Yesterday's New York Times featured a heartwarming ending to the years-long murder mystery of what was causing Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) among honeybees. Experts suspected pesticides or genetically modified foods, but the article reported that the University of Montana's Bee Alert Team, working alongside the Army, found the cause: the combined effects of a virus and fungus. Data sharing! Chance discoveries! Honeybees live on to sting another day! But according to Fortune, there were a couple of details left out of the front-page story. The team's lead investigator, Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, may have previously dropped out of testifying in a class-action lawsuit after he received a significant research grant from the pharmaceutical giant Bayer. For years, beekeepers have tried to pursue legal action against Bayer Crop Science over their pesticides, in particular a type of neurotoxin that gets rids of insects by attacking their nervous systems. The beekeepers allege that the pesticides disoriented and killed their hives. One of the markers of CCD is a bee's tendency to fly off in a random direction before it dies.
Bromenshenk defends the [new] study and emphasized that it did not examine the impact of pesticides. "It wasn't on the table because others are funded to do that," he says, noting that no Bayer funds were used on the new study. Bromenshenk vociferously denies that receiving funding from Bayer (to study bee pollination of onions) had anything to do with his decision to withdraw from the plaintiff's side in the litigation against Bayer. "We got no money from Bayer," he says. "We did no work for Bayer; Bayer was sending us warning letters by lawyers."