Activists, farmers link GMOs to use of neonic pesticide, claim bees endangered


Today, genetically engineered crops dominate agriculture, and two-thirds of the world’s cropland gets a regular dose of neonicotinoids, including 90 percent of corn and 60 percent of soybean acres.

Farmers, in fact, have few options. The highly complex seed combinations they find on the market are determined by interwoven licensing agreements among the companies that control the seeds and the companies that make the insecticides. Often they are one and the same. Bayer CropScience and Syngenta, for example, sells seeds and makes some of the most widely used neonicotinoids. Monsanto, the world’s leading seed company, uses Bayer’s neonicotinoids on some of its leading genetically altered seeds. Monsanto also developed the herbicide Roundup, as well as the genetically engineered seeds that are resistant to it.

Bees pay the price. In 2006, beekeepers began raising the alarm about neonicotinoids after they noticed a sudden and inexplicable collapse of their colonies over winter. They used to lose 10 percent of their bees in the cold months, building their hives back up in the summer. But in the past decade, average hive losses of 25 to 30 percent have become routine, a decline that many say is not sustainable for their businesses — or the $15 billion a year in food crops that rely on bees for pollination.

Related article:  Biopesticides: Leveraging nature's pesticides to protect our food

Bayer CropScience, Monsanto and others in agribusiness say there is no evidence that neonicotinoids are to blame. Years of research went into their development, including studies that concluded the low doses bees encounter as they forage for pollen and nectar are insufficient to kill them, company officials say.

Yet beekeepers, environmentalists and many scientists are raising a growing chorus of disagreement. Dozens of studies have now found that low doses of neonicotinoids may not kill bees outright, but can cripple their highly sophisticated navigational and communication skills, and hamper a queen’s reproduction.

Read original, complete article: Bees at the Brink: Fields of green are a desert for bees

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