Are GM Crops Killing Bees?

A mysterious decimation of bee populations has German beekeepers worried, while a similar phenomenon in the United States is gradually assuming catastrophic proportions. The consequences for agriculture and the economy could be enormous.

Walter Haefeker is a man who is used to painting grim scenarios. He sits on the board of directors of the German Beekeepers Association (DBIB) and is vice president of the European Professional Beekeepers Association. And because griping is part of a lobbyist’s trade, it is practically his professional duty to warn that “the very existence of beekeeping is at stake.”

The problem, says Haefeker, has a number of causes, one being the varroa mite, introduced from Asia, and another is the widespread practice in agriculture of spraying wildflowers with herbicides and practicing monoculture. Another possible cause, according to Haefeker, is the controversial and growing use of genetic engineering in agriculture.

As far back as 2005, Haefeker ended an article he contributed to the journal Der Kritischer Agrarbericht (Critical Agricultural Report) with an Albert Einstein quote: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Mysterious events in recent months have suddenly made Einstein’s apocalyptic vision seem all the more topical. For unknown reasons, bee populations throughout Germany are disappearing — something that is so far only harming beekeepers. But the situation is different in the United States, where bees are dying in such dramatic numbers that the economic consequences could soon be dire. No one knows what is causing the bees to perish, but some experts believe that the large-scale use of genetically modified plants in the US could be a factor.

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One Response to “Are GM Crops Killing Bees?”

  1. After reading this article and the following email from Victoria, looking at the
    links and other googled info, including stuff from Bayer itself, I really wonder if this
    is not the main cause of the problem with CCD. IMIDACLOPRID.. It’s marketed under many
    differant trade names. it is used alot in corn from what I read, even the seeds come
    sprayed with it before the farmer even gets it.. Readin gwhat this stuff does and how
    it works, it makes the “pests” forget if it does not kill them fast, forget where home is,
    sounds like it could explain alot of where the bee’s go, No? they fly off to find pollen &
    nectar and forget how to get home, forget what they are doing, gives them jumpy and
    gittery, has to mess up the bee dance. What do most beekeepers feed there
    bees.. a syrup of high frutose corn syrup.. Does anyone know if this stuff transfers
    into that? the bees sure could be doubling up on the toxin if it does… Not to
    mention, Ok, I’ll mention it.. , The water supply, a run off of the stuff the fields
    are sprayed with. Just another thought from a lowly bee keeper in a veil. 🙂
    Could many bee keepers be making it worse with the chemical treatments for mites being
    added to this? I have not had any problem as of yet, knock on a wooden hive body..
    I do everything organic and natural and have really stayed on top of the little mite
    issues that have come up. BUT I do ask that you look thsi stuff up and think about it,
    make up your own mind.

    Thanks and TTFN,
    Richard Waite.
    Black Cat Honey & Products
    413-626-7136
    62 Parker Street
    Winchester NH 03470
    http://www.BlackCatHoney.com

    RE:
    From: Victoria MacPhail
    To: pollinator@coevolution.org
    Subject: [Pollinator] Is CCD really just starting in 2005/2006?
    Previouswork on imidacloprid?
    Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 22:58:05 -0400

    I have been following the latest theme with interest, and had been
    wondering when imidacloprid would be raised.

    When I was an undergraduate student in 2002, I worked with Dr. Jim
    Kemp and Dick Rogers in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick
    (Eastern Canada) investigating possible reasons (incl. diseases, food
    sources, pesticides, management practices, among others) behind the
    disappearance and overall decrease in honeybee populations in the
    Maritimes. What had initated their research in the previous year
    (2001) was the concern that imidacloprid, trade name Admire, used in
    furrow in potato fields, persisted in the soil and came up in the
    clover flowers two years later, which then killed off the foraging
    bees. I believe a similar concern with imidacloprid had been raised
    in France under the trade name Gaucho and used on sunflowers.

    My understanding is that beekeepers in the Maritimes noticed in the
    late 1990s or early 2000s that bees were disappearing/dying and
    colonies crashing unexpectedly, with some beekeepers having limited
    losses and some having almost total losses. They heard reports from
    France of the similar symptoms, said that that was their problem too,
    accused imidacloprid and the producer (Bayer), who then got Jim and
    Dick involved in the investigation.

    I found an old newspaper article on-line saying essentially the same
    thing: May 25, 2002 – National Post,
    http://www.safe2use.com/ca-ipm/02-05-27.htm. You could probably find
    other sources too.

    The background information I had heard and learned about in 2002, and
    in 2003 when I was only peripherally involved in the project, sounds
    just like what is supposedly only just happening this year in the US.
    Now, I am new to the field and may be way off base, but to me this
    sounds like the same thing, so why are most of these reports saying
    this is a new phenomenon, happening either only this year or maybe
    last year too? Are these two different problems/scenarios, or is the
    media just having a field day with it this year?

    Anyway, just another thought to mull over.

    Victoria MacPhail

    MSc Candidate
    Dept. of Environmental Biology
    University of Guelph
    Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
    vmacphai@uoguelph.ca
    lab) 519-824-4120 ext. 56243
    fax) 519-837-0442