Buzz on GM crops and bees

We’ve written a bit here about pollinator problems. The looming shortage of bees in the US, and in Spain. We pointed to a piece that said maybe the problems in the US weren’t any worse than they had been, just better reported. Maybe the problem is monoculture? Throughout the recent buzz of hive-related news, though, we’ve ignored a few items that laid the blame on GMO crops. Why? Because they seemed a bit shrill, maybe even a tad one-sided. But a long and apparently comprehensive piece in the German news magazine Der Spiegel is neither shrill nor one-sided. And it seems to adduce good evidence that bees who are suffering a parasite infestation are abnormally susceptible to pollen from maize engineered to express the Bt bacterial toxin from Bacillus thuringiensis.

The work Der Spiegel reports is a long way from conclusive. But it does give pause for thought, and it is causing huge excitement among opponents of GM in all its forms. At the very least, it deserves a closer look. But wouldn’t it be weird if it proved true? And how would industrial agriculture respond?

2 Replies to “Buzz on GM crops and bees”

  1. A consortium centered at Pennsylvania State University has been investigating this problem since last November.


    ” What are examples of topics that the CCD working group is not currently investigating? GMO crops: Some GMO crops, specifically Bt Corn have been suggested as a potential cause of CCD. While this possibility has not been ruled out, CCD symptoms do not fit what would be expected in Bt affected organisms. For this reason GMO crops are not a “top” priority at the moment. ”

    Other links:

    The material posted by the Penn State group suggests that stress may be a common factor. Since the varroa mite threatened the almond crop in central California two years ago, beekeepers have been trucking their hives cross country to pollinate those fields.

    This problem has also been reported in Europe, sometimes called “Marie Celeste” phenomenon. See:

    For a simpler view, see:

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