The EPA approved a pesticide against advice of its own scientists

There's a very long and detailed story up at Grist about evidence for apparent wrongdoing by the Environmental Protection Agency. Here's the short version: Seven years ago, the EPA granted conditional approval to a Bayer pesticide, even though EPA scientists were concerned that it could be toxic to honeybees. Bayer was supposed to conduct a study to determine harm by 2004, but the EPA let them put that off until 2007—which is when Bayer turned in a poorly done bit research, showing, surprise, no impact on bees whatsoever.

But wait, it gets worse.

Language in the paperwork makes it sound like the approval of this pesticide was wholly dependent on the quality and outcome of a study of harm. Leaked documents now show that EPA scientists noticed the problems with the research Bayer gave them, pointed those problems out, and explicitly stated that this evidence didn't count as proof that bees weren't being harmed.

And then the EPA approved the pesticide anyway.

This leaves me furious. Pesticides, in and of themselves, are not inherently evil. But it should be just as obvious that some will be dangerous and we have to make choices and balance risks against benefits, based on scientific evidence. If the agency that's supposed to be handling that job is ignoring evidence and just approving everything? Well, we're pretty screwed.

It's unlikely that this specific pesticide is a silver bullet cause of colony collapse disorder—that was already happening before the pesticide was released. But it could certainly be a contributor. There's evidence that colony collapse disorder is the work of more than one problem—possibly a fungus and a bacteria, but that team could also be aided by weakened bee immune systems. Certain pesticides, including this one, are thought to be able to damage bee immune systems. "Thought to", because, as you've seen, good research hasn't been done yet to know for sure. That's the real problem here. Research and evidence should come before profit margins. And, in this case, things seem to have gone the other way around.

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