Friday, January 22, 2016

Musings: Spun Honey

Combine ax-grinding masquerading as science with poor reporting, and what do you get? A perfect storm of distorted information. Or to be more specific, today's article in The Garden Island about glyphosate (Roundup) in local honey.

It's a pattern we've seen play out repeatedly on Kauai, as activists use the crummy local newspaper to deliver a skewed message intended to generate paranoia while advancing an anti-ag cause.
A frame full of honey.
At issue is a science project conducted by Kapaa High School student Ritikaa Kumar. Though the article does not offer any actual data, it does include inflammatory rhetoric by beekeeper and anti-GMO activist Jimmy Trujillo and a questionable health effects reference from that stellar science source, Mother Earth News.

And though the reporter allows Trujillo to ramp up the fear factor over the purity of local honey, and wildly speculate about bee colony health, she fails to mention that 21 of the 38 samples contained no residue of glyphosate at all.

The reporter also never questioned the study's methodology; most notably, the process used to collect the honey. Some of the participating beekeepers were given bottles and told to collect honey themselves, and the article noted that Trujillo helped collect samples from some of the hives.
Absolute Kauai honey.
When I asked Carl Berg — identified by the article as Kumar's mentor — how they ensured integrity of the samples, he replied:

I trusted the integrity of the beekeeper and there was a signed chain of custody for samples once beekeeper turned them over. Some samples were collected in presence of student. Beekeepers don't want people messing with their bees.

Extremely hard to add glyphosate at those extremely low levels. Also hard to fake clean since you don't know what areas are clean.

It's not the fake clean that concerns me. It's the purposeful contamination by those, like Trujillo, who lack integrity and are keen to make the seed companies look bad. Because guess what? The highest levels were supposedly found on the westside, though you wouldn't know that from the reporter's claim that “the area around Kupua and Kapena” — two places that apparently do not even exist — “had the highest levels of glyphosate.”

But even if you accept the accuracy of the samples, we're still talking about extremely low levels of residue. The highest amount, found in just one sample, was 341.6 parts per billion. To put that in context, one drop of ink in one of the largest tanker trucks used to haul gasoline would represent 1 ppb.

So WTF is the problem? Well, now we need to add a bit of backstory.

Berg and Don Heacock, who is convinced his own health problems resulted from pesticide exposure, first proposed the idea of sampling honey for glyphosate last year, at a meeting of the Kauai Beekeepers (KBEE). Dr. Danielle Downey, who was then the state apiarist, advised against it, saying it was not a good method of assessing bee or hive health.

Pollen and wax samples provide a much better indicator of pesticide contamination, and a county-funded survey of those hive products was under way when Downey took a job on the mainland. She had previously told me that Hawaii has some of the cleanest pollen in the nation.

Downey also noted the risks of a honey study. Because there is no authorized level of any contaminant in honey, if any amount of any chemical is found, the honey must be condemned. And that has serious implications for Kauai beekeepers, many of whom depend on honey sales to offset the cost and time of maintaining their hives.

The TGI quotes Trujillo as saying:

It’s concerning because pesticides shouldn’t be in honey, and now beekeepers have to question whether or not their honey is safe to sell.

As president of KBEE, Jimmy should know it's not a question of whether the honey is “safe” to sell. Honey may not be sold period if it contains any contaminants, regardless of the level.

But since the identity of beekeepers who participated in the study will remain a secret, the public will be left wondering whether the local honey they buy is safe. Though Berg suggested those who tested clean could use a “glyphosate free” sticker, that casts a taint on people who did not participate in the study, and can't afford to do their own testing, and thus don't know whether their honey truly is “glyphosate free” or not.

TGI reports Trujillo, who has no science training, as saying: 

The new finding may explain why some bee colonies are dying, Trujillo added.

What bee colonies are dying? Kauai doesn't have the colony collapse disorder. It does have the small hive beetle, which has caused many beekeepers to lose hives, including Jimmy, who also loses hives because he's over-extended and doesn't manage them well.
But it doesn't matter than Trujillo is engaged in groundless speculation about a non-existent problem. Soon we will hear people claiming that Roundup is killing all the bees and poisoning all the honey on Kauai. 

