The Risk-Monger

[BlogActiv Team update: This blog post has been modified by the RiskMonger following a complaint by Dr Jean-Marc Bonmatin, Researcher, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. A further reaction by the RiskMonger can be found at the bottom of this page.]

The Risk-Monger recently came across a strategy document carelessly left on-line by activist scientists that lies at the heart of the founding of the IUCN Taskforce on Systemic Pesticides. The Addendum to this document (see page 3) spells out a rather distasteful anti-neonicotinoid campaign strategy lacking in scientific integrity. The process has been tried and tested before by activists, but their behaviour has never been so clearly articulated in writing. I thought this document should be shared so we know the type of people are standing behind the “science” defending the bees.

How did this story unfold?

  • Under the auspices of the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a group of activists map out a four-year campaign strategy to attack the pesticide industry and seek the banning of neonicotinoids.
  • The idea is to collect like-minded researchers, get funding to set up a task-force to attack neonics using the IUCN as a base with WWF (or some other NGO) doing the lobbying.
  • Once funding is in place for the campaign organisation, start the research, write a main high-impact report and get a few other articles published (find some big names to use).
  • On that basis, organise a broader campaign (with the support of several high-impact PR specialists) to promote their anti-neonic publication.
  • Brace for reactions and blowback from other scientists and industry.

One little issue to note: no credible scientist starts with a campaign strategy and then conjures up some evidence as an afterthought to fit his or her activist agenda. That is not science! It is lacking in integrity and detrimental to the reputation of researchers the world over, which this band of activists were quite happy to decimate for a chance to play politics.

They were also more successful than they would have ever have imagined, getting neonics banned in the EU 16 months ahead of their strategic plan. The Risk-Monger would like to examine their document and consider why these activists not only lack scientific best practices, but also why policymakers should run clear of using their contrived research as evidence.

The story starts in 2010 during a meeting at the IUCN offices in Switzerland.

On the 14th June 2010 Prof. Goeldlin and Dr. Bijleveld met in Switzerland with Dr. Simon Stuart, Chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and Ir. Piet Wit, Chairman of the IUCN Ecosystems Management Commission.

Based on the results of the meeting in Paris the following was agreed that the four key research papers will be published in peer-reviewed journals. Building on these papers a research paper will be submitted to Science (first choice) or Nature (second choice) which would introduce new analyses and findings across the scientific disciplines to demonstrate as convincingly as possible the impact of neonicotionoides (sic) on insects, birds, other species, ecosystem functions, and human livelihoods.

So scientists who cannot even spell “neonicotinoids” are planning to get new research and findings that will “demonstrate, as convincingly as possible” that neonics are a risk. A risk to what? To anything and everything they can find. The goal is not science here, but to conjure up some evidence to fit the objective of banning neonicotinoids. A credible scientist would do research, gather evidence and draw conclusions. An activist scientist would start with a dogmatic conclusion and look for the evidence to prove his or her political point.

The IUCN activist strategy document continues:

This high-impact paper would have a carefully selected first author, a core author team of 7 people or fewer (including the authors of the initial four papers), and a broader set of authors to give global and interdisciplinary coverage. A significant amount of the supporting evidence will be in the official Supporting Online Material accompanying the paper. A parallel « sister » paper (this would be a shorter Policy Forum paper) could be submitted to Science simultaneously drawing attention to the policy implications of the other paper, and calling for a moratorium in the use and sale of neonicotinoid pestcides (sic). We would try to pull together some major names in the scientific world to be authors of this paper.

So after conjuring up some evidence, this activist group of researchers would then select a few big names to pose as authors. For those readers who had assumed that scientists worked on the material that they published in peer review journals, well, they actually do. These are not real scientists, but what the Risk-Monger, in a previous blog, has dubbed “activist scientists” whose antics, whether it is on endocrine disruption, GMOs, chemicals or this subject, neonicotinoids, is not at all credible or scientific. Their plans to pull together some major names for a Policy Forum paper (which their friends at Science will also apparently gladly publish) are not intended to advance the body of research in the field of neonicotinoids; are not intended to further scientific discovery; are not intended to enhance knowledge and human understanding – those would all be noble scientific objectives. Rather, the goal is to call “for a moratorium in the use and sale of neonicotinoid pesticides”. That is not science at all! That is politics (and activist scientists somehow do not understand that such behaviour is deceptive, unethical and damaging to the reputation of science). By the way, the journal Science didn’t fall for this nonsense and did not publish it, nor did Nature.

