This is part of the book “Stéphane Foucart et les néonicotinoïdes. The World and disinformation 1“, where I present the reasoning developed by the journalist in the corpus. What is said in this chapter is my view on what the journalist writes. All quotes are translated (by me), except the ones marked between [ ] in the french version (french quotes are to numerous to be marked in this one).
The lasting maintenance of the insufficiency of the test procedures would result in particular from participation of manufacturers in their conception: “these protocols were designed by groups of experts infiltrated by the agrochemical industry”. (39) It is, for example, to agrochemical companies that we owe the tardiness of the ban on NNIs. They would have used, to this end, “the toolbox of tobacco companies to turn science against itself and sow doubt”. (45)
Manufacturers have “in a way, created the very scientific framework in which the evaluation of their products is carried out.” (39) The assessment standards are indeed set in particular by the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) through a process dominated by representatives of the agrochemical industry. (11) A report from Générations futures and PAN would suggest that this would be the rule: “in 92% of the cases examined, the techniques in question were co-developed by the manufacturers concerned, directly or indirectly.” (39)
Syngenta’s hand can be found in the process of reviewing risk assessment tests following the 2012-2013 EFSA reports. Indeed, “the chosen approach is now based on a model simulating the response of a colony to stress – the model used by EFSA having been co-developed by the agrochemical firm Syngenta, one of the largest producers of pesticides in Europe.” (71) (67)
Industrialists would manage to infiltrate research institutions claiming to be neutral. However, “the history of science work carried out on the tobacco industry’s influencing strategies – in particular that of the American historian of science Robert Proctor (Stanford University) – shows that participation in expertise of researchers in conflict of interest has the effect of biasing its conclusions.” (57)
Agrochemical lobbies would manage to influence scientists in an insidious way. Thus S. Foucart replied, to an Internet user asking “Who are the French scientists to have been” bought “by the lobbies?”:
“I don’t like the term ‘bought’ and I think the situations in which a scientist is actually ‘bought’ are very rare. The instrumentalisation of science and expertise is done in a much more subtle way: certain research themes (natural pathogens, etc.) are for example privileged, the questions put by the political leaders to the experts are formulated in such a way that the answers given are ambiguous.
However, there are a few particularly shocking situations that I describe in the book, in which experts in the service of regulatory agencies or public administrations, notably in France, the United Kingdom and the United States, have been hired by professionals. agrochemical firms immediately after providing favorable and questionable expert opinions on neonicotinoids, minimizing or relativizing their effects on bees and pollinators.” (56)
In March 2015, an article appeared in PeerJ under the signature of David Goulson (Goulson 2015) “with devastating conclusions for the credibility” of FERA, the British food safety agency. He analyzed the data used for one of the latter’s reports. He observed that, contrary to the conclusions that had been drawn, the study was in fact the first study to describe the substantial negative impacts of NNIs in real conditions. Asked about this “a spokesperson for FERA has more or less eaten his hat”. The main author is said to have left FERA and joined Syngenta in the months that followed. (21)
The mission of IPBES claim to synthesize the available knowledge on biodiversity, on the impacts of its erosion and on possible courses of action to preserve it. In short, to be to biodiversity what the IPCC is to the fight against global warming.
Yet the task force for its pollinator decline report was made up of employees from Syngenta and Bayer, lacking scientific credit and being there only to “represent their employers” (19):
- Christian Maus is the main author of the chapter on “pollinator diversity” and employed by Bayer. He would never have published a paper in this area.
- Helen Thompson, employed by Syngenta, is in charge of the one on the causes of their decline. The controversy is said to be all the more serious as she is involved in the aforementioned FERA study. (24)
“Of course, private sector experts are very limited: two out of a total of twenty-one in two of the six working groups. As for the other experts, they are academics or scientists from public research organizations. But this does not exclude other conflicts of interest, through funding, links forged between their institutions and the agrochemical industry, remuneration as a consultant, etc. At IPBES, we are assured that everyone had to submit a statement detailing this type of relationship with industry. It’s happy. But, alas, these documents are not public…” (19)
Simon Potts was also co-chair of the IPBES committee. He celebrated the moratorium on 3 NNIs in 2013 and asserted that “The weight of evidence given by researchers clearly indicates that we need to phase out neonicotinoids. However, he said the opposite 6 months later, judging that there was “currently no consensus on their lethal and sublethal impacts [on pollinators] in the environment.”