Just what we need: more fear about agriculture based on purposeful misinformation.

And though it's impossible to determine exactly where the bees may have picked up the glyphosate — their typical foraging territory extends two miles from the hive, though they've been observed foraging at two and even three times this distance — Kumar is working up a statistical correlation of glyphosate concentration and land use type.

But no, this isn't agenda-driven science, even though the results were given to the Joint Fact Finding Group and Kumar is reported as saying, "I’m big into the GMO movement, and everyone is passionate about it." (Berg says that was a misquote, for which a retraction is being demanded.)

Despite the buzz about dirty honey that this TGI hatchet job will create, the real story, as an astute friend observed, is that only two students from Kapaa High School entered the science fair. The rest is just TGI BS.


Anonymous said...

I read the article the same way.

Anonymous said...

Bet ya ten bucks that Kumar is a Vandana Shiva devotee.

Anonymous said...

Where the heck is "the area around Kupua and Kapena"? I could fund a Kapena Street in Lihue, but no Kupua anything. Is this BS or crappy unedited journalism (again)...or both?

Anonymous said...

Hey 2:09 PM, what do you say we discuss this without trashing a high school student who put together a involved science fair project. Just because you don't like his findings is no reason to attack this yhigh school student!!!

Mark said...

Two students entered the Science Fair, yet there are multiple Valedictorians in each class at Kapaa High (perfect 4.0 GPA's). By "multiple," I mean *many,* many of whom barely muster average on nationally-normed achievement measures such as the PSAT and SAT. Many good, even excellent students, so often fail to learn well there. There are some superb teachers there yet many who are appalling in their lack of knowledge, skill, passion, and sometimes compassion. Yes, many students get a good education there. Many, many do not. I can't agree more with Joan that the story here that warrants attention is what this says about student engagement and the leadership and resources that are lacking in our educational system here on Kaua`i.

I'm reminded of the recent TGI article reporting the demise of the journalism program there and the conversion of the school paper to a digital graphic projects because "our students are uncomfortable with large blocks of text." I'm sad that there has been no further discussion in the paper about that.

I commend this student for her participation in the Science Fair— regardless of any political intention or interpretation on anyone's part. In my experience of decades in education, I've seen that the VAST majority of these projects, no matter how well done, are not reliable science. They are learning experiences in which students first get challenged to understand the Scientific Method, usually seeing in the long run that there are practically countless reasons why their findings aren't any real proof of their hypothesis because real science is not so simple and they are taking one of their first stabs at thinking through matters like sample size, accuracy in measurement, reliability of data, the influences of pre-conceived notions in their experimental design, etc. It's important stuff to learn if you want to raise critical thinkers, not just thinkers who are critical.

This TGI story should have been developed as a story about one student— one of two— at this school who had the ambition and encouragement to go down this path of learning. It should not have been presented as some sort of evidence in the controversy about pesticidides. This newspaper would serve us better if it made more effort to get its priorities — not to mention its grammar— straight. Perhaps some of the reporters should take a journalism class at KCC to polish their writing and sharpen their critical skills. But, wait— they dropped that program, apparently because of large blocks of text.

Mark said...

Joan, can you edit my long post before publishing? I failed to say in the second paragraph that it is KCC to which I refer. If you change one word it will fix it:
I'm reminded of the recent TGI article reporting the demise of the journalism program ******at KCC******* and the conversion of the school paper to a digital graphic projects because "our students are uncomfortable with large blocks of text." I'm sad that there has been no further discussion in the paper about that.

My bad. And I proofread several times.

Anonymous said...

Kupua are legendary Kolohe.
Kapena is JoAnn's street.

Encourage Science Fairs and the participants.

Joan Conrow said...

I'm sorry, Mark, but unable to edit comments that are submitted under a Google ID. Thank you your thoughtful comments.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Joan, this stuff is just ridiculous.
And as a former high school biology teacher, I agree completely with Mark.

