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Science

Just like the bees, the ‘Beepocalypse’ myth isn’t dying

On World Bee Day, let’s set the record straight. It has been seven years since the Washington Post famously dispelled the myth of a catastrophic bee decline in an article titled “Call off the bee-pocalypse: honeybee colonies just hit a 20-year high.” The piece was one of many attempts to underline that pollinators are not under threat, contrary to popular belief.

In fact, looking at the statistics of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, beehives are on the rise worldwide. The data show that as of 2020, there has been an increase of beehives by 17% since 2010, 35% since 2000, and 90% since 1961. The most common threats that bees are supposedly subjected to by humans are neonicotinoid insecticides, known as neonics. However, the popularization of neonics in the mid-90s didn’t trigger a collapse of bee populations. In the United States, the number of bee colonies has been stable for 30 years, while in Europe, where farmers also use these insecticides, the number has increased by 20%.

When radical conservationists turned their attention instead to wild bees — because, unlike managed bees, you don’t have to deal with those pesky statistics — they attempted the same doom-and-gloom strategy. Researchers claimed to have found that wild bees in the U.S. declined 23% between 2008 and 2013, yet the model they produced to identify these numbers was dubious at best. So dubious that Science 2.0 took apart the methodology and described it as follows: “They created an academic model that would get them fired from every single company in existence for being wildly suspect and based on too many assumptions. The authors then claim the decline they don’t know is happening must be due to pesticides, global warming and farmers. This passes for a study in Vermont; it just does not pass for a study in science.” Ouch!

In fact, declines of both managed and wild bees occur naturally through weather changes and the decisions of beekeepers about how many bees they currently need. As honey prices are now on a steep increase, it is likely that beekeepers will upgrade their colony numbers to increase sales over the next few years.

Then, why do serious journalists still write news stories about neonics with the phrase “bee-killing pesticide“? One would think that in the age of fighting misinformation, news on the environment, in particular, would be meticulously fact-checked. It is most likely a mix of ideological possession of those in the press and a healthy amount of lazy journalism. To be fair, “save the bees” is catchier than “bee colony collapses are statistically temporary and unrelated to modern crop protection tools.”

Originally published here

Herbicide shortage underlines its importance

The United States is facing a historic shortage of weed killers due to ongoing supply chain issues. The manufacturers are struggling to get their hands on some of the inert chemicals needed to make herbicides, as well as cardboard boxes and plastic jugs for caps. Glyphosate is one of the chemicals most affected by these supply chain problems, with farmers scrambling for alternative products to fight off undesired weeds.

This comes conjointly with a regulatory and legislative crackdown on a wide array of herbicides across the country, limiting the ability of farmers to control weeds this year.

The fact that rules vary between counties complicates the matter further, with agriculture professionals confused over which ingredients remain legally accessible, and needing the assistance of weed scientists to sift through the regulatory jungle. This is particularly problematic as many farmers have land extending across different counties.

While shortages affect the day-to-day lives of farmers, law makers’s long-term actions have more far-reaching consequences.

Weed-killers have come under fire by activist groups opposing the use of crop protection, accusing it of harming endangered species. Preventing these species from going extinct is guaranteed through the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a problematic piece of legislation due to its obtuse standards as to what exactly constitutes an endangered species in the first place.

As Hank Campbell at Science 2.0 explains, the ESA has been hijacked by trial lawyers, who use the law to arbitrarily fit their litigation purposes, and perpetuate definitions of “endangered” that are far removed from what the general public understands by the term. In fact, Campbell shows that the numbers of endangered species according to the ESA has skyrocketed under the Clinton and Obama administrations. As a result, we’ve seen a large amount of chemicals companies being sued, then settled, with environmental groups over their manufacturing of pesticides.

