March 30, 2013
Monsanto is in the headlines this week largely due to President Obama signing the Monsanto Protection act, but that is not the only reason this agriculture giant is raising eyebrows. The great outdoors wouldn’t be quite so great without trees, flowers and other vegetation to fill the landscape. Unfortunately for lovers of the great outdoors, it looks like there is a new threat looming over green, luscious landscapes, in the form of a plague striking bees.
Recent studies on epidemic death rates among honeybees are beginning to point fingers at genetically modified seeds produced by Monsanto. In 2012, an epidemic swept through commercial bee colonies killing up to 50% of the nations’ bee colonies used to pollinate crops for farmers. Among the hardest hit are almond growers in California, who saw their bee colonies nearly decimated over the winter. While hives looked to be healthy last fall, there was a near-catastrophic die off of honeybees over the winter.
While it is hard to say if the mass die-off is solely due to genetically altered seeds and not drought or fungal issues, European scientists have linked bee epidemics to neonicotinoids, which are incorporated into plants grown from genetically altered seeds produced by Monsanto. The neonicotinoids are suspected to be the culprit in the mass die-off of bees in both Germany and Spain. In response to this research, the European Union has already proposed a ban on the seeds in question. Here in the United States, the leading bee research company was bought by Monsanto in 2012 after the company was first implicated in epidemic bee colony collapses, and little has been heard on the subject since.
This situation has left farmers scrambling to find new bee colonies for the pollination of many fruits and vegetables and could have the effect of raising prices on these foods in the near future.
For more information on this topic, check out this in-depth article on the subject: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/29/science/earth/soaring-bee-deaths-in-2012-sound-alarm-on-malady.html?hp&pagewanted=all&_r=1&
There's also the following report from 2009:
From the April 2009 Idaho Observer:
Bayer, Monsanto killing bees with patented chemicals, process
By Dan Eden
For over a year, the media has been reporting about the dramatic loss of bees in Europe and North America. As many as 50 percent to 90 percent of the bee populations have simply vanished, leaving their hives empty and forcing farmers to demand investigations to determine the cause.
The most popular theory, aside from the varroa mite and cell phone RF radiation, has been the belief that a virus—similar to AIDS—has infected the bees. A team led by scientists from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Pennsylvania State University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service, University of Arizona, and 454 Life Sciences (a Roche company) found a significant connection between the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) and colony collapse disorder (CCD) in honey bees.
A team of scientists from Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) and University of California San Francisco identified both a virus and a parasite that are likely behind the recent sudden die-off of honey-bee colonies.
But it now appears that a much more basic culprit has killed the bees—Bayer Corporation. CCD is poisoning with a known insect neurotoxin called Clothianidin, a pesticide manufactured by Bayer, which has been clearly linked to massive bee die offs in Germany and France.
Clothianidin = "Colony Collapse Disorder"
One of the most important food crops is corn. Corn is also used to make ethanol for fuel. But modern varieties of corn are vulnerable to diabrotica vergifera vergifera. Commonly known as the "root worm," the bug burrows into the newly forming roots of the corn plant and causes the plant to wither and eventually die. By 2003, Bayer Pharmaceutical had developed "Clothianidin" to address the rootworm problem. Bayer’s own studies showed that its pesticide was highly toxic to bees but claimed that, because it would be applied to corn seed and would be buried in the soil, it would be harmless to other creatures.
Farmers were instructed to buy special machines to apply clothianidin to their seeds with a special adhesive seed coating manufactured by Monsanto. The poison is supposed to stick to the seed coat and to be toxic to the rootworm. These poison-coated seeds are now growing all over the globe.
In July, 2007, the German corn crop was infested with the rootworm. The German government ordered that every possible method should be used to eradicate this pest, including the use of clothianidin. Shortly after the seeds were planted, in May of 2008, some 330-million bees abruptly died.
According to the German Research Center for Cultivated Plants, 29 out of 30 dead bees had been killed by direct contact with clothianidin.
Philipp Mimkes, spokesman for the German-based Coalition Against Bayer Dangers, said: "We have been pointing out the risks of neonicotinoids for almost 10 years now. This proves without a doubt that the chemicals can come into contact with bees and kill them. These pesticides shouldn’t be on the market."
