Crop chemicals are killing bees all around the world, and some governments, including the UK’s Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), are taking proactive steps to help save them. But a new report published by several UK members of parliament (MPs) reveals that the very companies which stand to lose the most by new regulations, the chemical companies themselves, will be steering the “scientific research” that governs them.

A classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse, chemical companies are planning to embed themselves within the scientific committees responsible for coming up with a framework for restricting chemical use. Except that these companies have it in their best interest to not restrict chemical use, even though independent science has already shown that pesticides like neonicotinoids are responsible for phenomena such as colony collapse disorder, or CCD.

Defra has proposed a National Pollinator Strategy, the goal of which is to protect pollinating insects from mass die-offs caused by industrial agriculture techniques and other factors. Recognising the vital role that pollinators like bees and bats play in agriculture — more than three-quarters of our food supply is dependent upon them — Defra came to the conclusion that the “use of pesticides” is a major factor in bee declines, and that something must be done to curb it.

But it is clear that major elements of the program have already been infiltrated by industry insiders, hence efforts last year by certain UK environment ministers to block a European Union-wide ban on some insecticides. According to the report, chemical companies are now interfering with the process by trying to seize control of the scientific inquiry process which, if conducted honestly, would pin industrial chemicals as primary culprits in the pollinator die-off epidemic.

“When it comes to research on pesticides, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is content to let the manufacturers fund the work,” stated environmental audit select committee (EAC) chair Joan Walley to The Guardian. Walley’s group spearheaded the new report.

“This testifies to a loss of environmental protection capacity in the department responsible for it. If the research is to command public confidence, independent controls need to be maintained at every step. Unlike other research funded by pesticide companies, these studies also need to be peer-reviewed and published in full.”

EAC urges Defra not to oppose ban, concede that crop chemicals are killing bees

The European Commission is set to review the neonicotinoid ban next year, and EAC is urging Defra not to oppose the ban this next time around. Since the ban was first enacted, several new studies have confirmed that neonicotinoids are harming bees and other pollinators, and no amount of industry propaganda can change this fact.

It was recently disclosed that chemical manufacturer Syngenta, which is also a major purveyor of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), had sought “emergency” exemptions from UK health ministers that would have allowed it to continue using banned chemicals. The EAC report says Defra needs to unilaterally deny this and all other attempts by chemical companies to bypass the law.

“If the government’s action plan to protect Britain’s pollinators is to have any credibility it must back the ban on bee-harming insecticides and set out a clear strategy to reduce pesticide use,” added Friends of the Earth nature campaigner Sandra Bell, as quoted by The Guardian.

As it stands, the UK government is required by EU law to reduce pesticide use in accordance with regulations. But as of this writing, it has set no standards or timeline for implementation.