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Posted 23 December 04

(This article appeared in the Apis-Uk newsletter Dec 04 and is reproduced by permission of Durham Beekeepers)

DURHAM BEEKEEPERS' ASSOCIATION

Proposition to the BBKA Annual Delegates' Meeting January 2005

Dear Secretary/Delegate,

Our members are most concerned about the relationship that presently exists between the BBKA Executive Committee and several agrochemical companies. In exchange for financial sponsorship through the trading arm BBKA Enterprises Ltd. they are endorsing certain products as "bee friendly". The active ingredient in some of these products, such as Lambda Cyhalothrin, is known to be " highly toxic to bees". This fact is set aside by BBKA spokesmen on the grounds that "the products are perfectly safe if used correctly

We all know that products are not always used correctly and strict regulations are often put in place if they go wrong. The BBKA have for a long time had a good working relationship with agrochemical companies and boast that their plan for safe spraying was readily adopted by the industry. Many beekeepers, and their associations, entered into a voluntary relationship with local farmers and spray operators to ensure that products were used correctly.

The financial agreements between BBKA Enterprises Ltd and the agrochemical companies have been made, and contracts signed, without prior referral to the members; the first reference to the arrangement was in the Financial report to the ADM in 2003. Information published in the BBKA News sometimes seems to lack clarity and openness over the arrangements. We feel that entering a financial agreement such as this is unnecessarily too close an arrangement, and provides a different slant to the earlier relationships where neither party was beholden.

The income from the companies has been compared to £1.50 per member, giving the impression that the money is saving an increase in affiliation fees. This is not the case; the Charity Commission rules forbid members to benefit directly from such income. The proceeds have, in fact, been used to purchase equipment such as curtains for BBKA headquarters.

Durham representatives have raised the matter at BBKA open forums and at the ADMs. A response from a member of the Executive Committee was that if Durham is not happy with the situation they should put a proposal forward to the next ADM.

The proposal that we intend submitting is:

"That BBKA and BBKA Enterprises Ltd end their financial relationship of product endorsement with all companies that manufacture and sell products that are toxic to bees as soon as is contractually possible".

This will, at least, force a debate at the ADM and allow delegates to express the degree of support for this venture. It should be fully understood that this is not a general attack on either the BBKA Executive Committee or the BBKA Enterprises Ltd; it is about one small but, nevertheless, very important issue, which could have been and which should have been shared with members before the event

In order to submit this proposal it needs to be seconded. Durham BKA are asking for likeminded beekeepers either to agree to second this proposal or to write to the BBKA Executive Committee to show support for it to be accepted for the ADM 2005. George Eames, Secretary. E-mail:  george.eames@durham.ac.uk

Durham Beekeepers' Association President Ian Copinger wrote in 2003

1. I have written this note as no more than a basis for discussion on the grounds that you've got to start from somewhere. It contains all the published announcements and dealings between BBKA Enterprises and the agrochemical industry that I can find, mostly in BBKA news. There may well be more somewhere??

2. I thought BBKA Enterprises Ltd, in the form of Mr. Badger, would welcome this proposal. It is an arrangement which the company directors have made without any referral to the membership. I suspect that Mr. Badger will believe that he can convince the delegates at an ADM that his cause is right and that, on a vote, he will carry the day. Suddenly BBKA Enterprises Ltd will have our permission to do whatever they want.

3. Proposal: That B.B.K.A. and B.B.K.A. Enterprises Ltd. end their present financial relationship of endorsement and sponsorship with all (or with agrochemical-) companies as soon as contractually possible.

4. BBKA Enterprises Ltd., hereafter called "the company" is the trading arm of the registered charity BBKA. Its formation was made necessary by the rules governing charities.

5. Over the last two years it has come to light that the company have, without reference to or discussion with the members come to arrangements with some agrochemical companies to endorse certain of their products in return for financial sponsorship. The company has signed contracts with these manufacturers.

6. It might not be quite fair to say that the transactions were carried out under a veil of secrecy but equally it cannot be said that they were carried out in the full glare of publicity.

