“In January of this year, while procrastinating on Facebook, I followed a link to an article reporting on evidence that there may be health effects associated with consuming Monsanto’s genetically modified (GM) corn. Clicking on that link was one of those moments on which I look back and laugh. I had no idea how my life was about to change.”
Insecticides, also known as pesticides, kill bees. Do we get it yet? by Laura Ferguson – Director of the College of the Melissae
Link to original article click here and scroll down: College of the Melissae
Not enough studies are being done on the effect of pesticides and genetically modified plants on pollinators. The honeybee, which have sustained a 50% loss this last year and is of paramount importance to the pollination of agricultural crops world-wide is only garnering a smattering of attention. We are getting murmuring reporting on the effect of pesticides, an argument we are culturally familiar with (think about DDT), but our country remains fairly slow to move on this qualified and emergent news and remains scientifically mute on the subject of the long term effects of GMO in the hives and nests of pollinator insects and other beneficent creatures.
Let’s take a quick moment to review the honey bee and its level of importance in our world. From an article found here: cyberbee.net which also has a pretty thorough list on who studies the honeybee around the world:
“Honeybees play a critical role in agriculture. The most important role honeybees play is not actually in honey production but in pollination. The value of crops that require pollination by honeybees, in the United States alone is estimated to be around $24 billion each year and commercial bee pollination was valued around $10 billion annually. There is also a trend to consume more bee-pollinated crops (such as fruits and vegetables) making honey bees more important in agriculture. Honey bees also produce honey and beeswax, which are valued at $285 million in US annually. Besides that bees also produce pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom that are playing increasing roles in health food and alternative medicine. Bee stings are routinely used for treatment of arthritis, multiple sclerosis and other auto-immune diseases.” Including HIV! Where melittin, an ingredient in bee venom, was found to destroy HIV without harming the cell. See: www.sciencenews.org
Bees, by their nature are mysterious. Individual genetics, local weather patterns, the health of foraging landscapes, and hive management, can all have an effect on the survivability of the hive. Long gone are the days when bees can function as feral colonies. Once proliferate, the feral swarm is now facing a 90% chance of failure in the first two years of living in the wild. This tells a beekeeper quite a bit. This points to our environment and our manipulation of the bee.
As you may well be aware, everything in the hive passes through the bee, cradles the vulnerable egg, and provides education and opportunity within the foraging community in the hive. When laced with pesticide for example, nectar will not only go through the rich glands that produce the Royal Jelly for the queen and infants of the hive, it will also become the walls of the comb that hold the thin skinned larvae. Through the act of dehydration, what may have generously been considered trace elements of the pesticide becomes concentrated in the honey and further concentrated into the wax- passing through bee bodies maybe hundreds of time as these hive products get meticulously reprocessed. It does not take a scientist to understand how the use and refinement of these pesticides within the hive and the body of the bee itself, could possibly create a slow poisoning of one of our must crucial populations; the pollinators. (Described by scientists as sub-lethal doses.)
This mysterious creature, the bee, defies science with its complexity, and awes us with its astronomical importance to the very life of our people and economy of our nation’s farmers is also not only a keystone and lynch-pin species, it is a canary in the coalmine. When we look at the failure in the 70’s that the pesticide DDT had on the Eagle population from eating contaminated fish, poisoned by the water run-off from treated agricultural fields it is easy to see how pesticides can systemically effect the food chain. Why is it such a leap to believe that the bee- whose business it is to interact directly with the plant- can be destroyed by pesticide practices? Why do we have to wait until it is “proven” to take some sort of action to protect pollinators- both wild pollinators and our semi-domesticated honey-bee? It is time to take seriously the issues the bees face, including the effect of genetically modified or engineered plant life. It is time to stand-up for revision of pesticide practice in our country.
Another element that is becoming hard to ignore is the apparent synchronicity of the astronomical rising of human nerve disorders such as Asperger’s, Autism, Parkinson’s alongside alarming statistics on hive loss in seeming proportion to the rise in use of GMO products and complicated bio-cidal chemical practices nationwide. See these articles for yourself:
www.latinospost.com an article about the effects of pesticides on the brains of bees http://www.responsibletechnology.org/autism ; pesticides and autism www.panna.org; information on pesticides list of several related articles
http://www.sciencedaily.com; link to Parkinson’s
www.cnn.com: possible link to ADHD
Plant as insecticide is not the sole delivery concern for beekeepers. Treatment of plants with additional chemicals is another. From an article titled Honey Bees and Colony Collapse Disorder and available here:www.ars.usda.gov
In 2008, Germany revoked the registration of the neonicotinoid clothianidin for use on seed corn after an incident that resulted in the die-off of hundreds of nearby honey bees colonies. Investigation into the incident revealed that the die-off was caused by a combination of factors, including the failure to use a polymer seed coating known as a “sticker”: weather conditions that resulted in late planting of corn while nearby canola crops were in bloom, attracting honey bees; use of a particular type of air-driven equipment used to sow the seeds, which blew clothianidin-laden dust off the seeds and into the air as the seeds were ejected from the machine into the ground; dry and windy conditions at the time of planting, which blew the dust into the nearby canola fields where honey bees were foraging; and a higher application rate than had been authorized was used to treat for a severe root worm infestation.