As a consumer, why care? As consumers we need to realize that crop protection plays a role in our daily lives, and not in the way it is portrayed by activists and, all too often, the media. When news outlets publish stories with the headline “Glyphosate weed killer found in German beers, study finds,” it makes sense to read through the entire piece and understand that a single person would need to ingest 264 gallons of beer a day for it to be harmful to health. Let’s agree that a person ingesting 264 gallons of beer in one day will supposedly have bigger problems than the exposure to a weed-killer. In turn, herbicides which are so viciously attacked on unscientific grounds provide essential advantages for farmers.

Pre-herbicides we used to hand weed, a practice so painfully visible in developing nations that still practice it. Herbicides alleviate the burden on women and all too often children who are required to hand-weed. In fact, 80% of hand-weeding in Africa is done by women, and 69% of farm children between the ages of 5 through 14 are forced to leave school to work in the agricultural sector during peak weeding periods, leading to long-term spinal deformities.

Herbicides have also increased our agricultural output, and guaranteed food security. Food security– how immense the technological advance is that we don’t even think about the possibilities of food products not being available on our shelves.

That said, the current food price inflation shows how vulnerable our system can actually be. Farming is more than just putting a seed in the ground and hoping it grows. Farming has become an intricate orchestra of players, all interdependent, all relying on technology and modern science. As consumers, if we want safe, available, and affordable food options, we need to recognize the incredibly important work that farmers do, and put our trust in their professional rigor.

Originally published here

The U.S. Was Right To Warn The EU About Green Agriculture

The United Nations has warned about the looming food crisis in light of the war in Ukraine. The poorest countries in Africa, heavily dependent on Ukraine and Russia’s wheat supplies, are at high risk of starvation and malnutrition. Food security is also crumbling in Europe, packed with refugees from Ukraine and other politically unstable regions.

Until the very last moment, no one in the world⁠—except Russian President Vladimir Putin–knew whether the war would break out. One can then say that the food crisis caught Europe off guard. But that would be wrong. Europe simply ignored the red flags⁠—and now it’s paying the price.

The European Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), presented in 2019, intended to “enable and accelerate the transition to a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system.” That implied reducing pesticides by 50% by 2030 and increasing organic farming by at least 25%. Many European politicians vehemently defended F2F’s green goals. In October 2021, most Members of the European Parliament voted in favor of the F2F. 

The U.S., however, had no illusions about the F2F. A groundbreaking 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that F2F would reduce “agricultural production by 7 to 12% and diminish the EU’s competitiveness in both domestic and export markets.” The U.S. also recognized that the F2F would impose additional burdens on the EU-U.S. trade talks. 

Commenting on the F2F, David Salmonsen, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, stressed: “A concern coming out of that for us is, in the future, could [Farm to Fork] result in some new trade barriers if they decide the way they want to produce food is the only way and they only want to let products in from outside that produce food the same way?” These concerns were particularly justified and shared by African countries, especially Kenya, as well. At home, multiple EU farming associations warned about the detrimental impact of F2F.

However, it took the war in Ukraine to make the EU realize the damaging scale of its green ambitions. Ukraine is one of the EU’s major agricultural partners, and it is only natural that the trade disruption has raised questions about the EU’s own food security. Less than two weeks into the war, the realization that the green agenda is not feasible has hit the EU.

On March 8th, European People’s Party (EPP), the parliament’s largest group, asked to call off the F2F. French President Emmanuel Macron also said that “Europe cannot afford to produce less.” It took the EU less than a month of war⁠—not even on its soil⁠—to realize that the green agenda is not fit for the challenges of today. And who needs such unsustainable policies to start with?

On the one hand, it’s great that the EU has now realized that green agriculture is unworkable. On the other hand, the whole drama could have been avoided in the first place if the EU had thoroughly considered the U.S.’s concerns. Moving forward, both the EU and the U.S. should use the F2F as a reminder that green policies sound great on paper⁠—but they are not feasible.

Originally published here

The War in Ukraine is a Slap in the Face of the Green Agenda

On the 24th of February, Russia started an unprovoked full-scale war against Ukraine. As Ukrainians are dying on the battlefield, the petrol prices bring a sense of war to every household globally. On the 8th of March, the U.S. recorded the highest fuel price per gallon of $4.17. European consumers also brace for further increases.