7. in BBKA news 129 May 2001, Mr Davies the Chairman, announces "new financial management through our trading company BBKA Enterprises Ltd., and newly negotiated sponsorships with interested national companies and trusts". On page 4 is published the announcement by FMC Corporation that BBKA endorses Fury as a BEE SAFE product. It is also stated that Fury contains zeta-cypermethrin. There is nothing in the chairman's statement or FMC's announcement to necessarily link the two together since the chairman carefully failed to mention agrochemical companies being involved in the sponsorship.

8. BBKA news 139, February 2003 carries a statement by the treasurer of the company announcing a "turnover of over £12.000 which mainly came from sponsorship and donations" The short article specifies the receipt of £5,000 from Aventis, £5,000 from BASF and £2,000 from FMC. which was mostly spent on the purchase of equipment. It is perhaps unfortunate that the article does not specify that these are agrochemical companies or make it clear that the sums involved were not donations but money paid for our sponsorship of insecticides.

9. It took until BBKA news 140 April 2003 for the words "income", "negotiated contract", "agrochemical companies", "endorsements" and "specific chemicals" to come together. Even then it was not in an announcement by the chairman or any of the executive committee or the directors of the company, (who are largely the same people). It came from the Middlesex Federation Delegate in an article giving "A Delegate's View of the 43rd ADM". He wrote:­

"The BBKA Enterprises last year produced an income equal to plus £1.50 per member by negotiated contracts with agrochemical companies. These were endorsements of the applications of specific chemicals, all very bee friendly". The wording, whilst mathematically correct unintentionally gives the impression that the income is being used to bolster the BBKA purse against the need to raise capitation fees. In fact the money was used to finance the purchase of new equipment.

10. "Beecraft" of July 2003 carries a letter from Mr Harty of Suffolk who rightly questions the lack of openness by BBKA and indeed questions the propriety of the relationship. The editor, who I consider to have been absolutely unbiased in publishing the letter, replied that the sponsored pesticides were "certified as bee-friendly" and had "been rigorously tested to international guidelines arid met the conditions laid down". Historically of course these have not always been faultless qualifications.

11. In none of the publications has it ever been made openly public exactly who the companies were, which of their products were being endorsed in return for financial gain or what there active ingredients were.

12. They are, or at the time I enquired, were:

Company Product name Active ingredient
Bayer Crop Science (Aventis) Decis Pearl Micro Deltamethrin
Syngenta (Zeneca) Hallmark with Zeon Technology Lambda Cyhalothrin
BASF (Cyanamid) Fastac (Contest) Alpha-cypermethrin
FMC Fury 10EW Minuet Zeta cypermethrin

(Syngenta have already notified an intended change in the name of their product)

13. Deltamethrin is also the active ingredient in an American product `Delta Dust' which is marketed as an insecticide and "Provides quick control of ants, bees (especially carpenter bees), etc.,"

Lambda cyhalohrin appears on a web site of 'Extoxnet' a pesticide information project maintained by several USA universities. Under the heading Effects on other animals (Nontarget species) it notes that "Lambda cyhalothrin is highly toxic to bees"

Zeta-cypermethrin is the active ingredient in an American product `Mustang'. In accepting it's registration the relevant authority note that "It is, however, extremely toxic to bees"

Perhaps through my in expertise I have found nothing good or bad about Alph­ cypermethrin. In my ignorance I am nevertheless puzzled. If two other "...methrins" are toxic to bees can somebody explain why Alpha methrin isn't.

Is there anyone out there who has the knowledge to search the Internet properly for information on these products? I suspect that you are more likely to find fuller information on USA sites than UK sites.

14. At the open forum in 2003 the pronouncement was made by one of the company directors that "they are perfectly safe if used properly". It cannot possibly be advisable to `endorse' a product the safety of which relies wholly or entirely on proper usage. My memory is that the incorrect use of sprays was the problem in the first place. Add to the ever-present possibility of human error the fact that farmers frequently mix several chemicals together into a spraying cocktail. This is quite contrary to the manufacturers instructions is therefore incorrect usage and is inevitably a recipe for an eventual disaster to somebody's bees. At some time in the future some ones bees are going to be seriously damaged by a product endorsed by the BBKA as BEE­FRIENDLY.

