Did Bayer (and the EPA) Kill The Honeybees?

A leaked EPA memo is being cited by scientists as smoking gun evidence of likely cause of the massive die-off of honeybees. The culprits, these researchers claim, are Bayer CropScience and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The memo details how Bayer performed facially inadequate testing on the pesticide clothianidin and then EPA accepted the results to release the pesticide without adequate proof that it would not harm the bee population. The EPA gave conditional approval in 2003 and let Bayer sell the product.

The EPA memo dated November 2, 2010 says that the EPA accepted the flawed research and only told the company to complete further safety testing by a certain deadline. The company did not complete the research for years and instead fought to get extensions on its conditional permit. The final testing was reportedly flawed — performed in another country with bees that were located on a small patch of treated crops surrounded by thousands of acres on untreated crops. The EPA quickly embraced the defective study and gave full registration to clothianidin in 2007 during the Bush Administration. Yet, even in the Obama Administration in November, 2010, the EPA did not act when the company filed for another extension.

On a political level, this is a fascinating story since many Republican candidates have been calling for the elimination or reduction of the EPA to help the economy. The loss of the honeybees represents a catastrophic blow for agriculture in the United States. Even if you are a candidate with little concern for public health or the environment, this is an example of how pollution or harmful chemicals hurt the economy.

On a legal level, the story would create an interesting question if true. The company stands accused of doing rigged and delayed field testing in order to get a defective product to market. The result is claimed to be the devastation of honeybees that are vital to farms and other businesses. Can they now sue? The problem will be proving causation in such a massive tort case. Of course, a trial would produce greater scrutiny than was the case at the EPA.

I am also concerned that this memo had to be leaked. Once again, neither the agency nor Congress informed the nation of this evidence for years as the world has searched for a cause of the loss. Even if this is not found to the cause or only cause, there remains questions of why this company was able to introduce such a chemical into the environment with so little scrutiny. The reliance on industry testing has long been controversial and the lack of serious scrutiny during both the Bush and Obama Administrations shows how industry continues to exercise a disturbing degree of control over the data used to evaluate their products.

Source: PR Watch

45 thoughts on “Did Bayer (and the EPA) Kill The Honeybees?”

  1. HenMan,

    You’re on a roll… and keepin’ some of us smiling…. Thanks again.
    Great lyrics.

  2. We all know a little of (Mathematical) Induction: if the case is true for ONE (Non-Trivial) case, and for a second case, then it is always true.

    The EPA proved time and again that it incapable to be a faithful steward of our Health.

    By the same Induction Law, Mr. Obama, as the Supervisor of the EPA, is a serial failure!

    We all need heavenly help !

  3. Mike – don’t you know that corporations will never misbehave because the market would punish them? Oh, sure, there may be a few bad apples once in a while but over all no company would ever do anything that might hurt them in the long run. We had thousands of example of this corporate morality and altruism right up until those eeeevil Roosevelts (both T & F) stuck the governments heavy hand upon them. And once St. Ronnie and his acolytes undid so much that damage no corporation has done a single short-sighted thing to inflate their profits but cause damage in the long run.

  4. An imagined summation of Roco’s views:

    We don’t need no stinking environmental protection messing up corporate profits. Pollution is as good as Greed!

  5. Frankly said, “Republicans are fond of saying we should run the government like a business – how many businesses do you know that would hire a CEO who wanted the company to fail? How many Boards of Directors would permit the CEO to fill key departments with incompetents and people who actively tried to undermine the work of their departments?

    “The only thing sadder is that a majority of the people who can drag their sorry asses to the polls actually fall for this shit and elect people who will ensure the failure of those who voted for them.”

    Excuse my shouting, but WELL SAID!

  6. I think you seize the assets of the C level execs to start with – every one of them during the time this was going on – every goddam dime. My guess is after doing that a time or two these clowns would start “knowing” what is happening on their watch. “Claw back” is the term used in fraud recovery I believe.

    I love how CEOs defend their obscene income because they are responsible for everything that goes on at the company. Then when they get caught (see: Enron, Worldcom WaMu and . . . well, just about everyone else) they suddenly had no idea that such things could be happening.

  7. Gene, I would go Mike A. one better. Revoke the corporate charter of the corporation and auction off it’s assets.

    In a kind of fashion, that is what the government did to AT&T by forcing it to spin off and separate from its divisions. Kind of hard on the employees due to rampant anxiety, but better for the country and consumers in the long run.

  8. Mike A.,

    Succinct and the best argument against limitations on civil damages that can be made.

  9. rafflaw:

    I would hope judges would not be partisan and follow the rules. However based on history that is a good deal to ask.

  10. Martin Fitch:

    Privatization of the EPA is not the answer. Although it is a good idea, EPA needs ot go extinct.

  11. Wonder if the EPA will come up in tonight’s debate. Perry wants to burn the EPA while Texas burns.

  12. michaelb – whom would you suggest to protect us from the power of greed and fraud? The corporations have no reason to. In an ideal world corporations would make a profit, government would constrain them from selling dangerous or faulty products and voters would constrain government from getting out of hand.

    The problem we are currently experiencing comes from corporations controlling the government. They have done this through a combination of using their vastly superior wealth to fund candidates that they then own and running slick PR campaigns that have convinced a sizable minority of voters that all will be well if only corporations have their way with us and government is their only enemy. They have been very successful at this.

    Examples: They convinced people that tobacco was not deadly, then that it was not addictive and then that it was not their fault and who could have known? It worked well enough that they kept the government at bay for over 50 years despite the overwhelming evidence. They are doing the same thing now with climate change & it is working so well that we are watching the predicted disasters happen right in front of us and they still deny it. They are doing it with deregulation and tax cuts – the economy performed better with higher tax rates and did not have the calamitous boom and bust cycles when there were better regulations. Yet today the ill-informed (who according to one recent study spend a grand total of 5 minutes thinking about their Presidential choices) still believe the only thing stopping us to high taxes and over regulation. Tax rates are lower than they were in 1950 for Christ sake.

    Corporations without control is oligarchy but these new Masters Of the Universe have devised a way to combine the force of government with their power for a truly frightening future.

  13. A quick look at the Wikipedia page for Clothianidin starts off with something interesting…

    Don’t just beat up on Bayer, the product was co-developed with Takeda! Why does the name “Takeda” sound familiar? Because of their partnership with Abbot – TAP Pharma, which faced criminal charges and earned a nearly $1 Billion fine.

  14. Paul,

    “I also see the revolving door with industry as a real problem…”

    I agree. That’s been one of the big problems with the SEC.

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