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So many knuckleheads, so few rubber mallets


Another self serving study from the Friends of the Earth and the Pesticide Research Institute deserves a whack with a rubber mallet. The study, which condemns neonicitinoid insecticides for the decline in honey bee populations, used a sample size so small, it's laughable. There are no reputable studies indicating that neonicitinoids are singularly responsible for declines in honey bee health.

Whenever I see a research study like the one dreamed up by Friends of the Earth and the Pesticide Research Institute, the game Whac-A-Mole comes to mind.

By the time you read a self-serving study like this and bash it soundly with the rubber mallet of rational thought, it reincarnates in another study, where it once again takes on a life of its own.

So many knucklehead studies, so few rubber mallets.

I have to admit sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed and overmatched, not just at the bias of these anti-agriculture efforts, but at the endless number of people willing to stick their necks out to design, conduct and publish them.

The study found that 7 of 13 samples of garden plants purchased at five stores, which included a Lowes and a Home Depot, contained neonicotinoid insecticides, which the study concluded were responsible for widespread declines in bee health.

More on neonicotinoids later, but for now, let’s focus on the 13 samples. Not 13,000 samples, not 1,300, not even 130, but 13, taken from 26 total plants at five stores. With millions of plants sold in America every day, how can 26 samples from five stores even begin to represent an entire population? It’s like getting indigestion at a Red Lobster, then condemning the entire U.S. restaurant industry.

I asked the researchers for confirmation of this underwhelming sample size, but at press time, I had not heard back from them. See for yourself, here.

The release of the research coincided with National Honey Bee Day and the announcement of new bee labels for neonicotinoid insecticides from the EPA.

Anyway, from this piddly collection of plants, they designed a slick-looking, misleading 34-page document and a news release declaring that neonicotinoids were killing bees in biblical proportions. NBC News jumped on it, and so did numerous other sources.

There are no reputable studies indicating that neonicotinoids are singularly responsible for declines in honey bee health. In fact, just last May, the EPA released a study indicating that parasites, not neonicotinoids, were the biggest factors. There are a lot of other interrelated factors too. See here

But the damage had been done. Before you knew it, 175,000 clueless people who wouldn’t know an aphid from an aardvark had signed a petition demanding that all the garden companies take anything containing neonicotinoids off the shelf.

You’ve got to hand it to the Friends of the Earth and The Pesticide Research Institute though. They got plenty of airplay all over the world and probably spent less than $200 at Lowes and Home Depot. That’s less than I spend on a good day.


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