People make claims on social media that are — how shall I put this delicately? — hard to verify.
I’m suspicious by nature and when I see a something online that stands outside my current understanding, I tend to see if the claim is grounded in anything beyond opinion or anecdotal evidence.
So my initial reaction was to postpone judgment when Gregory Sekullic tweeted a picture of a canola field, where half the picture is of canola treated with neonicotinoids and the other half of the picture is of canola not treated with neonicotinoids.
The reason for my suspicion was due to the stark contrast between the two treatments that were both exposed to a flea beetle infestation. The canola that was not treated with neonicotinoids was all but completely gone, while the treated canola, well, existed.
My belief is that neonicotinoids are effective in managing flea beetle infestations, but this picture shows a massive difference between the two treatments.
Sekulic is a Canola Council of Canada representative, a professional agronomist who has a reputation to protect. Which, in my opinion, gives the statement in his tweet (on the effectiveness of neonicotinoids) some traction.
I read some of the replies to his tweet and couldn’t help but laugh a little:
@moxy39 tweeted: “@SekulicCCC is the left side the sustainable farming I keep hearing about?”
@EC_Kosters tweeted: “@SekulicCCC research & find a different method, humanity needs bee pollinated crops more than #canola.”
Sekullic @SekulicCCC replied: “@EC_Kosters …Canola IS a bee-pollinated crop. Our Beekeepers place bees in canola. 70% of Canada’s honey comes from Canola.”
@KarthikAghoram added his thoughts to the conversation: “@SekulicCCC @geneticmaize Wonder what the bees think of the field on the left?”
There were, of course, more replies, with producers and agronomists who have seen similar patterns conversing with people concerned about the connection between neonicotinoids and the collapse of the bee population around cropland.
By the time I wrote this column, Sekulic’s original picture was retweeted 333 times and gained 159 favorites.
I don’t know for certain whether neonicotinoids are as effective at combating flea beetle infestations as Sekullic’s picture suggests. However, I’m definitely leaning in that direction after seeing Sekullic’s tweet, as well as the reactions that producers and other agronomists had to it.
— Gregory Sekulic (@SekulicCCC) July 21, 2015