You’ve probably heard about the bees disappearing. In a bizarre and terrifying worldwide trend, many of the honeybees we depend on to pollinate 1/3 or more of our crops are simply vanishing. Scientists call it “colony collapse disorder” (CCD) and blame new combinations of infectious microorganisms, but still the mystery lives on. Even Doctor Who weighed in on it (it was the Daleks, of course).

So why is this happening? You guessed it, corporate research funding. As Fortune points out, the industry is flooded with research grants from companies like Bayer, who also manufacture pesticides which are suspected to play a role in this. One lead researcher from a recent study, Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, linking CCD to a combination of a virus and fungus, as an example of someone with prior funding from Bayer who’s left out the pesticide issue.

As described by Dr Jennifer Sass of the NRDC, pesticides (in this case, the focus is on nenocotinoids) build up in the honeycomb and weaken the immune systems of the bees. Like HIV, it doesn’t kill directly but instead paves the way for whatever else comes along.

This is why independent, unbiased research funding is so important. Allowing industry giants like Bayer this kind of control over what we know about the basic science of agriculture twists our sense of knowledge, leaving us confused when catastrophe strikes. Science is not just about how to do things – it’s understanding how and why things work. And unless we make science the priority, not money, we’re not going to get understanding.

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