Page 3 of the activist science anti-pesticide strategy document

I really wish that someone made this text up as a joke, but this document came off of the website of one of the activist scientists, Henk Tennekes. As I suspect they will quickly take the document off line, here is a PDF of the text (see page 3): Resumé INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ON NEONICOTINOIDS Comments Henk Tennekes– or see the screenshot image above with link stamp . There is no “For internal use only” label anywhere on the document, so the Risk-Monger recognised it as a public document. Why Tennekes felt it practical to leave such evidence on the Internet quite simply baffles me. Do they think that their noble quest to save the bees makes them impervious to judgement or needing to behave acceptably? Do they get, at all, what scientific integrity means?

The generals in the war-room continue their strategy:

If we are successful in getting these two papers published, there will be enormous impact, and a campaign led by WWF etc could be launched right away. It will be much harder for politicians to ignore a research paper and a Policy Forum paper in Science.

So once the carefully chosen data is published, we bring in the attack dogs to hit those bastards hard. Since this was a meeting at the IUCN, the weapon of choice was obvious – their daughter NGO lobbying group, WWF. One of the two authors of this strategy document, Maarten Bijleveld, also happened to be a founding member of WWF in the Netherlands. It must have disappointed him to no end that WWF decided to pass on such a salacious bone, but I suppose after the IPCC Himalaya-gate, WWF also have to vet whom they refer to as scientists.

The IUCN, however, did not give this activism a pass and it should be noted that while they pretend to be the credible voice of international conservation, the IUCN’s support of such a mercenary band of anti-scientific activists shows they are as much a pig in the mud as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth.

It all comes down to winning the lobbying campaign, as the next part of the strategy document demonstrates:

The most urgent thing is to obtain the necessary policy change to have these pesticides banned, not to start a campaign. A stronger scientific basis for the campaign will hopefully mean a shorter campaign. In any case, this is going to take time, because the chemical industry will throw millions into a lobbying exercise.

This is the tried and tested activist technique (think Séralini on GMOs). If you want to win a campaign, first go out and create some science. If you can get a few big names to support your science, it makes the campaign shorter and more successful.

What infuriates the Risk-Monger is how naïve their view of industry is. This is not a game and their ideas on how they can win are irresponsible and offensive. That industry will just throw millions into a lobbying exercise (like it is nothing and there is no point to it all) is truly ridiculous. If the chemical industry has a product or substance with weak science or a poor sustainability record, they will not throw millions at it – they will abandon it. Industry is forced to lobby when activist scientists like these conjure up evidence in an attempt to damage the reputation or sales of their products, technologies or business. When companies believe their products are safe, beneficial and irreplaceable, they will do what they can to defend it. At Solvay, we “threw millions” at defending chlorine because we knew it was safe, has saved billions of lives (look at how it has been used to stop the spread of Ebola today) and has done an enormous amount of good for society.

That activists think they can just keep attacking these products or substances (think also GMOs) until companies like Solvay just give up and let them win is narrow-minded and disgusting. Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science are doing what they can to defend neonics, not because it is a game, but because they know the value of the products and understand how safe they are (as farmers will always need to protect their crops, these companies could just as easily make profits selling older, more toxic products). Just ask the farmers in the UK, who have lost a considerable amount of their oilseed rape crop in the first year of the neonic ban, if they think this is simply a lobbying exercise! It is not a game nor an exercise (except, perhaps, to these activist scientists).

The activist scientist strategy document concludes:

In order to prepare for the paper to be submitted to Science it is necessary to plan it simultaneously with the first four more detailed papers (to be sure that the first four papers do not unintentionally undermine the proposed high-impact one). A small meeting is therefore needed to do the necessary planning including the authors of the first four papers, David Gibbons/Mark Avery, Maarten Bijleveld, Pierre Goeldlin, the IUCN SSC and CEM Chairs (or their designates) and one or two people experienced in high-impact publishing (such as Ana Rodriguez).