Imidacloprid, another neonicotinoid patented by Bayer Cropsciences that has been banned in France and Germany for its affect on bees, is also used widely in the U.S.
An investigation revealed that the seed coating did not stay in the soil but was introduced to the air (and the rest of the plant) by simple abrasion as seeds are stored, moved and injected into the soil by farming machines.
The German government quickly banned this pesticide, gave compensation to the farmers and issued a strong warning against using this chemical in agriculture. According to the German Federal Agriculture Institute, "It can unequivocally be concluded that poisoning of the bees is due to the rub-off of the pesticide ingredient clothianidin from corn seeds."
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (May 30, 2003): "Clothianidin has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of clonianidin residue in nectar and pollen." [In the same report] "The fate and disposition of clothianidin in the environment suggest a compound that is a systemic insecticide that is persistent and mobile, stable to hydrolysis, and has potential to leach to ground water, as well as runoff to surface waters."
"Clothianidin is highly toxic to honey bees on an acute contact basis (killing 50% of tested populations at greater than 389 mg/kg). It has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other nontarget pollinators, through the translocation of clothianidin residues in nectar and pollen. In honey bees, the effects of this toxic chronic exposure may include lethal and/or sub-lethal effects in the larvae and reproductive effects in the queen."
Clothianidin = neurotoxin
The cigarette industry used to brag that one or two cigarettes doesn’t give a person lung cancer. Likewise, the pharmaceutical companies are quick to show that feeding bees a specific amount of neurotoxins, like clothianidin, doesn’t kill the bees. And, of course, this is true.
While small traces of clothianidin may not kill bees outright, it can and apparently does interfere with their ability to navigate to and from the hive. The pollen that they manage to bring back to the hive is then further concentrated and exposed to the entire colony, causing suppression of their immune systems and subsequent infection by any number of parasites and pathogens. This is exactly what beekeepers and farmers have been reporting -- half empty, infested bees or abandoned hives with no dead bodies to be found anywhere. It has also been noted that the empty colonies are absent the usual parasitic bugs that typically take advantage of an abandoned hive. The colonies appear sterile.
Not Just Corn
The tragedy in Germany and France showed how bees that became exposed to clothianidin also infected bee colonies that were not harvesting corn pollen, thus spreading the toxin to regions at some distance from areas cultivating corn plants. It is theorized that they could have become disoriented and mingled with bees from other colonies or contaminated the pollen of plants where other bee colonies were also pollinating.
In the last two years, beekeepers have reported unexplained losses of hives - 30 percent and upward - leading to a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. Scientists believe that the decline in bees is linked to an onslaught of pesticides, mites, parasites and viruses, as well as a loss of habitat and food.
Bees pollinate about one-third of the human diet, $15 billion worth of U.S. crops, including almonds in California, blueberries in Maine, cucumbers in North Carolina and 85 other commercial crops, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Not finding a cause of the collapse could prove costly, scientists warn.
Clothianidin is also used to coat sugar beet and sorghum seeds and is part of a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids. The pesticide was blamed for bee deaths in France and Germany, which also is dealing with a colony collapse. Those two countries have suspended its use until further study. An EPA fact sheet from 2003 says clothianidin has the potential for toxic chronic exposure to honey bees, as well as other pollinators, through residues in nectar and pollen, but is not being banned in the U.S.
The EPA granted conditional registration for clothianidin in 2003 and at the same time required that Bayer CropScience submit studies on chronic exposure to honeybees, including a complete worker bee lifecycle study as well as an evaluation of exposure and effects to the queen. "The public has no idea whether those studies have been submitted to the EPA or not and, if so, what they show. Maybe they never came in. Maybe they came in, and they show a real problem for bees. Maybe they’re poorly conducted studies that don’t satisfy EPA’s requirement," Aaron Colangelo said.
Coalangelo is a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council which sued the EPA last year in an effort to have the alleged studies released to the public.
A slightly longer version of the above article was originally published Sept. 18, 2008, at www.viewzone.com