Shareholder Activists’ War on Science
Acton Institute Powerblog

Shareholder Activists’ War on Science

Bee coloniesThe so-called bee controversy is gaining traction, claiming another company that has promised shareholders it will stop selling neonicotinoid pesticides (pesticides also known as neonics, which they incorrectly blame for colony collapse disorder). Green America announced last weekend it has secured a promise from Lowe’s Companies, Inc., to “phase out neonics and plants pre-treated with them by the spring of 2019 (or sooner, if possible). It is also working with suppliers to minimize pesticide use overall and move to safer alternatives.”

Why is Lowe’s capitulating to an agenda that has no credible scientific basis?

Green America is a Washington-based nonprofit that supports various left-of-center causes, which include pressuring companies to end mining and drilling for fossil fuels, as well as stopping the growing and selling of genetically modified organisms. It should come as no surprise Green America also engages with such investment organizations as Ceres, Calvert Investments, Cornerstone Capital Group, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and As You Sow in shareholder activism.

A quick Internet search reveals a swirling vortex of connections between these groups, including membership in US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, a nonprofit that champions several progressive causes, including “practical strategies, particularly through shareholder engagement, that investors can use to encourage publicly traded companies whose shares they own to disclose or curb their political expenditures.” No self-respecting liberal portfolio could fail to reference Citizens United, of course.

But back to the bees: Green America and the religious shareholders of As You Sow have been working to end the use of neonics, The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham, however, tells an entirely different story:

[T]he number of honeybee colonies has actually risen since 2006, from 2.4 million to 2.7 million in 2014, according to data tracked by the USDA. The 2014 numbers, which came out earlier this year, show that the number of managed colonies — that is, commercial honey-producing bee colonies managed by human beekeepers — is now the highest it’s been in 20 years….

A 2012 working paper by Randal R. Tucker and Walter N. Thurman, a pair of agricultural economists, explains that seasonal die-offs have always been a part of beekeeping: they report that before CCD, American beekeepers would typically lose 14 percent of their colonies a year, on average.

So beekeepers have devised two main ways to replenish their stock. The first method involves splitting one healthy colony into two separate colonies: put half the bees into a new beehive, order them a new queen online (retail price: $25 or so), and voila: two healthy hives.

The Property and Environment Research Center also has weighed in on the exaggerated claims for declining honey bee populations and CCD. Todd Myers, a beekeeper and director of the Center for the Environment at Washington Policy Center, and the author of Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment, told PERC’s Jonathon Holder:

While bee colonies have recovered since the 2006 CCD scare, there was an increase in hive mortality over the last year, so beekeepers still have work to do. But beekeepers have the best information and incentive to improve the health of honeybees. Lost hives can be expensive and beekeepers are the ones most likely to identify the causes and cures of hive death. The fact that the number of hives nationally is increasing is evidence that beekeepers can adjust even in very serious circumstances. It will take more time to put us on a consistent path to reducing hive mortality and understanding the risks to bees, but we are already seeing good steps forward and I am optimistic that we will continue to see improvement in the next decade.

Green America, AYS and the progressive investors with whom they cavort, however, will continue to harangue companies such as Lowe’s and General Mills over neonics. For its part, Green America already has announced its next targets: True Value Hardware and Ace Hardware Corporation. More’s the pity.

Bruce Edward Walker

has more than 30 years’ writing and editing experience in a variety of publishing areas, including reference books, newspapers, magazines, media relations and corporate speeches. Much of this material involved research on water rights, land use, alternative-technology vehicles and other environmental issues, but Walker has also written extensively on nonscientific subjects, having produced six titles in Wiley Publishing’s CliffsNotes series, including study guides for "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He has also authored more than 100 critical biographies of authors and musicians for Gale Research's Contemporary Literary Criticism and Contemporary Musicians reference-book series. He was managing editor of The Heartland Institute's InfoTech & Telecom News from 2010-2012. Prior to that, he was manager of communications for the Mackinac Center's Property Rights Network. He also served from 2006-2011 as editor of Michigan Science, a quarterly Mackinac Center publication. Walker has served as an adjunct professor of literature and academic writing at University of Detroit Mercy. For the past five years, he has authored a weekly column for the mid-Michigan Morning Sun newspaper. Walker holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Michigan State University. He is the father of two daughters and currently lives in Flint, Mich., with his wife Katherine.