At some point in the discovery of the use of DDT pesticides on the life cycle of the Eagle, some tiny voice spoke to the connection and had to begin the conversation. No doubt they faced apathy, ignorance and ridicule on behalf of the public and corporations in the face of such connections. But we were talking about the Bald Eagle, the figure that so represents our Nation through symbols, even on our currency. Perhaps the desire to restore this creature had important cultural implications. The world is a better place for the revolution that occurred in support of this important creature. (Although illegal in the US, the product DDT continues to be sold to parts of the world that do not have such effective oversight.) Unfortunately, the modest and ever present honeybee does not have the same press, and the concept of GMO is brand-new and largely under-researched. Furthermore, when we consider who is responsible for the research, should we even trust the results?
Sadly, spring reporting shows an increase in winter hive-loss. Possibly the worst in history. Why isn’t there wide-spread of alarm? In 2006-8 many beekeepers experienced CCD- a condition that mysteriously kills honeybees with reports as high as a 33% hive loss. Although preceded by a 2011 hive-loss of 25%, an improvement possibly due to unseasonable warm winter weather, 2012 showed the devastating national statistics of hive loss between 47%-50% with a regional loss of 53% reported in Southern Oregon. Alarming! Devastating! Yet this news fact limps along in the cultural and scientific milieu. Why isn’t it being studied if that is what it will take to protect our apiculture, agriculture and humanity?
- Could part of it be that Beelogics, formally the world’s leading bee researcher is now owned by Monsanto?
- Could it be the environment that allows a complete lack of oversight on behalf of the corporate insecticidal giant? Recently, no doubt predicting the potential grass roots assaults on the industry from the public upswelling of concern over the use of GMO in agriculture, an act was passed by the Federal Government that keeps the nation’s Environmental Protection Agency from halting use and planting of Monsanto products; called the Monsanto Protection Act.
- Could our research organizations themselves have a hand in it? Universities and colleges, who are the primary source for studies on the bee, are largely funded by huge agricultural organizations that rely heavily on pesticide and other bio-cidal products for their livelihood and gross profits. Could results be hidden or studies be discouraged that might reveal unpleasant truths about these products?
- Overall, approximately 60% of scientific research in this country is privately funded by profit-driven corporations and 10-20% from government agencies, also remarkably closely linked through employment cross-overs and corporate support of political candidates. How effectively can thusly supported research organizations create, provide and release the results of studies that may go against their funder’s goals?
- Lastly, is science, with its principles of division and isolating cause:effect simply unable to process the vast interlocking, complex web of factors that are contributing to these problems? Also, are experiments being done that can gauge the long term, systemic, layered use of pesticides and transgenic organisms. Could they be done? Or is this whole thing pretty much the experiment?
Intuitively, as a beekeeper, when I consider delivery of pollen as food stuffs for the infants of the beehive I want to know what it is made of. How can a tribute of genetically modified or genetically engineered plants, agribusiness’ systemic use use of pesticides, fungicides, chemical which all boil down to insecticides, be anything but wrong? But intuition aside, let’s even put large scale research, which may be tainted by the above biases, aside for a minute and look at experience itself for information. Explore the cause-effect connection here when GM field practices directly destroyed 1500 beehives: theyucatantimes.com Yet our scientists, seem reluctant to make an absolute connection between the two.
Yes, the hive loss can have a multitude of factors; increased and previously unknown hive disease due to our large scale commercial beekeeping practices combined with the Varroa mite, the possible dimming of gene stock through forced and prolific queen rearing from limited genetic resources, the overlaying synergistic effects of the regular practice of applying fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides to our agricultural crops and within the beehive as medication as well as the overarching risk factor of climate change. So, it is truly difficult to study the combination of challenges and their individual effects on hive loss. But can we try stopping at least one of the things that we know is bad? Just one?
Fortunately, we live in the information age and we could easily turn to other nation’s studies and actions to see what is happening on this front.
Poland stopped the use of pesticide through large scale protests that included dumping dead bees on the doorsteps of government officials and corporate officers of offending organizations. Bhutan has declared itself 100% organic. It is an easy assumption to predict that these countries and dozens of others may be our true visionary agricultural leaders.
False promise of GMO
If the outline above has not yet made you feel as if you have entered a real life painting by Hieronymus Bosch, let’s spend a moment considering the relatively new phenomenon of genetically engineered or modified seeds and plants. Do we dare explore? How come this feels like a revolutionary act?
There are currently over 60 countries across the world in various states of revolution against corporate megalomaniacal interests by promoting seed sovereignty and at a minimum, labeling, of GMO and GE products. Is it at all surprising that GMO organizations have begun to hire security systems to handle inquiries regarding individual seed fields? They may cite fear of theft, use and reproduction of seeds, but the only people interested in these fields are the people who have concern over seed, ground and water contamination from their products.
