Environment

For advice on bee-harming chemicals, State Pesticide Board appoints panel, including two from bee-harming chemical industry

bee-pesticide-advisoryThe NC Pesticide Board this week chose six panelists to advise it on neonicotinoids, which are known to harm honeybees. But two of them work for the very industry that manufactures and markets these very pesticides  — even though Jim Burnette Jr., director of the Structural Pest Control and Pesticides Division, required that the nominees should  “objectively address the state of the science” and “ensure that the Board has a clear understanding of the state of the science concerning the neonicotinoids, free from opinion, speculation or bias,” according to an email to the board.

The selections were made after Preston Peck, policy advocate for Toxic Free NC, asked the board in July to consider restricting the use of the pesticide to licensed commercial applicators. Currently, neonicotinoids, called neonics for short, can be sold to the public. Peck requested the change in order to prevent people from misapplying the pesticide and further jeopardizing bees and hives.

Maryland has a similar law, which goes into effect in 2018.

Burnette asked that the nominees be “recognized experts” who “could provide a balanced and informed discussion on the various studies which have been conducted.”

Of the 14 candidates, the board chose these six:

  • Dave Buchwalter, an associate professor in the biology department at NC State University, has a doctorate in environmental and molecular toxicology. He was co-published more than 45 peer-reviewed articles, including two on the toxicity of neonics. buchwalter-cv
  • Dave Fischer has worked for Bayer CropScience since 1987. For the past three years, he has worked as the company’s director of pollinator safety. He is a member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and the American Chemical Society. Fischer received his doctorate in zoology from Brigham Young.

A major manufacturer of pesticides, including neonics, Bayer has been widely criticized for claiming their safety. Earlier this year, Bayer had accused the EPA of overstating the dangers of imidacloprid, which the company markets. Bayer then reversed its stance, concluding the federal government’s studies were scientifically sound.

  • Jay Overmyer works as a technical team leader for Syngenta in Greensboro, where he manages the ecotoxicology and risk assessment team. Those assessments include the acute and chronic health effects of pesticides on “non-target” plants and wildlife, meaning those that might be incidentally exposed to the chemicals. Overmyer has worked for Syngenta for eight years. He earned a doctorate in environmental toxicology and entomology from the University of Georgia. overmyer-jay-cv

Chemical giant Syngenta also markets neonics. Along with Bayer, it fought a ban of the pesticide in the European Union.

  • Dave Penrose, a retired NC State scientist, specializes in freshwater pollution and stream restoration. He has won several awards for the Society for Freshwater Science. Penrose also worked for the NC Division of Water Quality as an environmental biologist from 1976 to 2004. dave-penrose-resume
  • Melissa Perry is a professor and the chairwoman of the Department of Environmental and  Occupational Health at George Washington University. A graduate of Johns Hopkins, she also is a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics. She led a key scientific committee for the federal Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. Perry has co-written more than 100 peer-reviewed articles, including several on neonics. In 2014, she also testified before Congress on the threat of neonics to bees, other organisms and human health. cv_perry-cv-090716
  • Jill Sidebottom is a forestry specialist who focuses on least-toxic pesticide use on Fraser firs Christmas trees. Pesticides are widely used on conventionally grown trees. In the past several years, there have been two reported cases of bee kills as a result of misapplied pesticides. She has a doctorate in plant pathology from NC State.

Several candidates were accomplished scientists with extensive experience in studying neon’s. Among those not chosen were

  • Carys Mitchelmore, a toxicologist and biochemist at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, testified before the Maryland legislature on that state’s pesticide labeling bill. mitchelmore_cv_06272016
  • Craig Downs researches these pesticides, particularly their effects on water life. Runoff from pesticide applications into streams and rivers can harm fish. He lives in Virginia. cv-craig-downs
  • Jonathan Lundgren, an entomologist from South Dakota and Anders Huseth, an entomologist researcher, have also studied the use of neonics on soybeans and potatoes, and the effects on insects. cv-lundgren-11-2012 huseth_cv2016-07-17

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