruit, vegetable or landscape applications, the most overwhelmingly prevalent use of neonics is as a coating for seeds, which then grow into plants that systemically fight pests.

The bee health and pesticide issue faded from the headlines until the winter of 2006-2007, when some US beekeepers began discovering that many of their bees had mysteriously abandoned their colonies. The bees left behind the queen bee, attended by too few, immature worker bees to sustain the colony, yet with ample viable brood and stored food. This was dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).

CCD is a periodic but still inexplicable ecological phenomenon that’s been around since at least the 1800s, predating the modern, post-World War II use of synthetic pesticides, says University of Maryland entomologist Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who along with agricultural department researcher Jeff Pettis coined the term a decade ago. vanEngelsdorp, now head of the Bee Informed Partnership, has told me and other reporters, repeatedly, that there have been no instances of CCD over the past five years except cases linked to the Nosema fungus.

Times’ Michael Wines misframes the ‘neonic’ crisis?

But you wouldn’t know that if you depend on the Times as your paper of record. Since 2013, Michael Wines has reported on rising concerns about ongoing bee health issues–an issue he had been highlighting in increasingly alarming opinion-filled stories. His theme, hammered home in numerous reports, such as this article in 2015, fingered one culprit above all others: pesticides, particularly neonics. In what amounts to an editorial, Wines headlined the story: “Research Suggests Pesticide Is Alluring and Harmful to Bees.” His sources beyond two highly contested studies?–unidentified “other experts,” whose views stood in contrast to industry scientists and the overwhelming majority of mainstream entomologists who see the issue as complex, with pesticides playing a real but relatively minor role in bee health issues.

Researchers from Oregon State University
testing bees last August for the effects of pesticides.
 via NYTimes
Wines was back at it again later in 2015 after a temporary increase in over summer honey bee deaths. In this story, he incorrectly wrote that they were an extension of the long-since passed CCD phenomenon. He compounded this misreporting by playing up what has become known as the beepocalypse myth thesis, writing in Wines-like fashion that “some experts have focused on neonicotinoids” as the driving culprit.

So, who were these mysterious “experts” who appear like clockwork in his pieces that Wines claimed pointed to neonics as the Darth Vader of the bee world? Wines again never tells us.

That’s particularly odd, because he appears not to have consulted the primary source for the rest of his story, Dennis vanEngelsdorp.

If he had, he would have found that the University of Maryland entomologist doesn’t believe neonics are driving current bee health problems. They are way down the list of likely causes, he’s said, with number one being the Varroa mites that feed on the bodily fluids of

 bees. Varroa mites first surfaced as a problem in the US in the 1980s and began infesting beehives in California in 1993
. That crisis stabilized after the introduction of neonics later in the 1990s, then spiked with CCD, with sporadic problems since.
On average, about 10 to 15 percent of honey bees die each winter. In recent years, that percentage jumped to as high as 35 percent before dropping down to levels in the low 20s. There was a more recent rise in bee deaths during the summer, normally a period of hive replenishment, that has everyone spooked. Highly charged words like “beepocalypse” or “beemageddon” are now everywhere on the Internet. But what was causing the die-offs?

Like the fictional parents in the edgy comedy show South Park who blame Canada for all their woes, activists often coalesce around an issue and then come up with a simple and usually simplistic narrative to frame it. Strident opponents of modern agricultural technology initially blamed GMOs for bee deaths, and some still make that claim, although there is zero evidence to back it up. When that meme didn’t get traction, their campaign focus switched to neonics.

But mainstream entomologists never saw it that way. Noting the complexity of the emerging controversy, the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have taken a cautious, science-based approach, producing a broad-based assessment of the evidence. The independent researchers concluded that bees are facing unique stressors but neonics, and pesticides in general, were unlikely to be the major drivers of bee deaths.

Along with Varroa, the blue ribbon panel pointed to Nosema, a common parasite that invades their intestinal tracts and the use and perhaps misuse of miticides to control them; climate change; lack of genetic diversity in the bee population; loss of habitat; and an often-unmentioned factor that many entomologists believe may be the key factor—the stress put on bees by large commercial beekeepers, particularly to service the agri-business demand for bees needed for the California almond crop in late winter before bees normally repopulate.

Times’ Stephanie Strom: Bee health perpetrator profiled as victim?

While Wines never named the “some experts” who support the claim that neonics are at the center of the bee health issue, fellow Times reporter Stephanie Strom found two with that view. Her front business page story, “A Bee Mogul Confronts the Crisis in His Field,” on February 19, sympathetically profiled two of the country’s largest industrial bee moguls, Bret and Kelvin Adee.

Like the Wines’ story, Strom’s article shows no signs of conscious bias. I’ve long been a fan of both of their journalism, and I know Strom, who I’ve talked to on multiple occasions, is dedicated to reporting on complex issues fairly. But she botched this story. Most notably, the piece is infused with the popular activist-driven belief, rejected as simplistic by top entomologists, that neonics is the common thread linking the 2006-2007 CCD crisis to current bee health issues.

Strom cites the European Commission’s 2013 decision to ban neonics, and tees up Bret Adee to defend it:

“The more you study it, the more obvious it becomes: the relationship between the pesticides that have been sprayed everywhere over the last 10 years and what’s happening to bees,” she quotes Adee as saying.

