Agenda-based precautionary ban of neonics causes the opposite of its intent

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Bee-apisBritish science journalist and author Matt Ridley (best known for his writings on science, the environment, and economics) has penned an op-ed published in The Times of London exposing the inanity and perverse consequences of the EU s pet theory, The Precautionary Principle. Although some variants are less destructive and irresponsible than others, the main thrust of the PP asserts that any advance or innovation in technology must be measured against the perfect, or the 100 percent safe, no matter the effects of restricting such progress. In essence, if applied assiduously, the PP would bring all scientific indeed all progress to a screeching halt, as no new method is guaranteed completely without risk. And even that risk can be generated not by actual evidence, or even likelihood, but by mere concern or supposition (or, all-too-often, politics or agenda).

So the EU s regulatory apparatus, in its byzantine complexity, undertook to regulate, ie ban, a class of newer pesticides known as neonicotinoids, on the flimsiest link to bee colony collapse disorder.

As readers of Mr. Ridley s commentary will learn, A: bees are doing just fine, and indeed the evidence for colony collapse was scanty, as bee colonies normally vary in number despite manmade inputs; and B: on the other hand, farmers doing without neonics are having major problems, especially among certain crops. As is so often the case, implementation of the PP results in the exact opposite of what those of good intentions might have desired (assuming those good intentions actually occasionally exist).

Here s just a sample of the Ridley piece, but the entirety should be required reading:

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) report on the subject concluded that lab studies used to justify the EU ban severely overdosed their bees and that bees are not affected by neonics under normal conditions. Australian regulators claim that neonics have actually improved the environment for bees by replacing older pesticides. And in the US, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency have so far resisted calls to ban neonics for much the same reason.

Even though there was literally no good science linking neonics to bee deaths in fields, they were banned anyway for use on flowering crops in Europe. Friends of the Earth, which lobbied for the ban, opined that this would make no difference to farmers. Well, the environmentalists were wrong. The loss of the [rapeseed/canola] crop this autumn is approaching 50 percent ¦.Farmers in Germany, the EU s largest producer, are also reporting widespread damage.

The ban was brought in entirely to placate green lobby groups, which have privileged and direct access to unelected European officials in policymaking. They hotted up their followers, using the misleading lab studies, to bombard politicians on the topic. The former health commissioner...felt so inundated by emails that he had to do something...Yet he warned colleagues that a ban was unjustified and would be counterproductive. He was right.