Pierre Goeldlin / Maarten Bijleveld

Notre Dame de Londres/ Clarens, 15th July 2010

Unlike traditional research processes, where evidence is gathered and then published, read in journals by scientists, cited in other works to help advance the scientific body of knowledge, activist scientists directly employ people experienced in “high-impact publishing” – in other words, PR hacks. Ana Rodriguez was apparently not available or interested, so perhaps she referred them to one of her colleagues, communications specialist, Laura Maxim. Although not a bee scientist, she seems to have been prolifically publishing papers on bees with activist scientists since 2010. One of her unique achievements has been serving as co-author with Jeroen Van der Sluijs (head of the scientific committee of the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides, although himself, also, not a bee scientist) on the chapter on the threat to bees in the European Environment Agency’s second volume of Late Lessons from Early Warnings. Mystifying!

The second “high-impact” PR hack to serve the bee-activists is none other than Mirella von Lindenfels, one-time media head for Greenpeace who now runs a communications PR firm out of the UK. She was the one employed to set up the communications platform and the launch of the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides back in June of this year. If the name Mirella von Lindenfels sounds familiar to the readers of this blog, it might be worth going back a few years when she was responsible for setting up another activist science front group known as IPSO – The International Programme on the State of the Oceans. In 2011, she was supporting a renegade activist scientist who wanted to build up an international sounding scientific body, but when she published the names of the 26 international scientists, the Risk-Monger and other bloggers discovered that very few of them were actually scientists (although several of them were affiliated with IUCN). This time around, Mirella learnt her lesson and is not publishing the list of scientists belonging to the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides. I have written to her office and to the IUCN to get a copy of the member list. Neither has replied to my request. Canny? Yes. Transparent? No.

And this is how, in 2010, the IUCN Task Force on Systemic Pesticides began.

Restore Credibility for Science

The Risk-Monger is quite alarmed to see scientists behaving in such a manner and is calling for the following:

  • These activist scientists should be ostracised from the scientific community. Journals should refuse to accept papers for peer review submitted with the names of these campaigners.
  • Scientific bodies and academies need to be more diligent in policing non-scientific activities of their members. Their campaigning only hurts the credibility of such scientific bodies and journals who publish them and must be sanctioned.
  • We have to be aware that activist science (research that prioritises politics rather than evidence) is not reliable for risk assessments, policymaking or media attention. Once brandished as activist science, the data and information should be recategorised as politics and not science. If industry scientists are excluded for lacking objective neutrality, then excluding such activists is a no-brainer.
  • There is, now more than ever, the need to restore the post of Chief Scientific Adviser in the European Commission. The role of Anne Glover was to sort out the policy activists from the credible scientists before they can influence policymakers. That she did not give in to the activist scientists malicious personal campaign tactics had no doubt caused her a lot of personal grief.
  • Policymakers need to go back and assess where their decisions may have been contaminated by activist science and rectify it, whether it is at the IPCC (eg, Himalaya-gate), GMOs or the ban on neonicotinoids. In the US, many activists and several congressmen are citing this IUCN taskforce as the basis for a similar ban on neonics. They cannot be serious!

The Ethical Challenge

Unlike credible researchers who follow guidelines based on Good Laboratory Practice (GLP) or industry scientists, who, on top of GLP, follow industry-wide codes of ethical conduct, these activist scientists do not feel compelled to behave in an ethical manner. The Risk-Monger has been calling long and hard on NGOs to join the civilised world and impose ethical rules on the behaviour of their campaigners and scientists (do not lie, do not falsify evidence, accept facts, behave responsibility …). They absolutely will not, as they feel that their beliefs in saving the planet override any need to respect basic principles of humanity. But in the questionable behaviour of the founding members of the IUCN Taskforce on Systemic Pesticides, humanity should ask whether they, in turn, deserve respect.

