Happy Birthday (tomorrow) Matt Shardlow

Matt Shardlow was on Farming Today this morning (before I was awake for once)(click here, 9 mins in) doing a spirited job. I don’t know the ins and outs of the subject so I can’t tell you that Matt was right, but it would be possible to check.  But I am sure that he sounded as though he knew what he was talking about, and he sounded as though he had the evidence to back it up.

He also did a very good job in getting on the front foot and challenging what the industry report says.  That takes quite a lot of skill and nerve in such a situation.

I like Matt’s style. We need more feisty people like Matt in nature conservation (however cherubic they may appear). And so tomorrow (Friday 13th! Eek!), when it is Matt’s birthday, we all ought to wish him many happy returns of the day!

And I notice it is a long time since Matt wrote anything for this blog (The flight of the neonicotinoids, 20 February 2013; Buglife, 12 November 2013) – time for another Guest Blog, Matt?


Note added today: Happy Birthday Matt!  On today’s Farming Today they have just returned to the subject of whether oil seed rape yields have increased or decreased.  In the last three years yields have increased in  two years and decreased in one year. I would say that the statistician brought in to adjudicate did more for Buglife’s Matt Shardlow’s credibility than the industry’s report – matt’s argument was that there was no good evidence of any harm from neonicotinoid ban (in fact it looked as though yields had increased!) whereas the industry claimed there was evidence of harm.  Charlotte Smith could have done rather more to make it clear that this was a victory for the environmental argument but one rarely gets that on Farming Today.

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8 Replies to “Happy Birthday (tomorrow) Matt Shardlow”

  1. I heard him and was impressed - he was knowledgable and assertive - which he needed to be in the face if the other [industry] guy's spin and mendaciousness, and the BBC's usual tactic of trying to cut off any meaningful input from those arguing against "industry" / big Pharma ....

  2. The man from the pesticide industry was obviously trying to manipulate the figures; saying the total UK harvest was down since the moratorium on neonicotinoids but not giving the productivity per ha. If fewer acres where sown last year, then almost inevitably the yield will be down and for reasons other than that the pest attack damaging the crop. He also blamed bad beekeeping practices for bee disease, when he knows very well that there is strong evidence that wild bees (not honey bees) which are Buglife's concern, also being harmed by the pesticides. And, as is often the case with Farming Today, the introduction by the presenter was worded in a biased way - "....today, neonics. Is the ban causing more trouble than it's worth?...."

  3. Let's be charitable about BBC presenter Charlotte Smith?

    As a presenter (perhaps with a political agenda) what expertise does she have, will she have been provided with a balanced and scientific / evidence based brief?

    I did wonder if she really understood why Matt Shardlow insisted on industry acknowledging a simple, yet significant fact? She certainly did her best to cut him off, which might cause one to ponder why she didn't want clarity on each of the specifics?

    Objective analysis: Industry 0 Buglife 1 (IMHO).

    The industry really does need to up its game if it wants the public to have confidence in their toxic cocktails?

    Farmers too need to do a risk assessment on their continued use of them if they want public support?

    Agri-industry is wedded to their use so the cycle continues as they have serious advocacy budgets to court those in the corridors of powers, worldwide.

    It also raises the issue of labeling, transparency please producers if your product uses toxic chemicals or is GM then the consumer has a right to that information to enable them to make an informed choice. Honesty and accountability - outdated concepts? If they are harmless then what's the problem and the need for obfuscation etc.?

  4. Matt is a great guy. He's knowledgable, passionate and visible and one of the reasons that Buglife punches well above its weight for such a small charity. Chief Execs of larger conservation NGOs could learn a thing or two from Matt...

  5. I enjoyed the piece.
    A simple question. What are the actual productivity (tonnes/hectare) figures for the past few years for oil seed rape? Source also requested.
    We need more people like him, , but I'd like to know who is peddling fake news, just to be sure he is right. I'm really hoping that Matt is giving us the true story, and that the figures support his, and not industry (possibly mendacious) assertions.

  6. I can answer my own question. Google was my friend.
    All the figures are here (sorry I can't do html):
    Oils seed rape productivity figures show continued increases until 2016, when they, along with all other cereals, fell in 2016, back to 2013 levels.
    It is not as clear cut as I'd like, but clearly lack of neonicotinoids to farmers does not show a reduction in yield until 2016. 2016 was poor for all cereals.
    A fail for the European crop protection association in my opinion. (Big Pharma?)

  7. And just to add to the above. The report from ESPA is here:
    Looking at the report, it claims that the reduction in yield for the uk is 1% and the overall EU figure shows a 4% reduction. From these figures and others the economic cost to the EU has been calculated to be around €600M. I have not read the whole paper but the word error does not appear anywhere. This suggests to me that the figures quoted would likely fall within the margin of error for the results.
    The table in the executive summary also has 2016 figures from an ESA study which shows a reduction in yield of 3.1% and a cost of €331M. There is however a 2015 study from ESA which has figures almost twice as high of 5.1% and €547M. I don't need to be a scientist to realise that these figures cannot both be right, suggesting that the possible error in the figures is likely to well exceed all the figures quoted, and the yield may well be higher, not less.
    The European Crop Protection Association report is, in my very humble opinion, a pile of horse****, a fake news story, a report designed specifically to allow governments to relax the ban, produced by people who do not care if the report is likely to be correct, as long as it allows a return to the good old days of killing wildlife with gay abandon when neonicitinoids could be used and companies profit from their sale.
    Am I wrong? Am I pedaling fake news? I think I'm detecting it, along with Matt Shardlow. I just wish we had more people like him.


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