By Dr. Mercola
Bee colonies around the globe are mysteriously disappearing, a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). Since 2006, it's estimated that close to one-third of all honey bee colonies have simply vanished into thin air. Where are the bees going? What's causing their devastating demise?
One forerunning theory is that genetic engineering of crops is involved, either through the genetically modified crops themselves or the pesticides and herbicides that go with them.
Monsanto, which is the world leader in this type of biotechnology, is likely none too pleased about the recent accusations hurled against their product, so they've taken matters into their own hands and purchased one of the leading bee research firms – one that, conveniently, lists its primary goal as studying colony collapse disorder.
If this isn't the classic example of the fox guarding the henhouse then I don't know what is.
Why Your Food Supply Depends on Independent Bee Research
It is absolutely crucial to the food supply that the dedicated application of research is allowed to continue surrounding colony collapse disorder. To get an idea of the magnitude of importance, the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that without bees to act as pollinators, the United States alone could lose $15 billion worth of crops.i
Do you enjoy apples? How about beets? You'd better get your fill now, because without bees these, and the crops listed below, will disappear. In all, bees pollinate at least 130 different crops in the U.S. alone, including fruits, vegetables and tree nuts.
Bee Research Goes to the Wolves...
Beeologics says their mission is to become the "guardian of bee health worldwide," and states they are dedicated to "restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination" with its primary goal to control the colony collapse disorder and Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) infection crises." Monsanto bought the company in September 2011, just months before Poland announced it would ban growing of Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) MON810 maize, noting, poignantly, that "pollen of this strain could have a harmful effect on bees."ii
The ongoing blight of GM crops has been implicated in CCD for years now. In one German study,iii when bees were released in a GM rapeseed crop, then fed the pollen to younger bees, scientists discovered the bacteria in the guts of the young ones mirrored the same genetic traits as ones found in the GM crop, indicating that horizontal gene transfer had occurred.
Further, the newer systemic insecticides, known as neonicotinoids, have become the fastest growing insecticides in the world. Two prominent examples, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are used as seed treatments in hundreds of crops. Virtually all of today's genetically engineered Bt corn is treated with neonicotinoids.
Bee colonies began disappearing in the U.S. shortly after the EPA allowed these new insecticides on the market. Even the EPA itself admits that "pesticide poisoning" is a likely cause of bee colony collapse.
These insecticides are highly toxic to bees because they are systemic, water soluble, and very pervasive. They get into the soil and groundwater where they can accumulate and remain for many years and present long-term toxicity to the hive. They enter the vascular system of the plant and are carried to all parts of it, as well as to the pollen and nectar. Neonicotinoids affect insects' central nervous systems in ways that are cumulative and irreversible. Even minute amounts can have profound effects over time. And the little bees are being exposed over and over again as pesticides become more necessary due to the inherent weaknesses of monoculture.
One of the observed effects of these insecticides is weakening of the bee's immune system.
Forager bees bring pesticide-laden pollen back to the hive, where it's consumed by all of the bees. Six months later, their immune systems fail, and they fall prey to natural bee infections, such as parasites, mites, viruses, fungi and bacteria. Indeed, pathogens such as Varroa mites, Nosema, fungal and bacterial infections, and IAPV are found in large amounts in honey bee hives on the verge of collapse. In addition to immune dysfunction and opportunistic diseases, the honey bees also appear to suffer from neurological problems, disorientation, and impaired navigation.
A bee can't survive for more than 24 hours if she becomes disoriented and unable to find her way back to the hive.
Even butterflies are suffering... A decline in the North American monarch butterfly population has been linked to increased plantings of herbicide-tolerant GM crops, and overuse of the herbicide glyphosate, which is the key chemical in Monsanto's Roundup.iv Glyphosate is killing milkweed plants, upon which monarchs rely for habitat and food.
GM Crops Lead to Monoculture...
Monoculture is the growing of just one type of crop on a massive scale. Where farms used to consist of multiple types of produce, pigs, chickens and cows, today you see mile upon mile of corn and soybeans… Monoculture farming practices have sadly resulted in a widespread shift away from sustainable family farms and locally produced foods, and toward industrialized agriculture, massive farming complexes, and confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), all driven by large corporations whose chief motivation is maximizing profit.
Monoculture increases dependency on chemical pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In fact, the use of GM crops like corn and soy (the United States leads the world in GM crop acreage, by the way) is the very definition of monoculture! Why is this an important point to remember? Because, ironically, Monsanto-owned Beeologics states right on their website that large-scale monoculture and pesticide use are key reasons why bees are dying!
"Assorted factors have been implicated in the reduced capability of bees to survive in recent years, including the dearth of resources and poor nutrition which are a key factor in bee and colony loss. Every doctor prescribes exercise and a healthy diet as preventive measures to disease. And every beekeeper knows that good forage over time is the ultimate cure. Bees, as a community, overcome almost all diseases easily when the weather is favorable and wild flowers bloom prolifically. However, in recent years, large scale monoculture has resulted in a lack of natural weeds, and all too often pesticide-laden crop forage."v
It will be interesting to see how long this information remains on their site, or if Monsanto will realize the irony in these words and have it taken down... the problem, of course, is that now Monsanto will be able to massage any forthcoming "research" to make sure it exonerates their prized GM creations from having any role in CCD...
A recent Global Research article reports:
"Owning a major organization that focuses heavily on the bee collapse and is recognized by the USDA for their mission statement of "restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination" could be very advantageous for Monsanto. In fact, Beelogics' company information states that the primary goal of the firm is to study the very collapse disorder that is thought to be a result — at least in part — of Monsanto's own creations."
What Can You do to Help the Honeybees?
The documentary film Vanishing of the Bees recommends four actions you can take to help preserve our honey bees:
- Support organic farmers and shop at local farmer's markets as often as possible. You can "vote with your fork" three times a day. [When you buy organic, you are making a statement by saying "no" to GMOs!]
- Cut the use of toxic chemicals in your house and on your lawn, and use organic pest control.
- Better yet, get rid of your lawn altogether and plant a garden. Lawns offer very little benefit for the environment. Both flower and vegetable gardens provide good honey bee habitats.
- Become an amateur beekeeper. Having a hive in your garden requires only about an hour of your time per week, benefits your local ecosystem, and you can enjoy your own honey!
If you are interested in more information about bee preservation, the following organizations are a good place to start.
- Pesticide Action Network Bee Campaign vi
- The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Beesvii
- American Beekeeping Federationviii
- Help the Honey Beesix
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.