 

In the next section of this three-part blog, I plan to assess the qualifications of the 30-odd scientists who claim affiliation with this anti-neonic taskforce as well as examine the organisations who are funding their research and the IUCN. It will be underwhelming.

 

Addendum (added 3 December 2014)

A public apology to Jean-Marc Bonmatin

Dear Dr Bonmatin

EurActiv has forwarded your charges of criminal proceedings against me for the above blog which you have deemed personally insulting and also insulting to your employers. I have forwarded them to my lawyer and he was rather confused, given that, as a blog covering the history of the formation of the IUCN taskforce, you were not involved, nor were you mentioned in the exposé I have written, nor have I insulted your employer (although to your request, I removed the name of your organisation as an act of good faith) – I have no idea what the other organisation is, but as you say you are an expert tied to them, apparently my actions have also insulted them and they are also joining in said criminal proceedings. My lawyer feels that I do not need to remove the blog (BlogActiv asked me to soften the language a bit, which I had done), but that I should, in any case, make a public apology for any insult you may have suffered from my analysis of a 2010 document. I am sorry, and in my next blog, I promise not to assess your scientific qualifications as part of the analysis of the IUCN taskforce, you have demonstrated in your letter (which out of respect to you, I will not publish) that you are clearly a credible scientist. I regret that you had inferred from my analysis of a document you were not involved in, that I was questioning your research.

As a point of mutual respect, I hope you agree with me that debates should never be behind closed doors (whether it is from activists or industry lobbyists). Having the debate about whether the IUCN taskforce has gathered the best scientists in the field should not be done in a courtroom nor in a backroom political situation. I would therefore like to invite you to come to Brussels to debate me or others about your science, in the Parliament or my university or at an NGO office. You can also express your views about the above strategy document – I welcome your views on other points as well (like a Chief Scientific Adviser or an activist code of ethics) – the Risk-Monger concept is based on the idea that debate sometimes needs to be provoked, and if you disagree with me, that is wonderful – if I can strengthen your arguments against me by being a focal point, then the chief goal of dialogue has been attained. Going to a lawyer to try to shut me up is, I hope you can agree, Dr Bonmatin, not a very efficient form of dialogue. A little while ago, you had declared neonicotinoids to be the new DDT. I am sure you would not want the lawyers from Syngenta and BayerCropScience to engage in a similar form of dialogue with you.

Looking forward to meeting you in public for a robust debate.

 

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Comments

  1. Indeed, very revealing! These tactics are not confined to the NGOs though… All lobbyists use them. At least this attempt was blocked by reputable peer-review journals.
    Other lobbyists avoid this hurdle: look at the biofuel lobby, who have repeatedly paid consultants to write reports backing their dubious claims, which are usually circulated directly to MEPs, Commissioners and the press without even attempting to get them into peer-reviewed journals. That has the advantage that no other scientists can challenge the paper, in the peer-review literature. For a recent example see http://www.euractiv.com/sections/energy/report-eu-underestimates-biofuels-greenhouse-gas-savings-50-309908.

    …Not that it’s difficult to get lobby-inspired papers into some minor peer-review journal, especially if those are de-facto controlled by the lobby themselves, or another industry with mutual interests (e.g. agriculture lobby).

    1. Thank you Climate Guy – I agree completely – lobbyists come in all shades and occupations (ten years ago, I lobbied for industry so I know the game). But we have to get out of the mindset that only industry lobbies and these poor NGOs are on the street corners trying to defend the innocent. Large global NGOs have huge budgets (all for communications), sophisticated PR strategies and networks of networks – they take long-term plans on how to change the world, and are very successful in dictating policy agendas (industry is only reacting, too little and far too late). The activists are now running circles around industry (forming subgroups like ALTER-EU and CEO to pretend that it is still only industry that lobbies. Now the activist scientists are getting involved – and with the PR power of the NGOs and a wider public trust, the evidence game is getting skewed – see an interesting blog released in the US today, on a similar theme but also building on how the activist scientists are manipulating peer review by banding into these agenda-driven taskforces – citing and peer reviewing each other: http://www.science20.com/science_20/when_it_comes_to_neonics_activists_understand_pr_better_than_chemical_companies_do-150299