Anonymous said...

Anything that comes from Trujillo, Lilly and a High School Science Fair is gospel.
And now that the Da Hoos has endorsed the study it is a Moses Tablet.

The student used the Moku names from the recent County maps for her area identifications.

Anonymous said...

I hope the Joint Fact Finding isn't relying on science fair projects for its data.

Anonymous said...

And JFF Group should ignore incident that just occurred with Syngenta employees being exposed to chlorpyrifos. This is not relevant to determineing the potential community health impacts.

Anonymous said...

Can't wait to hear your spin on the 10 workers who had do go to the hospital because they went into a field that was sprayed. Field must have been surrounded by" stink weed".

Joan Conrow said...

No, it wasn't stink weed. The field had been sprayed with chlorpyrithos and the company publicly acknowledged the exposure and accepted full responsibility.

Anonymous said...

No, it wasn't stink weed. The field had been sprayed with chlorpyrithos and the company publicly acknowledged the exposure and accepted full responsibility." That's a big blow to your position. Don't need to be a rocket scientist to conclude that if humans are suppose to avoid sprayed fields for a predetermined amount of time or they will become sick then bees will be affected too.

Anonymous said...

Staradvertiser has an updated article on the incident.

Joan Conrow said...

10:52. First, I've never taken the position that pesticides don't harm bees. As to whether bees would even be in a field that had been sprayed with chlorpyrithos would depend on whether there was any nectar or pollen for them to collect. Finally, I truly hope you don't believe insects and humans have the same physiology, even if you clearly aren't a rocket scientist or any kind of scientist at all.

Anonymous said...

When lawyers become true believers for their clients, no one believes them anymore. Same goes in the GMO context.
Disregard the people who have the same position every time and listen to the ones who are less sure of their positions and you may get closer to the truth.

Anonymous said...

Don't know of a single hive on Kapena Street. I think TGI meant Keapana.

Anonymous said...

I don't fault the student. The teacher gave bad guidance.

Anonymous said...

Aha Moku map Kupua and Kapena are on the west side

Anonymous said...

From the Garden Island this morning-

"What's all the fuss about! These chemicals are harmless." Sure, they are. Wake Up People! Read on...

syngenta 10 Syngenta workers taken to hospital

Company reviewing procedures after employees enter field too soon


Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2016 2:00 am

Bill Buley - The Garden Island | 0 comments

KEKAHA — Ten Syngenta employees were taken to Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital on Wednesday after walking onto a field too soon after it had been sprayed with an agricultural pesticide.

Seven employees were released later that day, while three remained overnight. Six have returned to work and the rest have been cleared to return to work Monday.

Joshua Uyehara, Syngenta Hawaii’s site manager, said there is a 24-hour waiting period before employees enter a field where chlorpyrifos has been applied. It had been about 20 hours when several walked onto the field Wednesday morning to plant some identification tags.

“Unfortunately, some of the workers strayed into a field they were not scheduled to work and they were not supposed to be there,” Uyehara said in a phone interview.

A field supervisor noticed they were there within a few minutes — perhaps 10 or 15 — and the employees were quickly told to leave the area.

Uyehara said Syngenta’s priority was to get the individuals out of the restricted field. They were cleaned up as quickly as possible, offered medical assistance and transported to the hospital in private vehicles.

He said due to privacy laws, he couldn’t describe any symptoms employees may have shown.

Uyehara there were about 30 workers in the vicinity of the restricted corn field Wednesday morning, but not necessarily in the field, before the 24-hour restriction had expired.

Syngenta officials met early Thursday to begin reviewing their procedures and policies to be sure the work environment is safe. Steps will be taken each morning to be sure training procedures are explained, monitored and followed.

“The company takes safety very seriously,” Uyehara said.

Syngenta has about 100 full-time employees.

External investigations are also underway.

Uyehara said a Hawaii Department of Agriculture inspector, who was on the property Wednesday morning, was notified and taken to the site of the incident within about 10 minutes of when it happened.

