Date Added to website 22nd May 2013
As we all know, there is huge current concern about bee losses all over the world -- and increasing attention is being given to the role that neonicotinoid pesticides may play in the recorded declines in the USA and Europe in particular (1). As the evidence has stacked up, the EU has decided to ban "neonics" (in spite of opposition from the UK Government) (2), but in the United States USDA has refused to bring in a ban, claiming that more research is needed (3). Everybody knows that that decision is driven not by environmental science and public welfare but by the commercial interests of the big biotechnology and chemical companies like Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta.
As the debate over bee deaths and pesticides becomes more and more acrimonious, something strange is going on in the august world of scientific journal publishing.
Let's go back to last year. In April 2012 Dr Sanchez-Bayo, an ecotoxicologist from Sydney, submitted to "Nature" an article entitled "Immune Suppression by Neonicotinoid Insecticides at the Root of Global Wildlife Declines" by Rosemary Mason, Henk Tennekes, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, and Palle Uhd Jepsen. It was a review article drawing some rather disturbing conclusions. The authors thought that they should seek publication in Nature because for a decade or more, many scientists had written to the journal in increasingly desperate tones about emerging pathogens that were threatening animal, plant and ecosystem health and destroying biodiversity. In fact in the previous six months Nature had published two articles: "Biodiversity loss and the impact on humanity" and "Emerging fungal threats to animal, plant and ecosystem health". Indeed, the authors of this latter review had appealed to scientists urgently to find "the elusive magic bullet".
Dr Sanches-Bayo and his colleagues thought that they were firing the magic bullet. However, very rapidly indeed, the paper was turned down with the following message: "Dear Dr Sanchez-Bayo, Thank you for offering us your paper entitled "HYPOTHESIS: Immune suppression by neonicotinoid insecticides at the root of global wildlife declines". Regretfully, we cannot offer to consider it for publication in Nature. We do not doubt the technical quality of your study or its interest to others working in this and related areas of research. However, after consideration, we are not persuaded that your article would represent a sufficiently outstanding scientific advance to justify publication in Nature. " Fair enough, on might think. Journal refusals happen all the time.
But interestingly enough, at the same time Nature was putting through the publication process another paper by RJ Gill, O Ramos-Rodriguez , and NE Raine, entitled "Combined pesticide exposure severely affects individual – and colony- level traits in bees". When that was published, in November 2012, there was also a "spoiler" article on p 43 of the Ecology section, entitled "Bumblebees and Pesticides" by a Syngenta-funded scientist named Dr Juliet Osborne. In that article she criticised the findings of Gill et al -- which means that she must have been shown a copy of that paper while it was still in press. That sort of thing is publishing malpractice, although nothing should surprise us in relation to Nature's publishing ethics, in the light of the infamous "Ermokova Affair" involving lies, deception, a set of GM industry rottweilers and a dummy proof (4). Let''s move on, because things become even more intriguing.
Within days of Nature's rejection, Dr Sanchez-Bayo was contacted on Linkedin with an invitation for papers to be submitted 'in the forthcoming plenary and inaugural issues of The Journal of Environmental Immunology and Toxicology.' When Dr Sanchez-Bayo contacted the Editor-in-Chief, his reply was: "I am intrigued by your summary of your exciting paper. I would indeed encourage you to submit this work for potential publication in the July/August issue of the journal. The first issue!!"
The paper, still under the title "Immune Suppression by Neonicotinoid Insecticides at the Root of Wildlife Declines" was submitted to The Journal of Environmental Immunology and Toxicology on 1st May 2012. It underwent peer-review and questions were answered to the reviewers' satisfaction. It was finally accepted on 17/07/2012, and the authors were promised publication in the inaugural issue in July/August 2012. Nothing happened. When the authors queried the delay (given the great topical interest of the paper) they were told that there were technical reasons linked with the establishment of a new journal and a new web site, and so forth. They were eventually promised publication in Jan/Feb 2013 -- a very significant slippage.
With their paper accepted but unpublished, the authors began to get a little irritated, and did some research. They discovered that the journal's Editor-in-Chief and the Managing Editor were both employees of the US EPA. In fact the Managing Editor looked after three other journals, as well as holding down his position with the US EPA. Could it be that because of the furore surrounding EPA's refusal to ban neonicotinoids, the editors were suppressing the publication of this potentially highly damaging article? Surely not............ that would surely take Conspiracy Theory too far.......
At last, in April 2013, the article almost appeared. This is what appeared on the journal web site:
J Environ Immunol Toxicol 2013; 1(1): 2-12. DOI: 10.7178/jeit.1 Immune Suppression by Neonicotinoid Insecticides at the Root of Global Wildlife Declines by Rosemary Mason, Henk Tennekes, Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, Palle Uhd Jepsen
Author Affiliations Rosemary Mason Hunters Hollow, Swansea, UK Henk Tennekes Experimental Toxicology Services (ETS) Nederland BV, The Netherlands Francisco Sánchez-Bayo Centre for Ecotoxicology, University of Technology Sydney, Australia Palle Uhd Jepsen Hunters Hollow, Swansea, UK
Corresponding author: Francisco Sánchez-Bayo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract Outbreaks of infectious diseases in honey bees, fish, amphibians, bats and birds in the past two decades have coincided with the increasing use of systemic insecticides, notably the neonicotinoids and fipronil. A link between insecticides and such diseases is hypothesised. Firstly, the disease outbreaks started in countries and regions where systemic insecticides were used for the first time, and later they spread to other countries. Secondly, recent evidence of immune suppression in bees and fish caused by neonicotinoids has provided an important clue to understand the sub-lethal impact of these insecticides not only on these organisms, but probably on other wildlife affected by emerging infectious diseases. While this is occurring, environmental authorities in developed countries ignore the calls of apiarists (who are most affected) and do not target neonicotinoids in their regular monitoring schedules. Equally, scientists looking for answers to the problem are unaware of the new threat that systemic insecticides have introduced in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
The authors were understandably greatly relieved, but then they discovered that the paper was apparently not published at all, since the link to the PDF of the full article did not work. That was very strange, given that the links to all of the other articles in the current edition of the journal worked perfectly well. When we contacted the Editor to ask about this, he explained that there was a technical issue which they were urgently attempting to fix. He promised that the article would be made available as soon as possible. That was yesterday, and the article is still inaccessible. Others have also approached the Editor, and they have had the same response.
We in GM-Free Cymru are always willing to help Editors in distress. We happen to have a copy of the paper in PDF form, so we are happy to make it widely available now to whomsoever would like to read it. If the Editor, Dr Marc Williams, wishes, we can give him some technical advice on how one makes available PDFs via the internet.
Needless to say, the article (now published after a delay of a year) makes very interesting reading.
1. U.S. pesticide makers seek answers as bee losses sting agriculture, by Carey Gillam http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/20/us-usa-bees-idUSBRE94J0MK20130520
Yet another study links insecticide to bee losses Findings point to treated corn seed — and corn syrup — as possible links to a pandemic afflicting North American pollinators. http://www.bayer-kills-bees.com/
4. NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY FACILITATES PREMEDITATED GM ROTTWEILER ATTACK How a well-known scientific journal "set up" an honest scientist through a conspiracy of lies and deception http://www.gmfreecymru.org.uk/pivotal_papers/rottweiler.htm