  2. The neonics debate has a long history going back to the 1990s. There’s nothing wrong with the concern of IUCN officials that neonics are going to cause a disaster, particularly after the publication of the authoritative CST (Comité Scientifique et Technique) report by the French government in 2003. That concern gained momentum by my discovery in 2009 about the dose-response characteristics of neonics in arthropods, which are identical to those of genotoxic carcinogens, for which very strict risk assessment procedures apply. The conclusion that neonics may not have a safe exposure level was highly disturbing, in view of widespread environmental pollution with neonics. So, the concern of the IUCN was well justified, Your conspiracy insinuations are ludicrous.A ban on neonics is an absolute necessity unless you want to become witness of ecosystem collapse. There’s nothing wrong with IUCN’s endeavour to bring it about

    1. Thank you Hank, Henk and Adolph for your comments. Hank, people have a right to litigate or censor if they so choose, and it is not for me to judge how others wish to act (it reminds me to be more careful with my choice of vocabulary … which is not a bad thing!). That so many don’t take such shortcuts and prefer to discuss different views openly makes this world a more interesting place. Henk, although we don’t share the same views, I appreciate you taking the time to engage and listen to other views and I respect you for that. I have never argued that neonics are blameless, although I feel fairly confident that the older technologies now put in use once again to replace neonics are much worse. What concerns me is when a group of scientists come together and take a complex issue like bees and provide a single answer. The European Commission has walked off thinking they have now solved the problem, ticked that box and moved on. Now Washington looks to be moving in the same direction. This is not correct policy, and if there is a problem with bees, many argue there is not, it is no longer being addressed. Evidence of the Varroa mite as part of the problem seems very strong, although what is weakening the bees to succumb to this virus? Others suspect the rise in monoculture farming and that is evident in situations like CCD in California with these massive almond plantations. The European Commission released a report that attributed large bee losses to cold winters, and meanwhile, I believe Slovenia (largely neonic-free) had sharp declines in bee populations this summer because it was unseasonally wet. Others feel that climate change, GMOs and electromagnetic fields are contributing factors. Next year there will likely be far less oilseed rape planted (one third of the UK agricultural production) because of crop losses post neonic ban – oilseed rape is rich in pollen so I wonder what will happen then.
      When one group comes in and pushes aggressively for one view over others and tries to halt alternative thinking, that is when I speak out. I call it commonality (a manufactured perception that we all agree and thus no longer need to exchange differing ideas – the need to be right overcomes the right to be listened to) and it is a concept I have been developing over the five years since I had started this blog (it will be part of a book … someday). If the IUCN set up a taskforce that engaged all potential threats and welcomed industry researchers to share their evidence and data, then I would not be so critical. Thank you for listening, Henk!

  3. This is not only an outstanding bit of fact-finding but it’s also vital to make sure that science remains in the interests of public good.

    Bonmatin is, unfortunately, the exact kind of social authoritarian that has created public distrust of scientists. Why should the public believe government researchers on global warming if a government scientist with a pet cause in bees bullies citizens into submission when they show how manipulative this process has been? His conduct is more French Revolution than the 21st century kind. He is going to behead you legally to prevent any criticism.

    You may need to delete this comment, of course, or Bonmatin may sue or Frédéric Simon may demand this whole blog post be removed. I understand that. But in doing so they are proving the point that politics triumphs over evidence in the EU.

  4. interesting 🙂 Such strategy documents are indeed quite instructive about lobbying tactics. They also show how crucial scientific evidence is to lobbying.

    But your piece is also a bit misleading, if I may. The hypothetico-deductive approach is a normal scientific practice, what’s wrong in being political in the choice of your study? The real scientific crime is to falsify your data to suit your poltical objectives, but as far as I can see in the document and in your article there is nothing in that direction. You can be as political as you want in the hypothesis you want to test, if others reach the same result as you using the same methodolgy then the evidence you have produced is valid. This is a strategy document, but what are the studies at stake, have their results been reproduced or not? Perhaps you write somewhere and I haven’t paid enough attention, but I don’t think I have seen anything.