“It’s not possible for it to happen faster than that,” he said.

He emphasized Syngenta’s first priority was to ensure the safety of its colleagues.

“Everything is under review,” he said.

The Environment Protection Agency is considering a total ban on the use of chlorpyrifos. A comment period ended earlier this month.

Earthjustice, in its Jan. 5 comments on the proposal, wrote: “Chlorpyrifos is a widely used, dangerous pesticide that causes poisonings of workers and bystanders every year and is associated with alarming neurodevelopmental impairments to children exposed during early life stages.”

It wrote that EPA “should also move quickly to cancel all chlorpyrifos uses — even non-food uses — based on the risks posed to workers and bystanders and the serious extent and nature of those risks.”

Uyehara, in an interview with Civil Beat, said the company doesn’t have any plans to discontinue its use of chlorpyrifos.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s still registered as safe as long as it’s used in accordance with the label,” he told Civil Beat.

Anonymous said...

Just don't trespass in their fields like Hooser and you'll be ok.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to the picture of Hooser "standing in the fields" that you claim to have seen Joan? Remember when you loudly proclaimed "hooser busted for trespassing"? Why was there never any evidence of this presented? No picture, no police report, no citation and no witnesses (except your anonymous "sources". Why? Cause it didn't happen.

Joan Conrow said...

No, it happened. I actually did see the photo on the phones of two Pioneer workers. But the workers were afraid of being harassed by anti-GMO activists, so they did not want to go public. That's why no police report or citation. Anti-GMO intimidation at its finest!

Anonymous said...

"Though Berg suggested those who tested clean could use a “glyphosate free sticker” "
How will this work Dr Berg, Jimmy Trujillo?
Should each frame from each colony have a sample sent in for sampling every harvest?
Who will dispense and SELL the stickers?
KBEE and the self aggrandizing , no beekeeping real world experience, public funded anti gmo activist Jimmy Trujillo?

Using a high school student to put forth a study you would not sign your name to, as anti gmo propaganda?

You and Mr Heacock have expended your credibility by joining the forces of the occult, anti-science anti gmo movement.
Who is to say that the glycophosphate sample comes from a seed company field or an aunty using a bottle bought from any store on Kauai to extinguish a dandelion growing through a crack in her driveway that a bee happens to land on?
You (Jimmy and Carl) have done a hatchet job on all honey produced on Kauai with alarmist BS.
How about a (PARTS PER MILLION) test on the carcinogenic elements present whenever we pump our gas or drive our cars,
The elitist aesthetic of zero chemical presence is a farce.
Good job with your activist anti gmo bs to smear local beekeepers that don't feed at the public trough. or soak up public dollars.
Good luck selling your stickers

Anonymous said...

As a real beekeeper or apiculturist I would like to thank Joan for recognizing and exposing Mr. Trujillo as a self promoting opportunist. I believe the real story herein is that he has seized upon another instance to build his reputation as the beekeeping authority on Kauai. Over these past few years there have been numerous TGI articles featuring Trujillo as the man who is saving Kauai's bees or the bee whisperer and such. Never once has he credited the long time beekeeping community here, who in fact have for many years been managing their colonies responsibly without the use of chemicals or antibiotics in the bee hives. I am concerned that KCC and KBEE are encouraging a new era of beekeepers, young and old alike, who are not receiving proper instruction and education. These entities have received numerous grants and funding worth tens of thousands of dollars without any oversite or accountability. Now Mr Trujillo is positioning himself to receive public funding for commercial queen rearing which he has no expertise with at all. The county and state officials have been sold on this because they genuinely want to help the honeybees but aren't aware of the true story with KBEE, Trujillo, and now KCC( whom will be held liable also).

Unknown said...

Will post soon...jimmy is not the enemy....

Anonymous said...

Jimmy is not the enemy but needs to face reality. As a former bee keeper I must say having a sticker to say your honey is awesome and has no residual of any complex element is wonderful. But bees do not harvest pollen from the same plant every day. They roam and collect from whatever is in bloom at the time. So if you want to have a sticker to promote self grandiosity, then every single bottle of honey would have to be tested.