15. The company cannot pretend that their endorsement of these products is anything less than a money making exercise. At the same forum it was stated by a director of the company that a manufacturer had approached them for endorsement of a product. The endorsement had been refused. Not because of any shortcoming in the product but because the manufacturer had not offered enough money for the endorsement. That surely is totally dishonourable.

16. For some years BBKA has boasted of an increasingly improved relationship with the agrochemical industry with whom they could discuss better and safer methods for the use of sprays. They are particularly proud of a safety plan which they drew up and which has been voluntarily accepted by the industry. I applaud that relationship but I persist in my opinion that an engagement in financial sponsorship and product endorsement forms too close a relationship.

17. Proposals are supposed to carry an estimation of the cost to BBKA of carrying it out. I suggest that the cost is "Nil". It is true that BBKA have had an income from the company of some thousands of pounds. It's continuation is not guaranteed in any case.

18. I do not pretend that, through the ADM, we can stop the use of these chemical but we can stop them being used in our name, an arrangement which we never agreed to in the first place. We should circulate all other associations with information about the proposal and urge them to consider this matter seriously and to mandate their delegate to support our proposal. We should also invite them to consider writing to BBKA General Sec. asking to be associated with the proposal when it is circulated prior to the ADM.

CONCERNS ABOUT SPONSORSHIP

This letter was published in Beecraft July 2003 - Page 27

I am writing this letter out of genuine concern regarding what I consider to be the 'dubious' relationships that have developed between the BBKA and various agrochemical corporations. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to contact members within the BBKA hierarchy since 2002, with the exception of a Technical Committee member who has had the courtesy to respond regularly.

As I understand it, synthetic pyrethroids of varying toxicity are being endorsed by the BBKA as 'bee friendly' in return for corporate fiscal sponsorship. The issue is further exacerbated by BBKA's obstinate manner of not being accountable for its decisions, apparently made in the best interests of UK beekeepers, whereby my pertinent probing questions remain unanswered.

This lack of openness raises serious creditability issues regarding BBKA's claim to be an important national environmental organisation. If its environmental policy is solid, why does it continue not to answer the relevant questions? A BBKA regional representative actually told me that pesticides have no adverse effects on flora and fauna and BBKA did not promote or advocate them.

In an effort to attract financial support, I believe the BBKA is now trying to adapt its values to suit the wishes of commercial partners. BBKA claims to promote farming practices that encourage bees in the environment, yet how toxic pesticide endorsements actually contribute to the resilience of agro-ecosystems relating to ecological interactions, when such chemicals have always been environmentally detrimental, defies logic. The bee-friendly label is based on the assumption that pyrethroid pesticides have repellent properties yet a number of their active ingredients do not do this.

The BBKA totally ignores the Precautionary Principle (a principle to be invoked when lack of scientific evidence means that outcomes are uncertain) at the expense of our ever-dwindling bee populations. I have been told the established BBKA policy regarding the agrochemical industry gives agrochemical companies the opportunity to put money into beekeeping to offset the harm done through aggressive use of pesticides 20 years ago.

The BBKA endorses a toxic pesticide as supposedly bee-friendly, yet it opposes the addition of genetically modified (GM) maize to the national seed list by the same corporations, and claims that agrochemical companies have a massive concern for the environment's welfare.

In September 2002, the BBKA organised a conference to discuss GM standards relating to honey, to which only pro-government or uncommitted representatives of the larger and more commercial beekeeper associations were invited. I believe this was a 'rigged' conference designed to undermine GM-free honey standards where the BBKA Technical Committee consistently agreed with the industry line, foresaw no potential dangers and were prepared to abandon the six- mile limit.

It is no wonder that the BBKA adopts a 'sit on the fence' stance towards the GM debate especially as it becomes more financially dependent on the agrochemical industry. I think it is crucial for UK beekeepers to start asking questions and take stock of what is happening to 'our organisation', where a spurious policy is being spun.

Martin Luther King sums up my feelings 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter'. Paul Harty, Witnesham, Suffolk.

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