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 institutions would be complacent with the producers of pesticides, taking a very long time to see the damage caused by the latter. This is what we would have seen with the NNIs and it is still what we see with sulfoxaflor in France and with the marketing authorization policy of the European Commission.
a. Ancient blindness
The blindness of these assessment procedures has been known from the 2003 and 2005 CST reports (31) (54) (56). These flaws are a “trick” that an elementary school child could figure out in a matter of minutes. (39) Regarding the toxic effects of NNIs, beekeepers had questioned the authorities about the damage caused as early as 1994. (54) They were established by the CST report published in 2003.
The Epilobee investigation, which nevertheless mobilized 1,300 inspectors and 3 million euros, studied the mortality and not the weakening of the colonies. (15) Mainly, she looked for the presence of pests and diseases, but not pesticides. (15) (16) This would reflect a political bias:
“We are therefore in the context of a rather strange exercise, which puts scientific discourse and practice at the service of contingencies external to science. You have to look, but in the “right” direction. You have to find it, but not too much. Above all, to avoid any unwanted discovery. […] This semantic modesty recalls that of old studies funded by American tobacco companies, which initially attributed lung cancer to air pollution, radon, genetic predispositions and, possibly, to… “way of life” – meaning to cigarette.” (16)
The same goes for the IUCN press release of April 2, 2014, which did not even mention pesticides among the causes of the decline of bumblebees. (17) This blindness would also affect American institutions:
“According to NRDC, neonicotinoid insecticides authorized in the territory have never been evaluated by the EPA and their authorization, although provisional, has never been questioned. The case had led five associations to file a complaint against the federal agency.” (18)
According to Pierre Mineau, co-author of the study showing the drastic increase in the “toxic load” of pesticides used by American agriculture, reports from the EPA anticipated “dramatic effects on the ecology of terrestrial or aquatic systems in which products would be used”. He concludes: “Everything that happened was predictable, if not expected.” (53)
b. Durable blindness
The report by an expert from the Ministry of Agriculture observed that “13 of the 195 cases of acute mortality [of hives] reported in 2015 in France were due to pesticides. This statistic would be biased and UNAF would accuse the ministry of hiding pesticide damage from hives through “several statistical biases and tricks leading to minimizing the role of pesticides in bee decline,” up to to quote Churchill: “I only believe in statistics when I have falsified them myself.” (29)
c. Actual blindness: the sulfoxaflor case
EFSA is said to have authorized sulfoxaflor, another neurotoxic insecticide, even though its expert report acknowledged: “With the available assessments, a high risk to bees is not excluded and a high long-term risk is indicated for small herbivorous mammals, for field uses on cotton and vegetables”. (23)
ANSES also reportedly authorized two sulfoxaflor products in September. The UNAF denounces authorizations made on the sly and translating a double discourse: “We authorize a product lightly and then procrastinate before withdrawing it, after fifteen years.” Even Nicolas Hulot‘s Ministry of Ecology would not have been notified. This insecticide would act like NNIs and would be an NNI not classified as such. (36)
“It is shameful, scandalous, pitiful and irresponsible towards future generations,” says Gilles Lanio, the president of UNAF. I still can not believe it!” (36)
According to J-M Bonmatin, “It doesn’t make sense any more to evaluate substances in this way, molecule by molecule.” (41)
The Nice Administrative Court nevertheless suspended the MA for these two products (Closer and Transform) after referral by Générations futures. The president of this association, François Veillerette, comments:
“This file reveals a scandalous situation on the management of European approvals of active ingredients of pesticides which are granted in the absence of essential data on product safety, called confirmatory data, which will not be transmitted until two years later”. (38)
d. Actual blindness: European commission and MA
Seized by an NGO, the European mediator sent a letter on 22 June to the presidency of the European Commission about the MA procedures in the event of incomplete data. The mediator studied 5 cases of such procedures. In the majority, EFSA had not been consulted. Moreover, the commission would not give reasons for its decisions to issue these authorizations. Finally, for “pesticides approved under this procedure since 2015,” confirmatory data “on how they respond to water treatment has still not been provided.” (62)
- Doucet-Personeni, C., M.P. Halm, F. Touffet, A. Rortais, and G. Arnold. “Imidaclopride Utilisé En Enrobage de Semences (Gaucho®) et Troubles Des Abeilles.” Comité Scientifique et Technique de l’Etude Multifactorielle des Troubles des Abeilles (CST), 2003. https://controverses.sciences-po.fr/archive/pesticides/rapportfin.pdf