Unknown said...

This has got to stop....

Jimmy has done nothing wrong...
I as a concerned beekeeper here on Kauai, I personally supplied over half of the samples for the study... I know the results...I will talk freely about the results, Just contact me.
15 Koloa 0
16 Puhi 0
17 Kokee 0
22 Hanapepe 0
18 Poipu 9.6
20 Kam feral 1 155.2 4 29
8 Kam feral 3 61.4 4 29 15
14 Kamakani 341.6 1 22 14
6 kahaka 80.2
21 fer 2 kam 32.6 4 29
All these were collected by ME...
This is not good.
European union says 0.1 ppb is acceptable, usa has no numbers... look at the seralini report

STOP TRASHING JIMMY... He has nothing to do with the queen rearing project...

Joan Conrow said...

Yes, Douglas Gates, Jimmy did do something wrong, which was to wildly speculate about cause and effect when he really doesn't know diddly.

And now you're doing the same thing in your own way, drawing conclusions informed by the discredited Seralini study.

Unknown said...

wildly speculate about cause and effect when he really doesn't know diddly.
and you do? You are doing the same in support of gmo.
This honey test also (to me) is about homeowner usage.
As you will see I draw conclusions from many reports.

Do your research... the Seralini study has been proven accurate

Liver and kidney damage due to a diet full of genetically modified food has already been shown in a notable, yet controversial study that was once forced to be retracted, and then later republished by the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. This study, titled the “Long Term Toxicity of Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-Tolerant Genetically Modified Maize” is joined now by a new, peer-reviewed study showing that even at the levels of glyphosate the general public is exposed to in drinking water, over 4000 genes and their proper functioning are altered in the livers and kidneys of rats.

Are we affected too?

Published in the Environmental Health Journal, the new study suggests that even super low levels of Roundup exposure are deadly.

The study results showed that exposure to low-dose glyphosate concentrations, in an established laboratory animal toxicity model system, can result in liver and kidney damage, with potential significant health implications for people as well as our pets and wildlife populations.

Here is an overview given by the study abstract:

“Glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) are the major pesticides used worldwide. Converging evidence suggests that GBH, such as Roundup, pose a particular health risk to liver and kidneys although low environmentally relevant doses have not been examined. To address this issue, a 2-year study in rats administering 0.1 ppb Roundup (50 ng/L glyphosate equivalent) via drinking water…was conducted.

A marked increased incidence of anatomorphological and blood/urine biochemical changes was indicative of liver and kidney structure and functional pathology….”

This follow-up investigation conducted by Dr. Michael Antoniou’s team at King’s College London was a follow up to Seralini’s 2-year study of rats exposed to Roundup that the biotech industry tried desperately to silence. Sites like the Genetic Literacy Project are still attempting to dismiss Seralini’s findings, but with additional studies like Antoniou’s, their arguments become baseless.

Here’s why:

The Seralini investigation administered a commercial Roundup formulation at 0.1 ppb (parts per billion)/50 ppt (parts per trillion) glyphosate via drinking water for 2 years. Liver and kidney pathologies were found in the rats. The new study by Dr. Antoniou’s team investigated whether heightened liver and kidney pathology observed at an anatomical and biochemical level was reflected in the gene expression pattern. “Transcriptome” was analyzed, by comparing liver and kidney tissues from the Roundup treatment group with those of the control animals.Here’s what Dr. Antoniou said about what they found, “The findings of our study are very worrying as they confirm that a very low level of consumption of Roundup weedkiller over the long term can result in liver and kidney damage. Our results also suggest that regulators should re-consider the safety evaluation of glyphosate-based herbicides.”

Joan Conrow said...

I don't claim to know everything. Most importantly, I know enough to remain silent when I don't know what I'm talking about, which is not true for either you or Jimmy.

It seems you missed the news that the Seralini study was retracted as well by the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology.

"The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracts the article “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” which was published in this journal in November 2012. This retraction comes after a thorough and time-consuming analysis of the published article and the data it reports, along with an investigation into the peer-review behind the article."