    Of course these guys try to hype up the role of neonics because they assume it’s an important factor, but this kind of lobbying blaming one factor and not the others is all over the place. The neonics procuders are behaving just similarly by putting the blame on varroa and on the lack of food for bees – they have this nice little program to fund farmers to plant flowers, looks wonderful on their glossy brochures…

    All this begs one question: where are public research funds? Shouldn’t EU budget funds be used to fund research which would be independent from both activists and industry?

    1. Good comments Sue – public funding should indeed provide a check on how other researchers behave (but this assumes that research consortia themselves are not self-forming around common interest.
      As for the quality of their research work, I did mention that there would be three parts to this blog – part two will assess the research credentials and funding of the taskforce members. Good things come to those who wait!

  5. #VI. There’s nothing wrong with scientists acting on compelling evidence that environmental pollution with neonics is going to cause an environmental disaster of unprecedented proportions. The decline of birds and bees is telling us that something is desperately wrong with the environment. Neonics are polluting the environment wherever they are used. They are exceptionally toxic to invertebrates, particularly in the long run. Safe exposure levels may not exist. The IUCN deserves praise for their timely effort to prevent ecosystem collapse.

  6. I note the public apologies about the defamatory article.

    The above version is a very personnal interpretation from David Zaruk .
    IT IS TOTALLY IN OPPOSITION TO THE FACTS.

    I strongly suggest to the readers to take the informations at the source, because all has been published with tranparency: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11356-014-3220-1

    The works have begun well before July 2010 and the document provided by David Zaruk is a draft in review mode.

    Who is writing the conclusions before collecting the true informations?

    Dr Bonmatin JM

    1. Thank you for the link Dr Bonmatin. One element that I cannot seem to find is information on how much seed capital was provided by Triodos Foundation and then the contributions for TFSP by the Triodos Foundation’s Support Fund for Independent Research on Bee Decline and Systemic Pesticides. I have poured through the accounts at the IUCN, Triodos Foundation (in Dutch) and the TFSP site and have not found anything. As this organisation is involved in policy debates, normally it should register under the European Transparency Register and declare all of its sources of revenue (the IUCN registry was vague and Triodos declared “zero”). As the same is expected of other organisations and industry lobbyists, I would appreciate some clarity on this. Thank you.

  7. Dear Risk Monger,

    I think it is high time now you come up with substantial evidence about your allegations, namely that there has been scientific fraud. Call me impatient, but for the moment the only evidence you have produced is that these guys had political motivations – and this is a non-story. If you don’t go further and prove that they have basically tweaked their data according to the conclusions they were trying to reach you will appear as only having tried to build up a smear campaign against the IUCN and these scientists… and you will be at high risk of losing any libel case brought against you. It’s not as if scientists were apolitical creatures!

    1. I am sorry for the delay in bringing out the second blog, Sue, so many people have sent me information it is hard to follow everything up. This group has created so many enemies in the academic world by their exclusion and campaigning. I am not a bee scientist so I am not going to choose sides on what level of exposure bee field trials should be at, the distances involved to be legitimate and the size of the control groups – the word “realistic” sounds reasonable in designing research parameters but the bee scientists should be the ones discussing that (and not led by only one group with campaign funding, an anti-industry agenda and a PR manager). We not longer have a Chief Scientific Adviser in Europe so I cannot expect this to be done properly now.
      I do not think it is a smear campaign to ask questions on the motivations, funding and agenda of these scientists – credible scientists work very hard to keep bias out of their research – if bias is built into the research at the outset (either in research parameters, funding or agenda), shouldn’t we ask these questions? If industry were doing this, would it be a non-story? I see double standards everywhere. And when we start building policy that affects so many individuals and the environment, shouldn’t we make sure we are using the best science. Many of these scientists are now campaigning to change the risk assessment process. Just because you may like what one side is saying, or do not like what others are doing is not a a reason to give any group a pass on due diligence. Religious communities do this all of the time, scientists should not.
      So Sue, are you saying that I am not allowed to ask someone how they are funded when everyone else has to declare it? If a group of scientists are using disagreed upon parameters to develop data that will lead to a ban on pesticides, and they are funded by five organisations that campaign for organic food, are you suggesting that we should be OK with that? What if you were concerned about the loss of food production and the risks to developing countries’ food security and development? Subjectivity and bias in our decision-making is rife everywhere here.
      I have said from the beginning that the Risk-Monger was designed to be a type of Socratic gadfly – asking uncomfortable questions to everyone. It seems we cannot expect the same standards applied to everyone (especially those who scream louder or have lawyers). I am developing a taste for hemlock.

