Do neonicotinoid pesticides kill bumblebees? We still don't know, but the latest research is alarming – and casts doubt on the integrity of science.
The study, by Helen Thompson of the government's Food and Environment Research Agency, found "no clear consistent relationships" between pesticide residues and measures of the health of bee colonies, such as the number of new queens. "The absence of these effects is reassuring but not definitive," she said.
But Dave Goulson of the University of Sussex in Brighton has reanalysed the data and says that in fact the results "strongly suggest that wild bumblebee colonies in farmland can be expected to be adversely affected by exposure to neonicotinoids".
"This is a scandal," said Matt Shardlow of the charity Buglife, which has campaigned on the issue. "The scientific process appears to have been deliberately manipulated to agree with the environment secretary's views."
Thompson now works for agribusiness Syngenta, which manufactures some pesticides. She was not willing to speak on the record to New Scientist about Goulson's conclusions, but is understood to have submitted a new study on the issue for publication.