Strom doesn’t mention that the ban was passed over the objections of many scientists. It’s led to new costs and pest pressures; a sharp increase in the use of the dangerous chemicals, pyrethroids and organophosphates, phased out years ago, and lower farm yields. She neglects to mention that European courts have issued rulings challenging the science behind the ban, and moves are underway to overturn it. 

Here is the Orwellian twist: Large-scale beekeepers like the Adees who see their pollinator hordes as traveling livestock, and are widely viewed by entomologists as a key driver of bee health problems, are now profiled by the New York Times as a credible source for diagnosing bee health—and as victims?

Strom sees no irony in this. And she apparently does not know enough about how pesticides are used to pick up on the fact that Adee’s comments undermine the contention that spraying neonics is at the root of bee health problems.

The vast majority of neonics, by volume, are applied as seed treatments—not sprayed—and can only come into contact with bees through dust drift (an initially unanticipated complication now being increasingly effectively controlled) and residues in plant nectar and pollen, which have been consistently shown (and recently confirmed by EPA) to be well below thresholds that could harm bees all of the large-scale grain crops.

Strom and the Times also never mention that her “crisis in the California fields” thesis has reversed itself, at least for this winter. The Adees are having a pretty good year—bee deaths are down dramatically from the winter before, they told her. That inconvenient fact is all but missing from the story, and is not reflected in the ‘crisis’ headline. More than likely, Strom and the Times had formulated their narrative—bees and beekeepers in California almond fields are in crisis—and then did not adjust when the facts on the ground contradicted it.

Are bees facing a neonic-caused global health crisis?

There are other strange turns in the Strom account, most notably her central thesis that bees and beekeepers are in the midst of an escalating catastrophic crisis, with neonics at its center. Bee health is a serious issue. Everyone is perplexed about a mysterious jump in summer bee deaths. Wild bees are also being monitored, but there is no way to monitor their overall health and there are no clear signs of a crisis.

Moreover, neonics and pesticides in general rank near the bottom of the list as potential challenges facing bees, according to vanEngelsdorp, Pettis, University of Illinois entomologist Mae Berenbaum and other top scientists. In one of many such surveys, the USDA-funded New York Bee Wellness non-profit polled its members last fall as to what they saw as causing bee health problems. Varroa mite was the major culprit, with 42.6%. That was followed by small hive beetles (26.8%); queen failure (24.9%); wax moth (19.2%); and deformed wing virus (6.9%). Pesticides? Less than 1% (0.6% to be exact).

“If we took pesticides out of the equation tomorrow, I think there’s no doubt we would have reduced colony losses,” vanEngelsdorp told me. “But even without pesticides, we’d still be seeing significant losses—losses that are unsustainable.”
Their conclusions are underscored by more than 20 field analyses and studies of neonic usage, recently posted on the Genetic Literacy Project, which as a whole find no evidence that neonics are a major bee health concern.

Taking the big picture view, North American, European and global bee hive numbers have risen steadily since the introduction of neonics, to record levels. Outside of a few states in the United States (most notably California) and sections of some countries in Europe, there is no crisis. And in places where neonic usage is highest—western Canada and Australia—bee health has never been better. Here are the number of bee colonies in key regions since the introduction of neonics in 1995:


What will The Times do?

When it comes to corralling support, activist environmentalists often focus on simple villains and frame issues in catastrophic terms. From Greenpeace’s campaign to force Shell to deep six the Brent Spar North Sea oil platform in the 1990s to the efforts by the Natural Resources Defense Council to replace harmless BPA in plastics with substitutes that are demonstrably harmful (BPS) to the ongoing but misplaced hysteria against DDT that the World Health Organization has said may have cost a billion lives, the ‘simple’ enemy-of-the-people target is sometimes benign, and its banning or removal often leads to far worse consequences.

The world’s top scientists cringe at the hyperbolic framing of environmental issues. When it comes to bees, National Medal of Science and Goldman Environmental Prize-winning bee expert Mae Berenbaum has called such scare claims unhelpful. “The rhetoric has gotten ridiculous. It is hyperbolic to talk about the apocalypse,” she said.

Faced with a slew of missteps in its coverage of the “beeapocalypse”, the Times might be well served to reflect on its neonics and bee crisis narrative. Next up for its editors: reporter Danny Hakim, who has faced sharp criticism from independent scientists for his reporting on the GMO debate, is taking on the bees and pesticides. The Times was unresponsive when scientists and science journalists challenged his prior reporting as biased (and in some cases factually inaccurate).

Is the Times willing to devote the time and resources to report on nuanced stories outside of its traditional fields of expertise? That would require a level of oversight at the vetting stage and after an article is written but before publication—which now appears to be lacking, at least on the issue of pollinators and pesticides.

Bees shouldn’t become the next ‘fake news’ victim.

Jon Entine, executive director of the independent foundation funded 501c3 Science Literacy Project (Genetic Literacy Project and Epigenetics Literacy Project), has been writing on biotechnology, chemicals, food and farming for more than 15 years, and recently hosted a Reddit Science discussion on bees and pesticides.