There are few insects as critical to just about every part of the ecological cycle as the bee. Some estimates say that one-third of naturally grown food requires pollination by bees, including most fruits, vegetables and nuts. Coffee, soy beans and cotton are all dependent on pollination by bees to increase yields. It is the start of a food chain that also sustains wild birds and animals.
And yet in recent years the bee population has been in freefall, with reports stating that a decline of 90% or more has occurred over the last few decades. The reports are not conclusive, but look to disease, changes in habitat, lack of diversity … all leading back to an increased global usage of pesticides.
And who has been at the center of pesticides through the decades, many of which have quickly been demonstrated to be toxic and carcinogenic? Monsanto – the company recently named “Most Evil Corporation of the Year”.
The ills of Monsanto are well documented here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
They have a history of developing products that show a singular benefit and then using their cozy relationship with US government agencies to ram approval through … only dealing with the negative health impact much later – if at all. The Monsanto legacy is one of health disaster and environmental ruin … and USDA collusion.
Which brings us to a report from Global Research on a new development that ties together Monsanto and bees. From the report:
Monsanto, the massive biotechnology company being blamed for contributing to the dwindling bee population, has bought up one of the leading bee collapse research organizations. Recently banned from Poland with one of the primary reasons being that the company’s genetically modified corn may be devastating the dying bee population, it is evident that Monsanto is under serious fire for their role in the downfall of the vital insects.
It can be found in public company reports hosted on mainstream media that Monsanto scooped up the Beeologics firm back in September 2011. During this time the correlation between Monsanto’s GM crops and the bee decline was not explored in the mainstream, and in fact it was hardly touched upon until Polish officials addressed the serious concern amid the monumental ban. Owning a major organization that focuses heavily on the bee collapse and is recognized by the USDA for their mission statement of “restoring bee health and protecting the future of insect pollination” could be very advantageous for Monsanto.
What is it that Monsanto is into now that has them viewed as so evil? GMOs – ‘genetically modified organisms’ – is the catch-name for genetically modified seeds. These seeds are altered to be more tolerant to longer growing seasons, resist disease or pesticides or drive off insects or any number of special characteristics.
What I found surprising is just how much of our food is genetically modified. After all, as a Monsanto subsidiary said:
“If you put a label on genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.”
So how much is based on GMOs? According to this report:
Upwards of 90% of all corn, soybeans and cotton are grown from genetically engineered seeds, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). These genetically enhanced products appear in around 70% of all American processed food products. And Monsanto controls 90% of all genetically engineered seeds. In other words, Monsanto controls — and owns patents on — most of the American food supply.
OK, so since 70% of everything packaged we buy in a grocery store – even though NONE of it is labeled – we can at least be reassured that it is safe, right? Right … ? Well, apparently not based on two recent developments. First, the USDA has implemented rules to get Monsanto faster review and approval of their GMOs:
The USDA’s goal is to cut the approval time for GMO crops in half in order to speedily implement them into the global food supply. The current USDA process takes longer than they would like due to ‘public interest, legal challenges, and the challenges associated with the advent of national organic food standards‘ says USDA deputy administrator Michael Gregoire.
What that means is that the ability to rigorously test these new GMOs has been greatly impacted. Of course, if the existing GMOs have already been thoroughly examined we shouldn’t worry. That is a big assumption, which turns out to be false based on the other development. Poland has just banned Monsanto’s chemically modified corn products entirely from the country, saying:
In addition to being linked to a plethora health ailments, Sawicki says that the pollen originating from this GM strain may actually be devastating the already dwindling bee population.
Which ties us back to the bee story … more on that in a bit. But these ‘plethora health ailments’ have been studied, and:
revealed that Monsanto’s Mon 863, Mon 810, and Roundup herbicide-absorbing NK 603 in corn caused kidney and liver damage in laboratory rats. Scientists also discovered damage to the heart, spleen, adrenal glands and even the blood of rats that consumed the mutant corn. A “state of hepatorenal toxicity” the study concluded.
