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The Guardian, 16 November 2010

British Beekeepers Association to stop endorsing bee-killing pesticides

Beekepers' group ends commercial relationship with pesticide manufacturer whose product killed bees

The British Beekeepers Association has today announced plans to end its controversial practice of endorsing pesticides in return for cash from leading chemical manufacturers.
The endorsement of four products as "bee-friendly" in return for £17,500 a year caused outrage among many beekeepers because one of the companies, Bayer Crop Science, makes pesticides that are widely implicated in the deaths of honeybees worldwide.
But the BBKA denies that it has bowed to pressure from members who have been increasingly critical of the its stance. Bayer's clothianidin was identified as causing the death of two-thirds of honeybees in southern Germany in 2008.
In a statement sent outtoday to the secretaries of local beekeeping associations across the UK, BBKA president, Martin Smith said: "Following discussion with the companies involved, the BBKA trustees have decided that endorsement and related product-specific payments will cease as soon as practically possible".
He added: "The four products subject to BBKA endorsement are of declining commercial importance and the development of new classes of pesticides and applications techniques means that the relationship with the plant-protection industry should be reviewed."
Beekeeper Graham White, who resigned from the BBKA more than two years ago in protest at what he called a "secret deal done with the pesticide manufacturers whose products are lethal to bees", welcomed today's decision.
"It's great news, but it's too little too late," he said. "They should have been showing solidarity with beekeepers in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia when pesticides were banned there after being implicated in bee deaths, instead of selling their logo to the manufacturers."
Smith defended its position then as one of "constructive engagement" to ensure pesticides were properly applied as per the instructions on the label to minimise damage to honeybees.
The BBKA's position has polarised the 45,000-strong beekeeping community, but the majority of BBKA members upheld its policy at its annual delegate meeting earlier this year and in 2009.
At the next meeting in January, delegates will be asked to note today's decision "with respect to the cessation of BBKA endorsement of certain pesticides".
But the organisation has not ruled out accepting funds in the future from pesticide companies. "The trustees may wish to invite companies to exhibit at the BBKA's spring convention or make a contribution to the BBKA research fund," said Smith.
"It is time to broaden the range of engagement with the crop-protection industry beyond the narrow focus of endorsing certain products; rather to contribute more directly to the development of new regulatory criteria for pesticide approval and to further support the industry in the general move to improve countryside stewardship," he added.
White says all ties to the pesticide industry should be immediately severed.
"The BBKA will never be a credible organisation if it has links with pesticide companies while there is any doubt that their neonicotinoid range of pesticides is killing honeybees". Alison Benjamin

The Telegraph, 5 May 2010

Beekeepers at war over funding from chemical companies

Angry bee keepers have blamed Britain’s rapidly decreasing population of honeybees on their own organisation.
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent

The British Bee Keepers’ Association (BBKA) has championed apiculture in the UK for 175 years and has 17,000 members.
But a group of former members claim the charity is taking money from chemical companies that are killing bees.
Bee numbers in the UK have dropped more than half over the last 20 years, twice as much as in the rest of Europe.
Phil Chandler, who left the BBKA last year and now runs his own website Biobees, blamed the use of certain pesticides for killing bees.
Despite this, he said the BBKA is accepting money from the main companies responsible for manufacturing pesticides.
He said the charity receives around £17,500 pounds-a-year as part of a 12-year-sponsorship deal with chemical companies Bayer Crop Sciences and Syngenta
“An organisation claiming to work on behalf on bees cannot be endorsing pesticides – it is very clear and straightforward. Pesticides kill bees, to pretend they do not have effect is ridiculous.
“A significant number of the membership does not know about this policy because it is buried in the small print.
“The BBKA will not write anything bad against pesticides because you do not bite the hand that feeds you.”
But Tim Lovett, president of the BBKA, said there was no conflict of interest.
He said beekeepers had to work with chemical companies to try and end the use of harmful pesticides.
“There is no doubt that pesticides kill bees and there is no such thing as a ‘safe’ pesticide," he said.
“But trying to push water uphill is not easy – it is better to direct it."
Dr Julian Little, spokesperson for Bayer Crop Science, said BBKA members have discussed the funding previously and members are happy with the situation.
He said the charity can spend the money how it wishes.
"We do support BBKA but there are absolutely no preconditions on that money," he said.
"We are very happy to support beekeepers in the UK and there is absolutely no evidence that insecticides are having any impact on bee health in the UK."

Campaign for a total ban of neonicotinoid pesticides