British Beekeepers’ Association Takes Money from Pesticide Producers
Beekeepers aim to protect honeybees and prevent their populations from being wiped out by Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Pesticide manufacturers, on the other hand, make their millions by pumping out poisons fatal to most insects, including honeybees. It’s an understatement to say that these two groups make unlikely bedfellows.
Yet that’s exactly what’s happening over at the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA), the U.K.’s leading beekeeping organization, made up of more than 19,000 members. Unbeknown to most BBKA members, the association’s executive accepted endorsement money from the makers of four pesticides considered deadly to honey bees. BBKA’s members and the rest of the environmental community are understandably irate, and they’re waging a war against the BBKA’s top dogs.
The BBKA first started taking endorsement money from Bayer, BASF, Syngenta, and Belchim back in 2001 to the tune of more than $27,000 a year. BBKA took the dough and in return, agrochemical companies got to plaster the BBKA logo on their synthetic pyrethoids, some of the most potent insect-killing chemicals on the market. BBKA even went so far as to refer to these pesticides as “bee safe” and “bee friendly.” It’s estimated that BBKA made about $273,000 over the years from the shady partnership.
There was just one issue: Research shows that these pesticides are actually quite deadly to honeybees. According to The Independent, synthetic pyrethoids are some of the most toxic pesticides around, especially when it comes to honeybee health.
“A charity that claims to have the interests of bees and beekeeping at heart should never put itself in a position where it is under the influence of corporations whose purpose is to sell insecticides which are able to kill bees,” Philip Chandler, a beekeeper, told The Independent. “It is the equivalent of a cancer research charity being controlled by a tobacco company.”
Chandler is one of the people behind the campaign against BBKA. Chandler — along with an assortment of beekeepers, scientists, and environmentalists — signed an open letter demanding that BBKA completely cut its ties with agrochemical companies like Bayer and BASF. While BBKA’s president, Martin Smith, announced that BBKA’s pesticide endorsements would end, he left the door open for future partnerships between Big Chemical and the beekeeping association. Smith said that “the trustees do not preclude accepting funds in the future from either the crop protection industry…or individual companies,” reports The Independent.
That’s a move that seriously threatens not only honeybees, but the future of food security. Honeybees produce about one-third of the food we eat through pollination. Kill them off or expose them to a host of noxious pesticides, and our breadbaskets may be looking pretty empty in the future.
Obviously ending BBKA’s current pesticide campaign — I mean, er, endorsement — is a step in the right direction. However, leaving the door open for future partnerships between agrochemical companies and the beekeeping association is a huge conflict of interest. It’s simply unacceptable that a beekeeping association should have any affiliation with companies that produce substances toxic to honeybees.
Let’s tell BBKA that it needs to uphold its tradition of protecting honeybees, not the companies that kill these beleaguered bugs. Sign our petition asking BBKA to put a policy in place that ends all the organization’s current and future relationships with agrochemical and related companies.