The war in Ukraine has changed policy priorities. The comforts and privileges of the pre-war time, when we could afford to spend countless hours discussing climate change, are gone. Now we have to deal with tangible crises, with the risk of global hunger being the greatest.

Ukraine and Russia are top global exporters of wheat, grain, and various nutrients. Russia, for example, accounts for 6 percent of the U.S.’s potassium imports – second only to Canada. Belarus, now on the brink of new sanctions, also contributes 6 percent. While the U.S. will probably manage to substitute these imports quickly, the search costs and high fuel prices alone will toll food production.

Globally, things look even grimmer. According to the United Nations, the disruption caused by the war could push international food prices by a staggering 22 percent. Food insecurity and malnutrition in the world’s poorest countries will consequently also be on the rise. The Center for Global Development has found that the price spike in food and energy will push over 40 million into poverty.

The war has served as a wake-up call for the EU, heavily dependent on Ukraine’s grain and Russia’s fertilizer imports. Europe has now realized that it can no longer afford its green agriculture plans, once so passionately advocated for. The Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy ambitiously sought to cut the use of pesticides in the EU by 50 percent while increasing organic farming production from 7.5 percent to 25 percent. 

Ferociously endorsed by green groups, the strategy was also highly costly and hardly climate-friendly. As the world cripples with limited resources, organic farming requires more farmland. To drastically reduce the use of pesticides – without giving farmers an alternative – would be a final nail in the coffin of European food production. Farmers’ associations understandably protested, but that wasn’t enough to make European policymakers change their minds.

The EU’s green agriculture strategy was so expensive that, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, its impact “would stretch beyond the EU, driving up worldwide food prices by 9 (EU only adoption) to 89 percent (global adoption).” The said study found that F2F would reduce “agricultural production by 7 to 12%  and diminish the EU’s competitiveness in both domestic and export markets.” A more recent 2022 study by Dutch scientists found that productionwill decline by 10 to 20%, or in some cases 30%. With strategies like this, the world wouldn’t need wars to find itself at the end of the cliff.

But, ironically, it took a war to make the EU realize that the F2F was not workable. Less than two weeks into the Ukraine-Russia war, as food prices climbed up and food security was at risk, the strategy got called off. In arguing for the pausing of the F2F, French President Emmanuel Macron said that “Europe cannot afford to produce less.”

The EU has convinced itself that green agriculture was the way forward, and it was only a matter of time until the bloc would have started telling the world to go green. Thankfully, the U.S. saw through these intentions and blasted the F2F as “protectionist,” “uncompetitive,” and misguided.” Commenting on F2F,  the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, “The world’s got to get fed, and it’s got to get fed in a sustainable way. And we can’t basically sacrifice one for the other.” The EU had a chance to learn that green agriculture is not sustainable earlier if it listened to the U.S. Now, as the global food security crumbles, the bloc is learning it the hard way.

The war in Ukraine is a brutal reminder that our reality remains vulnerable to external shocks, so we should only build food systems that last and stand firm. Green agriculture is not one of them, and it should never be back on the agenda. Not in the EU, or the U.S., not anywhere.

Originally published here

Let’s Learn Well What Farming Once Was, Don’t Go Back

Those privileged of having met their grandparents, or even better, their great-grandparents, know of the staggering improvements in human prosperity over the last 100 years. For those born into wealth it’s noticeable through the advances of modern medicine (allowing you to meet your great-grandparents in the first place), but the changes are even more breathtaking for those whose ancestors have a background in farming. 

In fact, most of our ancestor’s stories relate to farming. European immigrants to the United States are often referred to as “seeking a better life”, but the harsher reality is that in most of Europe famine and disease was haunting those living from day to day. The Irish famine of 1845 killed one million people, which at the time represented 15% of the total population. About a century before the mainstream introduction of fungicides, the farming population had no ability to fight potato blight – leading to famines across Europe which caused civil unrest, even toppling the French July Monarchy in the Revolution of 1848. 

