Maker of Controversial Insecticide Launches "Bee Care Centers". Should We Celebrate?
Bee advocates have long had concerns about Bayer CropScience's neonicotinoid pesticides, and those concerns have recently been compounded by research linking bee deaths to exposure to neonicotinoid seed insecticides, and other studies suggesting that even exposure to minute quantities of imidacloprid—made by Bayer CropScience—could leave bees more vulnerable to a deadly parasite.
So it's in this context that we should evaluate news from Bayer that they are launching a Global Bee Care Program to promote honeybee health:
As part of the program, two dedicated “Bayer Bee Care Centers” are to be established. In Europe, one center is scheduled to open in Monheim, Germany, in mid-summer. A second center, which will focus on North America, is planned for later in the year in North Carolina, United States.
“As a company with long-standing expertise in both animal health and crop protection, Bayer is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainable agricultural practices, including protection of beneficial insects such as honey bees,” said Professsor Dr. Wolfgang Plischke, member of the Bayer AG Board of Management responsible for Innovation, Technology and Environment. “We have been providing products specifically designed to ensure bee health for more than 25 years,” Plischke said. “And through promoting sustainable farming practices, we support farmers worldwide to produce safe, high quality and affordable food for an increasing world population.”
While the press release mentions testing of Bayer products, it unsurprisingly puts the emphasis for bee deaths on diseases, parasites, extreme climatic and environmental factors, with "certain agricultural and apicultural practices" being tagged on as an afterthought.
Heaven knows that the bees need all the help they can get, so funding for new research is important. But let's keep an eye on how that research is funded, and assess the results with that context in mind.