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Chemicals used by farmers suspected in disastrous die-off of honey bees

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THIS PROBLEM is not yet on the average American’s radar, but it should be:

[T]he mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

(Snip)

Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples…

Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

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8 Comments

  1. Steverino

    No only do these chemicals effect bees and other wild life but our health as well. We need Mother Nature not Mother Monsanto.

  2. expdoc

    Without Mother Monsanto millions of people a year would die of hunger.

    http://www.economist.com/node/14904184

    This reinforces the firm’s fundamental message, that it is a driving force for higher farm productivity—and that higher productivity, not a return to the methods of the past, is likely to be the true source of agricultural sustainability. In America, GM seed has already brought about huge increases in productivity, says Mr Grant. He has no time for the “Malthusian thing about running out of food. This is eminently solvable.” He sees huge potential in merely raising yields in the rest of the world to levels already achieved in America thanks to better farming practices, Roundup and improved seed productivity. American farmers average about 160 bushels (of 56lb, or 25.5kg) of corn per acre per year, against 60 in Brazil and 27 in sub-Saharan Africa (22 excluding South Africa).

    Moreover, even in America there is the potential to double yields again. Already, farmers in Iowa are producing as many as 200 bushels an acre. Mr Grant believes that 300 bushels are achievable by 2030. “We have just scratched the surface,” he says, pointing out that after the first GM crops came on the market in 1996, it took ten years for 1 billion acres to be planted. But the second billion took only another three years. “We are where transistors were in the 1970s.”

  3. expdoc

    http://www.realclearscience.com/articles/2013/05/15/monsanto_more_saint_than_sinner_106533.html

    Back in 1970, Monsanto chemist John Franz invented a herbicide called glyphosate. In the half-century that has since passed, the substance has been heralded as a “once-in-a-century herbicide,” leading to substantially higher crop yields without damaging the environment. Scrutiny over the years has revealed the herbicide to be less acutely toxic than Tylenol and to degrade quickly in the soil. In order for farmers to make full use of the herbicide, Monsanto engineered strains of various crops to be immune to glyphosate. Now, American farmers average 160 bushels of corn per acre each year, up from 109.5 in 1979.

    Monsanto has also been key to the development of golden rice, a genetically modified strain which provides a significant amount of Vitamin A per serving. Vitamin A deficiency plagues many parts of the developing world, resulting in as many as one million deaths and 500,000 cases of irreversible blindness annually (PDF). If widely planted, golden rice could very well abate this tragedy.

    Monsanto’s noble efforts have garnered the adoration of numerous, notable do-gooders, including philanthropist Bill Gates and agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug, the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose dwarf wheat revolutionized agriculture, saving an estimated one billion lives from starvation. Before he died in 2009, Borlaug extolled Monsanto’s use of genetic modification, believing science to be the best hope for feeding a growing world population.

    “We’ve been genetically modifying plants and animals for a long time. Long before we called it science, people were selecting the best breeds,” he said in an interview with Houston Chronicle.

    Let’s be honest, Monsanto is simply the “evil corporation du jour.” Microsoft, Nike, Wal-Mart, and McDonalds have all taken turns.

    Monsanto has certainly done some sinful things, but the good they’ve wrought far outweighs the bad. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be in business.

  4. Doc misses the point. Someone please explain to him what the bees do. No matter what the WSJ tells him, the bees and Mother Nature are far more important than Monsanto.

  5. Neftali

    tex – Where did Doc reference WSJ in this thread?

  6. Steverino

    Will Doc you certainly got sucked into the Monsanto lobbying and advertising as environmentally friendly and feed the world image. When it comes to sustainable agriculture Monsanto fails from pushing pesticides and herbicides to suppressing research for independent studies. Remember this company got it’s start with saccharin and agent orange before embarking on the corporatization and industrialization of our food supply.

  7. expdoc

    Well Stevo,

    It looks like you got sucked into the anti-corporate, whack job left.

    Saccharin is safe for humans. Not for rats maybe….oh wait, maybe that’s why the whack job left is afraid of it?

    The fact stands that without the developments of Monsanto and other like companies, hundreds of millions of people would have died from starvation and billions more would have been impacted by hunger than is already the case.

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/artificial-sweeteners

    Studies in laboratory rats during the early 1970s linked saccharin with the development of bladder cancer. For this reason, Congress mandated that further studies of saccharin be performed and required that all food containing saccharin bear the following warning label: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.”

    Subsequent studies in rats showed an increased incidence of urinary bladder cancer at high doses of saccharin, especially in male rats. However, mechanistic studies (studies that examine how a substance works in the body) have shown that these results apply only to rats. Human epidemiology studies (studies of patterns, causes, and control of diseases in groups of people) have shown no consistent evidence that saccharin is associated with bladder cancer incidence.

    Because the bladder tumors seen in rats are due to a mechanism not relevant to humans and because there is no clear evidence that saccharin causes cancer in humans, saccharin was delisted in 2000 from the U.S. National Toxicology Program’s Report on Carcinogens, where it had been listed since 1981 as a substance reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen (a substance known to cause cancer). The delisting led to legislation, which was signed into law on December 21, 2000, repealing the warning label requirement for products containing saccharin.

  8. Craig Knauss

    doc,

    Out here in the land of apple orchards and vineyards, where pollination is crucial, bees are getting scarce and the growers are getting worried. We have travelling bee-keepers who drive around with trucks covered with hive boxes and rent their hives out to farmers who need them because there aren’t enough local bees. The reason for the bee die-off? I don’t know for sure, but most people suspect it is due to crop dusting. We haven’t had any really severe winters for several years now.

    So just keep telling yourself that all those pesticides and other junk is really making things better.

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