Read the full article here

Nein, Greenpeace ist nicht seriös

Letzten Mittwoch sorgte eine Schlagzeile für viel Wirbel:  Annalena Baerbock beschäftigt nun Jennifer Morgan, die ehemalige Chefin von Greenpeace, als Sonderbeauftragte für internationale Klimapolitik.

Eine offene Lobbyistin in der Bundesregierung? „Wie kann das sein?“, wunderten sich viele Kommentatoren in sozialen Netzwerken.

Die Bundesaußenministerin bekam aber auch Zuspruch. LobbyControl, eine deutsche NGO verteidigte die Bundesministerin mit mehreren Tweets. Es müsse möglich sein, Fachleute von außen in die Ministerien zu holen. Ein größeres Problem seien eher die Übertritte in die umgekehrte Richtung. Und überhaupt: Lobbyismus für ideelle Ziele sei nicht gleichzusetzen mit Organisationen, die ihn für die eigenen finanziellen Zwecke betreiben.

Immerhin gab die Organisation zu, dass Morgan künftig die Interessen der Bundesregierung vertreten müsse und nicht die von Greenpeace.

Eine Organisation, die laut der eigenen Website ein Gegengewicht zu dem immer größer werdenden Einfluss von Denkfabriken, PR-Agenturen und deren Tricks sein möchte, leugnet also das Problem. Unser Lobbyismus ist besser als euer Lobbyismus…

Doch abgesehen von dem Problem eine Lobbyistin in einer wichtigen und repräsentativen Position innerhalb der Bundesregierung einzustellen, stellt sich auch die Frage nach den „ideellen Zielen“ von Greenpeace. Ist Greenpeace tatsächlich eine Organisation, die sich fürs Gemeinwohl einsetzt? Ist Greenpeace eine seriöse Organisation, die Positives erreicht? Und ist Morgan als die ehemalige Chefin dieser Organisation tatsächlich ein Mehrwert für den deutschen Staat?

Wenn man sich die Tätigkeit von Greenpeace ansieht, erscheint die Bejahung dieser Fragen unwahrscheinlich. Seit Jahren betreibt die Organisation populistischen und reißerischen Aktivismus.

Nach Beispielen muss nicht lange gesucht werden, wir alle erinnern uns an die Bruchlandung des Greenpeace Aktivisten in der Münchner Allianz-Arena. Bei dem Qualifikationsspiel der deutschen Nationalmannschaft landete der Aktivist mitten auf der Spielfläche, nachdem er wenige Sekunden zuvor zwei Menschen am Kopf verletzte. Bei der Aktion ging es darum Druck auf den Autokonzern VW auszuüben, der dazu gedrängt wurde aus dem Verbrennungsmotor auszusteigen. Wegen der gleichen Angelegenheit entwendeten Aktivisten von Greenpeace später 1500 Schlüssel für VW-Fahrzeuge in Emden, die exportiert werden sollten. 

Hausfriedensbruch, Diebstahl, Körperverletzung und Populismus: Sieht so seriöser Aktivismus aus? 

Leider sind dies nicht die schlimmsten Aktionen von Greenpeace, viel schlechter sieht es in den Bereichen aus, in denen die Aktivisten tatsächliche Erfolge erreichen. 

So geht die Organisation konsequent gegen saubere Energieherstellungsmethoden, wie die Nuklearenergie vor. Durch die Verbreitung von Falschinformationen über die Kosten und Sicherheit von Atomenergie, beraubt Greenpeace die Welt einer sicheren und sauberen Energiequelle, die unabhängig von Witterungsbedingungen kontinuierlich Energie produzieren kann. Die Folgen davon sind gut in Deutschland sichtbar: Nach der verkorksten Energiewende, wurden die Atomkraftwerke durch wesentlich schädlichere Alternativen ersetzt: Kohle und Gas. 

Organisationen wie Greenpeace, die als eine Art intellektueller Elite „Grüner“ Parteien fungieren, tragen einen großen Teil der Schuld. Dabei sind Umweltsorgen nicht bloß eine Präferenz für saubere Luft. Am Ende sind es Menschenleben, die der Preis für die deutsche Energiepolitik sind.