Elsewhere in the world a French court has found Monsanto guilty of ‘chemical poisoning’, and India has charged Monsanto with ‘biopiracy’ for trying to use a local strain of eggplant as a genetic modification strain without permission. Finally, efforts to get genetically modified products labeled seems to be gaining some traction … and I think that if it passes it will be like Rowdy Roddy Piper putting on the glasses in ‘They Live’.
But will it be enough? Studies have shown that GMO and non-GMO cannot coexist, and one of the ‘slowdowns’ the USDA has removed from Monsanto’s path is lawsuits over genetic contamination as GMOs spread unabated That means that before long ALL products will be genetically modified.
GM contamination of conventional and organic food is increasing. An unapproved GM rice that was grown for only one year in field trials was found to have extensively contaminated the US rice supply and seed stocks. In Canada, the organic oilseed rape industry has been destroyed by contamination from GM rape. In Spain, a study found that GM maize “has caused a drastic reduction in organic cultivations of this grain and is making their coexistence practically impossible”.
Another interesting fact about GMOs? They do NOT reduce use of pesticides! In fact, they increase pesticide use:
GE crops are pushing pesticide use upward at a rapidly accelerating pace. In 2008, GE crop acres required over 26% more pounds of pesticides per acre than acres planted to conventional varieties. The report projects that this trend will continue as a result of the rapid spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds.
In other words, these GMOs and pesticides are having some unintended consequences … had thorough study been placed ahead of profits perhaps that would have been uncovered. And apparently some details from a WikiLeaks report shows that the US was ready to use financial pressure to force EU countries to take on Monsanto products.
Returning to bees, recent studies have shown (two studies linked here and another one here) a link between pesticides and rapid bee population decline:
two teams of researchers published studies suggesting that low levels of a common pesticide can have significant effects on bee colonies. One experiment, conducted by French researchers, indicates that the chemicals fog honeybee brains, making it harder for them to find their way home. The other study, by scientists in Britain, suggests that they keep bumblebees from supplying their hives with enough food to produce new queens.
The authors of both studies contend that their results raise serious questions about the use of the pesticides, known as neonicotinoids.
One thing to note – in the US, where GMOs are most heavily used and untracked, bee population decline outpaces the rest of the world, with an estimated 96% drop compared to 70-90% in other countries that have been more restrictive of pesticides and use of genetically modified seeds.
So we have a company, Monsanto, that makes products that have been linked to the decline of the critical bee population – both pesticides and genetically modified strains of corn. And we have Beelogics, a research firm whose “mission is to become the guardian of bee health worldwide”. And now we learn that Monsanto bought Beelogics in September 2011.
And unsurprisingly, while we have started seeing universities and foreign countries producing research and journal articles about the impact of pesticides and GMOs on bee populations, there has been stunning silence on the part of the “guardian of bee health worldwide”. Hmmm … coincidence? I think not – what better way to silence dissent than to buy and destroy those most likely to oppose your aims.
I am not an ‘organic evangelist’, and I understand that to produce the massive quantities of food used in the world on a daily basis requires some scientific solutions. However, what I NEVER believe in is scientific shortcuts, back-room deals to avoid study, and use of financial pressure to force others to take the same foolish risks our own government has taken for us.
There are many people who have said repeatedly through the years that they would gladly extinct a species to save a single job. They are idiots. Because aside from destruction of an owl or snail … or bee – there is the impact on the entire global environment to consider. While I am sure Monsanto is working on a highly profitable ‘bee pollenization replacement’ chemical right now, they could instead be working on a way to preserve the natural ecosystem in a way that minimizes the needs for poisonous chemicals.
It is with ironic timing that this news comes out just after Earth Day. For many, it is just one day to pretend that they really care – then go back to putting profit before the planet. As someone who works as a scientist myself, I am all about pushing for advancement wherever possible. But this is a reminder that not all advances are a good thing – just ask a bee.