The Environmental Protection Agency still isn't sure what has been killing so many honeybees since 2006. The European Union, on the other hand, is pretty sure (based on this study) a pesticide called "neonicotinoid" is the culprit -- enough so that it voted to ban it for the next two years as a precautionary measure.
Bayer makes neonicotinoids. A ban on neonicotinoids would mean less money for Bayer. In what is surely a coincidence, Bayer is convinced that neonicotinoids are not the cause of the bee deaths, but that they are caused by varroa mites. Bayer also makes something called CheckMite, which kills varroa mites. It would be doubly great for Bayer if neonicotinoids were not the cause of bee deaths and varroa mites were.
Bayer cares about bees so much that it built a Bee Care Center in Germany, and plans to build another in North Carolina next year, the New York Times' Danny Hakim reports:
'Bayer is strictly committed to bee health,' said Gillian Mansfield, an official specializing in strategic messaging at the company's Bayer CropScience division. She was sitting at the center's semicircular coffee bar, which has a formidable espresso maker and, if you ask, homegrown Bayer honey. On the surrounding walls, bee fun facts are written in English, like 'A bee can fly at roughly 16 miles an hour' or, it takes 'nectar from some two million flowers in order to produce a pound of honey.'
While others point at pesticides, Bayer has funded research that blames mites for the bee die-off. And the center combines resources from two of the company’s divisions, Bayer CropScience and Bayer Animal Health, to further study the mite menace.
'The varroa is the biggest threat we have' said Manuel Tritschler, 28, a third-generation beekeeper who works for Bayer. 'It’s very easy see to them, the mites, on the bees,' he said, holding a test tube with dead mites suspended in liquid. 'They suck the bee blood, from the adults and from the larvae, and in this way they transport a lot of different pathogens, virus, bacteria, fungus to the bees,' he said.
According to Bayer's CropScience blog, 2013 was a great year for Bee PR in America. It had a Bee Care Tour across America. It celebrated National Pollinator Week by hosting "employee, community and Congressional events to celebrate the contribution pollinators make to the world's food supply." It had a reception in Washington D.C. with "Congressional staff." Lots of great things happened with regards to bees and Bayer.
(Speaking of Washington D.C.: three days ago, the EPA was sued by several bee organizations to force it to reconsider its approval of a Dow neonicotinoid pesticide [the EPA instead asked Dow to put warning labels on the product saying that it "can kill bees and other insect pollinators"].)
When Bayer isn't trying to save bees by creating more chemicals, it's funding studies that "prove" its pesticides aren't fatal to bees and suing the European Union (yes, the European Union, the 28-country-strong 2012 Nobel Peace Prize winner) to try to get the ban on its pesticides revoked.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.