Dies lässt sich relativ einfach berechnen: Laut einer eher konservativen Berechnung sterben bei der Produktion von Atomenergie etwa 0,074 Menschen pro Terawattstunde. Bei (Natur-) Gas sind es bereits etwa 2,8 Menschen, bei Kohle 24,6 pro Terawattstunde, etwa 330-mal mehr! 

Im Dezember 2019 veröffentlichten die amerikanischen Wissenschaftler Stephen Jarvis, Olivier Deschenes und Akshaya Jha einen Aufsatz, bei dem sie die Kosten der Energiewende auf etwa 12 Milliarden Euro pro Jahr beziffern. Etwa 70% dieser Kosten besteht aus einer Übersterblichkeit von 1100 Personen jährlich, die daraus resultiert, dass lokal nun statt Atomkraftwerken Kohlekraftwerke operieren. Dank der Energiewende stirbt also jedes Jahr eine kleine Siedlung – an Krebs, an chronischen Lungenkrankheiten, und anderen Folgen der Energieproduktion durch Kohle. 

Aber nicht nur in diesem Bereich konnte Greenpeace die Politik beeinflussen: Auch im Bereich der GMOs und der Gentechnik sind die Aktivisten sehr erfolgreich. 

Dabei sind die Chancen der Gentechnik immens: Ökonomisch, medizinisch und aus der Sicht der Landwirtschaft. 

Sowohl die mRNA Impfstoffe von BioNTech und Pfizer und Moderna, als auch die Vektorimpfungen von Johnson&Johnson und AstraZeneca verdanken wir der jahrzehntelangen Forschung zu GMOs und „Gene Editing“. Aber nicht „nur“ COVID-Impfungen werden auf diese Weise produziert, wie ein Eintrag in der Britannica zeigt: Auch andere medizinische Innovationen, wie die Hepatitis-B Impfung, die durch genetisch modifizierte Hefebakterien produziert wird, verdanken wir der Gentechnik.

Etwas weniger als eine halbe Milliarde Menschen leiden an Diabetes: Viele von Ihnen müssen Insulin von außen zuführen. Ohne des synthetischen Insulins, das durch genetisch modifizierte E.-Coli Bakterien produziert wird, müsste immer noch durch Schweinepankreas produziertes Insulin genutzt werden: eine wesentlich weniger effiziente und tiergerechte Alternative. 

Weitere Beispiele erfolgreich eingesetzter GMO Forschung sehen wir in der Landwirtschaft. Das wohl in dem Zusammenhang mit Greenpeace Aktivismus stärkste Beispiel ist dabei der „Goldene Reis“, eine von deutschen Wissenschaftlern entwickelte Reissorte, die etwa 23-Mal mehr Vitamin A enthält als „natürliche“ Reissorten. 

Jedes Jahr erblindet weltweit bis zu 500 000 Kinder wegen Vitamin-A-Mangels. Etwa die Hälfte dieser Kinder stirbt innerhalb eines Jahres nach der Erblindung.  Genau aus diesem Grund ist der von deutschen Wissenschaftlern Peter Beyer und Ingo Potrykus entwickelte goldene Reis eine so wichtige Innovation: Es geht um das Leben tausender Menschen.

Es ist erfreulich zu sehen, dass der goldene Reis in den Philippinen mittlerweile zum Verkauf freigegeben wird, einem Land, in dem der Vitamin-A-Mangel zu den größten Gesundheitsproblemen der Bevölkerung gehört. Auch amerikanische und kanadische Behörden bestätigen die Sicherheit der Reissorte.