  8. I am one of the scientists campaigning for a change in the risk assessment of pesticides. That’s because there is sound evidence that we have seriously underestimated the chronic toxicity of neonics to arthropods. EFSA has adopted my recommendations. There are pesticides out there that may not have safe exposure levels. Are you saying we should not act on groundbreaking discoveries? Surely not.

    1. If there are problems with RA approaches because of changes in risks or technologies, then it cannot be adjusted by a group campaigning behind closed doors. We have used ALARA for centuries – chucking it and imposing new rules without discussions or even informing the organisations that thought they had complied (reason for the case against the Commission) is not an acceptable practice. There are proper procedures for this (that is the subject of my third blog though).

  9. Hi Risk-Monger,

    don’t get me wrong: you might be sued because some libel laws (esp UK ones) are so terrible that they allow anybody with deep pockets to sue anyone publishing allegations without super-solid proof (and even then…). This is a permanent threat against the freedom of information that I think you must be aware of.

    I don’t have the time to answer all your points but:

    – you do not only criticise these scientists’ “motivations, funding and agenda”, which is your absolute right, but you accuse them of being “activist scientists” which, in your own words (cf your previous blog), means “start with the conclusions and adapt the evidence”. This is an accusation of scientific fraud, period. Where is your evidence for this? Nowhere, and you now tell me that you are not going to look into this because “you are not a bee scientist”. I think you should have abstained from some of your accusations, then!

    – industry is like everyone (and indeed particularly religious communities), they prefer self-serving evidence – especially when sending data for market authorisation to regulatory authorities -, but you cannot generalise and accuse them of systematic fraud, there’s just no evidence of this. Scientific fraud must be challenged by all means and wherever it comes from.

    – Socrates had (according to Plato’s testimony, of course) a unique gift in exposing everybody’s inner contradictions, enabling him to joyfully explode false beliefs and hypocrisy. That’s a rare and precious gift. But I mainly read accusations here…

    1. The 2010 strategy document plans out the publication of a series of articles, adding big names randomly, and how a campaign would be built around it with the sole intention of banning neonicotinoids. They are not only starting out with the conclusions but also clear strategic objectives (ban a large group of pesticides) and then, in the process (after getting funding from some anti-pesticide foundations), go out to get the evidence. Where is the scientific method here? Worse, they would make their points with a literature review of over 800 articles – assuming they had read a quarter of them (the ones of colleagues they agree with), what would have happened if the other 600 all contained evidence that discredited their objectives. Literature reviews are always controversial because it involves subjective selection criteria (the endocrine disrupting chemicals debate, for the last 20 years, was based on an overly subjective literature review by an overly zealous activist scientist).
      As for fraud, I never made that claim. I don’t consider it good science but I haven’t seen anything to use the L word). In yesterday’s blog, I tried to understand how only the IUCN scientists are getting so emotional about a bee apocalypse. They firmly believe what they are saying or wanting to say (so I don’t believe they are liars), they surround themselves with a handful of other scientists who reaffirm or build on their views and disregard dissenting voices as industry shills. This confirmation bias is common in a world where we find comfort in silos, but such subjectivity can lead to some pretty poor science.
      In the last week I have had a fair bit of criticism from those leading anti-pesticide campaigns for trying to discredit the scientists. I think they did a pretty good job discrediting themselves, not only by putting their conclusions before the proof, but also by telling everyone in a written document. I simply felt that it should be shared in our open and transparent world.

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