FERA Betray Bees Again

  • FERA are a UK public service organisation.  They are the agency that advises DEFRA and the government on key matters affecting the environment, farming and food. 

  • 'FERA' officially stands for Food and Environment Research Agency.

Some background 

  1. Where bees are concerned, members of FERA were part of the team that helped devise the flawed EPPO regulatory standards for assessing the risks of pesticides to bees, and appear to be rather close to industry.

  2. They have frequently defended the dubious line that there is no evidence that neonicotinoids pose unacceptable risk to bees.  

  3. I have been appalled at the standard of work they have produced in co-operation with industry - such as a paper by FERA civil servant,  Helen Thompson and Christian Maus of Bayer - Perspective The relevance of sublethal effects in honey bee testing for pesticide risk assessment", published by Pest Management Science in 2007.

  4. FERA have produced misleading reports, using questionnable data to cast doubt on peer reviewed papers from independent scientists such as Girolami.  For example, they used a flawed Swiss study to cast doubt on Girolami's paper, along with a study by Shawkti, that didn’t even use systemic pesticides.  

  5. They, along with their colleagues in the Chemical Regulations Directorate, have repeatedly bleated that there is no 'unequivocal evidence' neonicotinoids present unacceptable risk to bees, and have repeatedly criticised independent studies, hinting they do not replicate 'realistic' field conditions yet the regulatory field studies for insecticides are deeply inadequate and flawed.

FERA's shockingly flawed bumble bee field study

So what happens when FERA attempt to produce a robust field test examining effects of neonicotinoids on bumble bees? 

Can we, following all their criticism of independent field and lab studies, now expect to see THE GOLD STANDARD from our publicly funded government body?

Apparently not.   They couldn't even ensure the control sample was not contaminated with neonicotinoids.

For a start, do listen to this great BBC interview with Prof Dave Goulson
(Press play, then scroll forward to 8.40)

who describes how the FERA study is flawed, and how data has been 'hidden' in order to conceal data that showed neonicotinoid exposure resulted in fewer bumble bee queens, as confirmed in the Whitehorn study.

FERA, however, claim that the study shows there was no significant impact on queen numbers!

Prof Goulson gave permission to publish further comment:

"Aside from the glaring lack of controls and the hopeless experimental design, I’m pretty sure the statistical methods are fundamentally flawed.

But I think the biggest issue is that this work has not been peer reviewed in any way – I am sure that, if it had, it would have been torn to shreds.

It certainly would if I were reviewing it, which would be quite likely if it were actually submitted to a reputable journal.

It is not publishable in anything like its current form.

This is facebook science – doing a rushed, poorly designed piece of work, writing it up badly, and whacking it on the internet. That is not how science is done."  

FERA are betraying bees....

It may seem like strong language to state that FERA are 'betraying bees'.  Perhaps it is - although, they are the public body (with the Bee Unit)  responsible for bees, risk assessment on bees, and bee health.

Yes, I'm sure I can be accused of using sensationalist and overly emotive language.

But I find it worrying when a government body repeatedly works closely with industry, and dismisses independent science and the need for applying the Precautionary Principle - continuing to take this line, even after an extensive scientific review by EFSA has examined the regulatory data and test standards, and has found both to be lacking.

And it appears to me that they are not above misleading the public and government either.

So yes, in my mind FERA are betraying bees - and in turn, the environment and public, and I'm very unhappy about it!

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