So please provide a citation for your claim that it "has been proven accurate."

Also, even if one were to accept the study in Environmental Health Journal, it cites results from a two-year study of water fed to rats. In other words, chronic exposure. It's quite a leap for you to use that to draw any kind of conclusions about the glyphosate levels found in a one time honey sampling.

Unknown said...



The seralini study has been republished. google it.

This follow-up investigation conducted by Dr. Michael Antoniou’s team at King’s College London was a follow up to Seralini’s 2-year study of rats exposed to Roundup that the biotech industry tried desperately to silence. Sites like the Genetic Literacy Project are still attempting to dismiss Seralini’s findings, but with additional studies like Antoniou’s, their arguments become baseless.


Now look at this map of pesticides being used.,4-D

Direct correlation of pesticides killing off wild bee populations.

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

What's with all the people who are not willing to say who they are?

Unknown said...

Dr Michael Antoniou, a molecular geneticist based in London, commented, “Few studies would survive such intensive scrutiny by fellow scientists. The republication of the study after three expert reviews is a testament to its rigour, as well as to the integrity of the researchers.

“If anyone still doubts the quality of this study, they should simply read the republished paper. The science speaks for itself.

“If even then they refuse to accept the results, they should launch their own research study on these two toxic products that have now been in the human food and animal feed chain for many years.”

Dr Jack A Heinemann, Professor of Molecular Biology and Genetics, University of Canterbury New Zealand, called the republication “an important demonstration of the resilience of the scientific community”. Dr Heinemann continued, “The first publication of these results revealed some of the viciousness that can be unleashed on researchers presenting uncomfortable findings. I applaud Environmental Sciences Europe for submitting the work to yet another round of rigorous blind peer review and then bravely standing by the process and the recommendations of its reviewers, especially after witnessing the events surrounding the first publication.

“This study has arguably prevailed through the most comprehensive and independent review process to which any scientific study on GMOs has ever been subjected.

“The work provides important new knowledge that must be taken into account by the community that evaluates and reports upon the risks of genetically modified organisms, indeed upon all sources of pesticide in our food and feed chains. In time these findings must be verified by repetition or challenged by superior experimentation. In my view, nothing constructive for risk assessment or promotion of GM biotechnology has been achieved by attempting to expunge these data from the public record.”

Joan Conrow said...

Douglas, those are not links to scientific journals that either prove or published the Seralini study. They are advocacy sites, and Seralilni's site.

You've got to learn how to find good sources, or else your assumptions, and thus your comments, are just a lot of hocus-pocus hot air.

You also need to be wary of confusing correlation with causation, especially when your correlations are based on graphics provided by advocacy groups.

Joan Conrow said...

Re: your comment at 12:09

Where are the citation links?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Gates: Perhaps you missed the joint communique of six of the French National Academies of Sciences on the on the glyphosate/maize study Seralini authored and orchestrated a propaganda campaign for. The link to an English translation is here: You seem to have skipped though the meadow of GMO scientific research selecting cowpies by GMO activists. You need to be more careful of where you put your feet before you try to get the rest of us to follow your trail, especially if you are going to be so insistent- at least those of us who are not on the KKCR wavelength.

Joan Conrow said...

Douglas Gates: More on the discredited Seralini study:

A paper claiming genetically modified corn may be toxic over long periods has disappeared one day after it was presented at a press conference, after the journal’s domain name expired.

The publisher, Scholarly Journals, is listed among the “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers compiled by Jeffrey Beall.

In other words, pay to publish.

Anonymous said...

Wait am I reading this correctly?

Study says: glyphosate in Kauai honey found
Douglas Gates: "I personally supplied over half of the samples for the study"
Douglas Gates: "look at the seralini report"
Douglas Gates: "Direct correlation of pesticides killing off wild bee populations"

Back to the first post: "I personally supplied over half of the samples for the study"
Conclusion: If you did provide "over half the study samples" it is a clear conflict of interest. Can we trust these results?