LA Times: Back to the ABC’s on Bee Deaths

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Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times ran a review of the import to California farming of healthy bee populations, including an overview of bee colony collapse disorder. While the story aptly covered some of the concerns and issues for food and farming, the Times piece completely ignored what some scientists believe may be a key to the problem of widespread bee deaths: the overuse of pesticides, in part resulting from the introduction of genetically modified (GMO) crops.

A recent peer-reviewed study by Pursue University scientists noted that pesticides are considered a potential cause of bee colony collapse. Their study demonstrated that bees in agricultural areas are exposed to high levels of nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids. These insecticides are highly toxic to bees and were found in plants that bees forage on, in bee hives, and in dead bees found near hives. Another new study (as reported today by Environmental Health News) showed that exposure to these insecticides may make bees more likely to suffer from parasitic infections, and concluded that this interaction “…could be a major contributor to increased mortality of honey bee colonies, including colony collapse disorder, and other pollinator declines worldwide.”

Following on this research, the Union of Concerned Scientists noted that the advent of genetically modified (GMO) crops has resulted in a major increase in the use of neonicotinoids. Because GMO “insect resistance” corn does not control all soil insects, seed companies now spray virtually all U.S. corn seed with the bee-killing neonicotinoids.

In other words, the biotech companies promises — that their GMO crops would reduce pesticide use –have proven to be false. Instead, farmers are now paying more for GMO crops that require even more farm poisons, our food is sprayed with even more toxic chemicals, and wildlife and the environment are suffering the unpredictable consequences, including the potential loss of pollinators like bees that are critical to sustain the food supply.