This turnaround questions S. Foucart, who also notes that in May 2014 this researcher signed a study on NNI which greatly appealed to manufacturers. In this study, “neither the financing of the study nor the possible conflicts of interest of its authors were specified…” (19)
A 2008 AFSSA (Faucon et al., 2008) report endorsed “sometimes under questionable conditions of integrity, the vulgate of agrochemists: bee disorders being “multifactorial”, new phytosanitary products would play no determining role.” (9)
In the framework of the vote on the 2013 moratorium, European expertise was reportedly subject to “intense pressure”. Syngenta is said to have “demanded, in vain, amendments to the position of EFSA, going so far as to threaten some of its prosecution officials.” (8)
The industry would charge the “shilling”. That would mean people pretending to be neutral when they are paid by the company to tout the benefits / minimize the problems. This is particularly what the Monsanto Papers would show. (56)
It would have been observed in the review of the study by Henry et al. (2012) published in Science. Indeed, its first author would be James Cresswell, whose laboratory would be supported by Syngenta. This support would have been granted on the same date the comment was accepted for publication… (3)
Industry would succeed in influencing decisions through policy makers. As part of the 2013 moratorium vote, UK Environment Minister Owen Paterson explained in a letter to Syngenta that he had been very active in organizing the opposition to the proposed ban. of NNIs. (7) (8) The interests thwarted by the total ban on NNI discussed within the framework of the biodiversity law of 2016 would have “agitated behind the scenes to do his business” and would have succeeded in “winning the ear” of Stéphane Le Foll, then Minister of Agriculture, who would have asked not to vote for this ban. (27)
One can suspect this influence behind the inaction of SCOPAFF, a “technical committee unknown to the public” in charge of “choosing the new authorization rules for pesticides.” According to the general delegate of the Pollinis association, “The opacity of such a system is simply undemocratic. It’s a lobbyist’s dream.” (48) The opacity was also denounced by MEP Pascal Canfin:
“It is unacceptable that this type of decision is still taken in the utmost secrecy of a committee where we do not even know the positions defended by the states” (67)
Also as part of the study of new evaluation tests, this association, participating in a committee set up on the subject by EFSA, would denounce “the intense lobbying of agrochemical manufacturers. They sent at least a dozen letters to EU executive officials vigorously protesting against the EFSA guidance document. “
f. Language elements diffusion
The influence of industrialists would also be more diffuse, through the issuance of “language elements”. This would be the case with the argument supporting the authorization of NNIs for beets on the grounds that they would not be visited by bees:
“Circulated by agribusiness circles and taken up by the Ministry of Agriculture in its communication, this argument has been widely echoed on social networks by elected officials and political leaders.” (64)
“Promoted by agribusiness circles, taken up by the Minister of Agriculture, echoed by journalists and multiplied endlessly on social networks by thousands of little hands, a single element of language has swept away all of this. No one is unaware of it any more: “A bee, that will not go foraging in the fields of beetroot. »» (66)
All of these would raise questions about our democracy.
“History makes it clear at least one thing: the state of our environment is often that of our democracy.” (20)
In addition, the misuse of the authority of science would fuel relativism:
“Because if you have been persuaded that regulation is science, why, when it is obvious that the former is so often wrong, would you still trust the latter?” (50)
The lack of development of risk assessment tests, all the more incomprehensible as their flaws were known and their harmful consequences proved, as well as the lack of transparency of the process would bring “opprobrium to the institutions of the Union”and would participate“ in a lack of love that could be seen […] at the ballot box.” (51)
- Faucon, Jean-Paul, and Marie-Pierre Chauzat. “Varroase et autres maladies des abeilles : causes majeures de mortalité des colonies en France.” Bulletin de l’Académie Vétérinaire de France 161, no. 3 (2008): 257–63. https://doi.org/10.4267/2042/47949.
- Goulson, Dave. “Neonicotinoids Impact Bumblebee Colony Fitness in the Field; a Reanalysis of the UK’s Food & Environment Research Agency 2012 Experiment.” PeerJ 3 (March 24, 2015): e854. https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.854.
- Henry, Mickaël, Maxime Béguin, Fabrice Requier, Orianne Rollin, Jean-François Odoux, Pierrick Aupinel, Jean Aptel, Sylvie Tchamitchian, and Axel Decourtye. “A Common Pesticide Decreases Foraging Success and Survival in Honey Bees.” Science 336, no. 6079 (April 20, 2012): 348–50. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1215039.