As Food Industry Manager, Stephen liaises with supermarkets, food processors and fruit&vegetable producers to discuss the safe use of crop protection products. Recently, he took on the additional responsibility of Bayer BeeAmbassador. In an interview, he talks about the two roles.
Stephen, how does it feel to be wearing the two hats of manager and ambassador?
They go well together, because bees, best practice & insecticides are topics in all meetings with the food chain. People are hungry for knowledge. And even if my contacts do not raise the issue, I do. We want to communicate the facts and correct misunderstandings.
Can you give us a practical example of what people want to know?
Last week, for example, I went to see a potato processor. He wanted to know about the recent EU legislation concerning neonicotinoids. Even though his business is not directly impacted by the restriction – for bees are not attracted to potato plants – he wanted to be able to answer the questions of his customers. He also wanted to know more about thiacloprid, the neonicotinoid he is using. He was pleased to learn that this active ingredient has such good characteristics regarding bee safety that it is even registered for bee attractive crops like flowering oilseed rape.
What do you tell food chain customers who are impacted by the restriction?
That’s a tricky one, as the big problem is: some neonics might be restricted, but the pests are not. We still need to control them. The food chain depends on pesticides for the production of safe, affordable and attractive food 365 days a year. So, where possible, we suggest other products from our portfolio that might be appropriate in protecting the food we need to grow.
Are you also involved with Bayer Garden customers?
Yes, that is also part of my job. Presently we are doing a road-show training for UK garden centre staff, providing information on the bee-safety of thiacloprid products for the home and garden.
What about questions from friends and family: Is Bee Ambassador a 24/7 mission?
In a way it is. At dinners for example, when people learn I work for Bayer, they want to know: Do neonics really have an effect on bees? So I explain to them that there is a difference between potential impact and reality. Lab-based studies with exaggerated dose rates are one thing, but what counts is what happens in real-life. In normal use conditions, neonics do not cause problems to bees, as long as they are used according to the label.
Where do you get your scientific information from?
All over the world, new information on bees is generated continuously. The Bayer Bee Care Centers in Germany and the US have dedicated bee experts to keep on top of all the research and digest it for us. For us as BeeAmbassadors that means we can rely on a highly professional back up team to support us with the information we need. After all, Bayer has been working in bee health for over 25 years. There is a lot of expertise in this company and I am proud to share it with my customers.