News - February 7, 2013

Bee death debate causing a buzz again

Zembla casts doubt on Wageningen researcher's integrity again.

Wageningen is once again the subject of political debate in connection with the bee deaths affair.  The new impetus came from a motion by the Dutch labour party that was passed on 24 January. It states that the Dutch government has a responsibility to campaign in Europe for a morato-rium on the neonicotinoids, a new type of insecticide.
The same evening television magazine programme Zembla revisited the issues raised in the much-discussed 2011 programme: 'Murder of the honey bee'. In that edition of the programme it was alleged that government policy on neonicotinoids was overly based on the work of PRI researcher Tjeerd Blacquiere, who blames the bee deaths largely on the Varroa mite. Zembla claimed that Blacquiere's research could not be independent, given his links with the chemical industry. At the time, there was sharp criticism of the programme from Wageningen: it was considered defamatory.
In the sequel last Thursday, a similar picture was painted. Wageningen UR did not collaborate on the programme after the 'bad experience' the last time. Zembla did show old footage of an interview with Blacquiere. Days after the programme Wageningen UR published a 'vision' on the research on bee deaths, emphasizing the complex interaction of causes of the bee deaths. New studies should provide more definitive answers. One of these is a long-term Wageningen study of the  influence of insecticides, the Varroa mite and the availability of pollen.