Doch nicht alle sehen den Fortschritt so positiv, wie die Wissenschaft, oder namhafte Spender, wie die „Bill und Melinda Gates Foundation“. Seit der mittlerweile 20 Jahre zurückgehenden Entwicklung, führen Gruppen, wie Greenpeace eine Hetzkampagne gegen die Reissorte und gegen Gentechnik. Durch diese antiwissenschaftliche Kampagne verlangsamen die Aktivisten die Markteinführung solcher Innovationen, was vor allem für die Gebiete, die am stärksten vom Vitamin-A-Mangel betroffen sind, verheerende Folgen hat. Aber auch in entwickelten Ländern, in denen neue Innovationen entstehen könnten wird der Fortschritt behindert: Wie der Global Gene Editing Regulation Index des Consumer Choice Center zeigt, ist das Verfahren innerhalb der EU weitgehend verboten. Trotz der beachtlichen Erfolge der Wissenschaft behindern Gruppen wie Greenpeace immer noch den Fortschritt und verlangsamen damit die Lösung wichtiger Probleme: Durch Innovationen in der Landwirtschaft könnten Land und andere Ressourcen, wie Wasser, Dünger und Pestizide sparsamer und daher effizienter genutzt werden, eine große Chance für die ärmeren Regionen unserer Welt. Dabei können durch brillante Forschung auch Nährstoffmängel, wie im Fall von Vitamin-A und dem goldenen Reis angegangen werden.

Auch in anderen Bereichen, wie bei der Entwicklung von neuartigen Medikamenten und Therapien könnten Tausende, wenn nicht sogar Millionen von Leben geschützt werden. 

Zusammenfassend kann das Urteil für Greenpeace und Annalena Baerbock nur negativ ausfallen. Greenpeace ist eine durch und durch schädliche Organisation, deren Wirken für Millionen von Toten verantwortlich ist. Sie betreiben populistischen und antiwissenschaftlichen Aktivismus und Kampagnen, die innerhalb der Bevölkerung für Skeptizismus und Angst gegenüber von sicheren und innovativen Methoden sorgen. Die Einstellung von Jennifer Morgan ist nicht nur aus der Sicht der politischen Seriosität ein Skandal: Noch schlimmer ist wofür die Lobbyistin gekämpft hat. 

Die Forderung auf die Wissenschaft zu hören, ein Aufruf, den die „Grünen“ quasi zu einem ihrer Markenzeichen gemacht haben, darf nicht selektiv sein. Die Nutzung der Wissenschaft für die eigenen politischen Ziele wirkt unehrlich, wenn man in Bereichen, wie Nuklearenergie, oder Gentechnik sich einfach entscheidet wegzuhören.

Deswegen, liebe „Grünen“: Hört auf die Wissenschaft, auch auf die, die nicht ins Weltbild passt. Und lasst lieber die Finger von Greenpeace – langfristig wird das allen helfen.

Anti-chemical campaigners misleadingly invoke a looming ‘insect apocalypse’ to justify demands to junk targeted, synthetic pesticides

Alternatives to sulfoxaflor exist, what are we waiting for?” titles a blog post on the website of the Belgian environmentalist NGO Nature&Progrès.

The post argues that given the available alternatives to modern insecticides, it should be reasonable to phase them out indefinitely. It claims that we are facing an insect apocalypse caused by crop protection tools – however, both statements are untrue.

The warnings of a so-called “insect apocalypse” date back to 2019, when a study titled “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers” by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the School of Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, predicted a spiralling decline of insect populations worldwide.

“It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none”Bayo told The Guardian in February.

Read the full article here

Boulder County needs to allow for choice in pesticides for farmers

In 2014, after Broomfield County had just approved licenses to keep honeybees, I bought my first two hives off of a beekeeper in Evergreen who was tired of the bears getting into them every winter. Then I attended my first meeting of the Boulder County beekeepers and learned about colony collapse disorder and the environmental stresses that lead to honeybee colonies failing.

Now, in 2021, these sentiments are being echoed to justify a ban on neonics in Boulder County, which we believe would be counterproductive to Colorado and demonstrates that one size fits all is never a good policy.