So, let us look over what we know about Genetically Modified and Genetically Engineered organisms. Purported to be the answer to world-wide hunger needs even this point is open to heated debate. First for the corruption and inefficiency inherent in large scale, government involved agriculture and most importantly for the possible harmful effects of GMO on the environment and soil itself. The argument about sustainability about this method of agriculture is beyond the scope of this article, but if you are interested in going down that rabbit hole, here are a few links to get you started:
.wikipedia.org interesting overview with glitches in dated arguments but worthwhile for a sketched out overview. www.oecd.org this is a pro-gmo science power point
greenpeace.org this has the eco-view at the heart of their opinion
www.naturalnews.com an opinion piece with positive solutions
globalpost.com Picture of a pig, transgenically altered to be florescent. Thrown in for shock value, this is real. Google “fluorescent pig” to give yourself nightmares.
commondreams.org overview of current activism efforts
Changing the seed, changes the plant. Combining features from plants or animals or chemicals is never done in the natural world. This is called trangenics. Yet, plants can be affected for an eternity by such manipulation.
The modern practice of altering a seed causing it to produce a resistance to herbicides such as Round-up is one half of the controversy. Altering the plant in this way can aspirate pesticide, and the stalk, root , flower and seed all can carry these pesticides For example, when combined with pesticide, a seed will produce the pesticide through its natural processes; aspiration (the “sweat” of a plant), decay, ingestion through the food chain etc, even laying waste unto the soil itself. Run-off from such a field also contaminates rivers. The reason that the herbicides are added to the crop (foodstuffs such as 80% of our nation’s corn and 60% soybeans, 90% of cotton) is to make them resistant to poisons that will be applied to pests and fungi that may attack the plant. In other words; chemotherapy masquerading as agriculture. In another punishing twist, the pests and weeds meant to be killed by these chemicals are becoming further resistant, compounding the problem and rendering such methods cruel and useless. These seeds also have a genetic fingerprint that is considered intellectual property and owned by its godlike developers.
The seeds created by this process are owned from here to eternity by their corporations, at this point, no matter who is in possession, or how they obtained possession of these seeds. Pollen from GM and GE plants has been found in the jet-stream, so is clearly likely to pollinate random fields of similar crops regardless of the intention of the farmer who may be looking over thusly wind-polluted seed stock. The organics industry is heavily regulated and wind pollinated products may have to be totally scrapped for not meeting organic purity guidelines thus destroying seed investments for the future, product delivery or the production of previously organic seed stock. The organic industry will be heavily undermined as they are being forced to deal with such issues.
In fact, farmers who find themselves, unwittingly, through air and honeybee pollen contamination, in accidental possession of the seed stock are facing farm failure and poverty and sometimes committing suicide at the onslaught of corporate legal pressure to halt use of these seeds. In particular, here in Southern Oregon, where the GMO sugar beet is being grown for seed stock (by Syngenta), organic farmers are being faced with pollution of their brassica (chard, turnips, beets et al) products from wind contamination, yet, as per the Monsanto Protection Act and similar legislation, may be handcuffed to impotence as to their rights to protect their own organic seeds. The people are rising against, with hundreds of businesses and thousands of citizens declaring the right to keep the valley GMO-free. This is an effort that is mirrored in counties across the nation.
Also consider the cultural implications of such pollution; Corn plants Sacred to the Hopi are being effected by GMO-seed wind contamination, for example, thus immediately becoming “owned” by the corporate-creator of the seed stock. The ethical dilemma here boggles the mind. It is a pre-conception theft of the plant and the loving labor of its farmers, and a destruction of the history and intimacy of the plant/human relationship.
It times of war, the aggressor may sow salt into a field, poison a well, or introduce germs as warfare to intentionally weaken the army and culture of their enemy. How is the use of biocides and GMO/GE different? “Because there is no war” you may say. But this whole thing looks an awful lot like war to this beekeeper. Perhaps officially undeclared, but no doubt occurring. Proven by unsustainable loss of life, deleterious effects on the health and well-being of many species, including humans; with rampant profits for the aggressor; with land and seed claimed forever by industrial sociopathic giants, creating unwitting serfdom and failure for the small farmers, cultural dismissal, seed sovereignty a joke…
What is good for the micro is good for the macro, not reversely true. As the honeybee venom ingredient melattin can save us from the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, so can the honeybee save us from the immune-destructive agriculture system. We just have to listen to the brilliant warrior call of the honeybee, as she does before she lays her stinger. The intentional vibratory act seems to say “this one small life lost is one life too many!” To me, that matters. I choose to listen.
It is really time to stop.
Excellent article and interesting update at the end about letters from Monsanto supporting seed companies. Education and activism works and is the only way to help keep our food seed supplies viable. Please read (including the links) and share far and wide!
From Grist Magazine, “There’s been enough written about genetically modified organisms and Monsanto that it’s easy to lose touch with how they actually impact people’s lives. On a recent trip to India, Perennial Plate got a wake-up call from environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Here’s our conversation with Shiva on a seed-saving revolution, farmer suicides, and how female farmers are the future of India’s agriculture.”
Great article about why it is imperative that plant patent laws be reformed: