Here, I relate what the journalist said in his article “Abeilles et pesticides : polémique entre les apiculteurs et le ministère de l’Agriculture”. All quotes, originally in French, were translated by me.
The UNAF accuses the ministry of hiding the damage of pesticides on beehives by “several means and statistical sleight of hand leading to minimize the role of pesticides in the decline of bees”, going so far as to repeat the maxim of Churchill: “I only believe in statistics when I have falsified them myself.” He was reacting to the publication under the signature of an expert from the Ministry of Agriculture of an article observing that only “13 of the 195 cases of acute mortalities reported in 2015 in France were due to pesticides.”
There would be several biases:
- The statistical unit, the event, does not take into account the scale of the disaster: a hive affected by a disease weighs as much as a declaration of 100 beehives poisoned by an insecticide.
- As poisonings are not, like certain diseases, subject to compulsory notification, they are reportedly underreported.
- Pesticides are said to have sublethal toxicity, the fact of only retaining acute poisonings would minimize their impact.
The ministry responded that the published article point was not to create a statistic.