It is commonly cited within the beekeeping community that pesticides called neonics can negatively impact honeybees. An oft-invoked visualization shows a bee landing on a sunflower grown from seeds coated in neonics, triggering its neuroreceptors and leading it to collect nectar in an inefficient and bizarre pattern. While this is harmful to the foraging bees that are at the end of their lifecycle, this doesn’t mean that this is leading to colony collapse disorder or massive deaths of bees.

What’s more, recent evidence has proven that pesticides such as neonics (short for neonicotinoids) and sulfoxaflor haven’t been as responsible for declines in bee populations after all.

All beekeepers are aware of varroa mites, now present in all American honeybee colonies since first detected in the U.S. in 1987. The original research on these parasites in the 1960s hypothesized that they lived off the blood of honeybees, but a groundbreaking study published in 2019 found that this theory was false. These mites have a “voracious appetite for a honeybee organ called the fat body, which serves many of the same vital functions carried out by the human liver.”

These mites put a lot of stress on honeybee colonies and make it very hard for them to survive over the winter. While there is debate amongst the beekeeping community on whether it is right to treat honeybees for mites, most beekeepers treat their colonies at least once a year with some sort of pesticide that is safe for the bees but kills off a lot of mites. A popular method is to vaporize oxalic acid inside the hive. In this instance, pesticides assist beekeepers with preventing colony collapse disorder, further debunking the claim.

While we understand the urge to protect and promote pollinators such as honeybees in Colorado, Boulder County needs to allow farmers the choice of pesticides. Sugar beets have been grown in Colorado since 1869, as it is an ideal climate and soil for growing them. Sugar was processed in mills across our state for over a hundred years. Banning neonics means that sugar beet farmers must use the pesticide Counter, which is applied at 9.8 pounds per acre compared to 24 grams per acre for neonics.

This puts them at greater risk of exposure to pesticides and the kicker to all this is that sugar beets don’t even have a flower. This one size fits all policy isn’t about saving the bees but rather harms the local small business owners that grow Colorado sugar beets and a host of other crops.

That’s why, whether at the local level or state level, lawmakers must keep in mind that pesticides are vital for farmers and turn to science, not politics, when it comes to crafting smart policy.

Originally published here

On pesticides, “all or nothing” approaches are unhelpful

A Belgian NGO attacks crop protection products that keep food safe and affordable

“Alternatives to sulfoxaflor exist, what are we waiting for?” titles a blog post on the website of the Belgian environmentalist NGO Nature&Progrès.

The post argues that given the available alternatives to modern insecticides, it should be reasonable to phase them out indefinitely. It claims that we are facing an insect apocalypse caused by crop protection tools – however, both statements are untrue.

The warnings of a so-called “insect apocalypse” date back to 2019, when a study titled “Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers” by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, from the School of Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, predicted a spiralling decline of insect populations worldwide.

“It is very rapid. In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left and in 100 years you will have none” Bayo told The Guardian in February.

This study has since been debunked by researchers at the University of Oxford, who point out that out of the 73 studies Bayo reviewed, he highlights only those that show significant reductions in insect populations, and that he made “false statements on the lack of data for ants”.

The critiques go further. The premise of the insect apocalypse Bayo describes rests on the “red lists” – the presumably growing list of extinct species. However, the red lists contain insects that have regionally disappeared, not those that are globally extinct. In certain regions of the world, due to weather changes, certain insects displace to find more suitable living conditions. While on a case-by-case basis we can identify if human involvement, notably habitat loss, was the cause, this doesn’t mean that the insects are globally extinct.

The intellectual shortcuts in the Bayo study were striking, and not just based on an inaccurate reading of the data: three studies that he cites in support of pesticides being the only cause of insect decline do not actually say that.

Nature&Progrès goes beyond the claims made by Bayo, blaming all neonicotinoid insecticides and the neonics-alternative sulfoxaflor for insect deaths. It provides no data or link to a scientific study that underlines this argument. A hard task in any regard, namely because sulfoxaflor has not been shown to affect honeybee populations, even though this is regularly repeated.

Incidentally, Nature&Progrès dabbles in the same surface-level assumptions that lead the French National Front to demand a ban on sulfoxaflor in 2015 – an amendment rejected by the European Parliament.

Let’s not forget why European farmers use crop protection tools such as insecticides in the first place. Pests threaten crop output each year, to the extent that France has granted an exemption on its ban of neonicotinoids, as beet farmers were facing a complete wipe-out.

Meanwhile, in markets where neonic pesticides continue to be used, honeybee populations are actually steady or increasing. In short, a ban on crop protection tools threatens the livelihood of farmers, the food security of European countries, and can further increase food prices that are already affected by inflation.

Environmentalist NGOs are suggesting to move to an “agro-ecological” baseline of farming instead.

According to its original definition, agroecology is simply the study of ecological practices applied to agriculture. What started out as science, however, has morphed into a political doctrine that not only rules out modern technologies such as genetic engineering, advanced pesticides and synthetic fertilizer but explicitly extols the benefits of “peasant” and “indigenous” farming and in many cases discourages mechanization as a way of freeing the world’s poor from backbreaking agricultural labour. Add on to a hostility to international trade and intellectual property protections for innovators (“seed patents,” which are standard in all advanced crops, not just GMOs, are a frequent cause of complaint) and you can see why agroecology’s promoters so often talk about it as “transformative.”

We should remember that not all “transformations” are good. They can just as easily be bad, even catastrophic.

study by pro-agroecology activists found that applications of their principles to Europe would decrease agricultural productivity by 35% on average, which they considered a positive, as in their view Europeans eat too much anyway. It’s hard to see how a 35% drop in productivity would protect European from rising food prices, and how a complete phase-out of crop protection equipment would ensure adequate food safety.

Originally published here

Government regulations would threaten this beloved Christmas symbol

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, harsh government regulations are putting you in jeopardy.

With Christmas so close, many of us in Michigan have enjoyed a common holiday tradition this year: finding the perfect fresh Christmas tree to put up in our home. Unfortunately, harsh state regulations could put Michigan’s Christmas tree production in serious jeopardy.

Christmas trees are a big deal in this state, so much so that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently declared December “Michigan Christmas Tree Month.” Ranking third in the nation for the number of Christmas trees harvested, Michigan provides about 2 million trees to the national market every year, generating roughly $40 million in value.

With over 500 Christmas tree farms over 37,000 acres within the state, this industry is massively important and affects many Michigan residents.

However, growing Christmas trees is no easy feat. According to the Michigan Christmas Tree Association, it takes about seven years to grow a tree to commercial height, although it can take as many as 15 years in some cases.

Additionally, it is common for tree farms to plant around 2,000 trees per acre, although only about 1,250 on average survive as infestations from pests, insects and disease are common. Fortunately, there are many innovative solutions to prevent infestations and ensure that Christmas tree farmers are able to optimize their yields.

One of the innovative solutions listed in Michigan State University’s 2021 Michigan Christmas Tree Pest Management Guide is neonicotinoids or neonics, a type of insecticide with a chemical structure similar to nicotine.

Neonics have been used extensively in agriculture because they effectively target insects and pests while being significantly less harmful to wildlife than most other insecticides.

Unfortunately, there have been calls to restrict neonics in Michigan that would result in severe economic harm to our Christmas tree farms. Just earlier this year, a bill was introduced to the Michigan House that contained language banning the use of neonics, claiming that the insecticide would kill bee populations.

At one time, many believed that a decline in bee populations were a result of widespread use of neonics and substitutes such as sulfoxaflor, although this has since been debunked. In reality, the supposed drop-off in honeybee colonies was a result of how beekeepers tracked the number of bees they managed. According to research from an international group of ecologists, the number of global honey bee colonies has actually increased by 85% since 1961.

If neonics were banned in Michigan, it could economically destroy the state’s Christmas tree farms and industry, leaving many farmers out in the cold after working tirelessly to make our holidays special over the years.

Instead, legislators should “branch” out from bad policy and embrace the innovative scientific solutions that will keep Christmas in Michigan merry and bright.

Originally published here

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