If bees become extinct we will have exactly 4 YEARS to live on this planet. I don’t understand how “not giving a fuck” is more important than your life…
okay, I have a thing to say about this. I’m no expert on bees, but I am a biologist (and entomologist) so I think there is something I can contribute that’ll be of worth.
I agree entirely with the sentiment that we must protect honeybees. Obviously they are massively important for biodiversity, as well as pollinating food crops for humans. There is no doubt that if all the honeybees in the world were to vanish in a day that the consequences would be dire.
However, I disagree that the main cause for concern regarding honeybee death is the use of Genetically Modified (GM) crops. I’d be very interested to read a research paper that says ‘GM crops have killed millions of honeybees’, if indeed such a paper exists because in all honesty I find it highly unlikely that this is a true statement.
Let’s start with some facts about GM crops:
1. The development of GM crops is a highly regulated process, bound by strict country-specific legislature. A great number of trials are carried out long before commercial planting of a GM crop is even considered. It is these trials, and accompanying laboratory studies, that ensure a GM crop is safe to non-target organisms (such as honeybees) by investigating direct and indirect effects (Nap et al. 2003).
2. Crops that are genetically modified to express insecticidal proteins (for crop pest control) have a high level of specificity. This means that the insecticidal proteins being produced by the GM plant will only affect a narrow range of insect groups because of the chemical properties of the protein. For example, GM crops expressing insecticidal proteins sourced from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) will only target some Lepidopteran pests (caterpillars; Romeis et al. 2006). Furthermore, a recent meta-analysis of the literature found that GM Bt crops do not negatively affect the survival of adult honeybees or their larvae (Duan et al. 2008).
3. GM crops can be tailored such that the novel gene is expressed only in particular parts of the plant. For example, GM Bt rice plants express the toxin in the stems but not the grains (Datta et al. 1998). This technique means that gene expression can be excluded from the flowers/pollen of the crop plant, so that bees and other pollinators would not be affected. Neat, huh?
So those are a token few reasons why GM crops are safer than perhaps many people believe (as the result of a lot of questionable, non-scientific articles). To come back to our main point about honeybee death, I would like to briefly mention a few alternative explanations for the recent decline in honeybee populations. These are as follows:
1. Many bees have died as the result of broad-spectrum insecticide use. These are pesticides that lack specificity, and can be harmful to non-target organisms. Neonicotinoids are a well-studied example of this (Decourtye & Devillers, 2010). Not to worry, though, because many broad-spectrum pesticides including neonics are well on their way out. Indeed, the EU recently banned a large cohort of neonic pesticides. This is still a topic of controversy, mind (Goulson, 2013).
2. Many bees have died as the result of Varroa mite infestation. Imagine you’ve been bitten by several ticks, except those ticks are the size of dinner plates. That gives you an idea of the severity of a Varroa mite infestation on a single developing bee. The parasitisation of bees by Varroa mites and other parasites is often accompanied by disease transmission. This can result in colonies dying within two years after infestation (Johnson, 2011).
3. Many bees have died as the result of ‘colony collapse disorder’. This is a phrase that has popped up a lot recently, and is basically an umbrella term for the various causes of bee death including parasite infestation, disease transmission, environmental stresses, and management stresses such as poor nutrition (Johnson, 2011). Colony collapse has been attributed to broad-spectrum pesticide use in some instances. However, it is has still been observed in countries where broad-spectrum pesticides have been withdrawn (in the EU, like I mentioned earlier; Johnson, 2011).
So those are my main points. Please excuse the bullet-point nature of this; I was trying to keep it fairly short. Not sure I managed that haha. But anyway, my take-home message is that GM crops are not the enemy when it comes to honeybee decline. If anything, bees are at much greater danger from the use of broad-spectrum pesticides and from parasites and diseases. Using GM can even help to alleviate some of the problems associated with broad-spectrum pesticides, as they greatly reduce the need to apply such chemicals (Romeis et al. 2006).
A finishing note: Do your homework. Go on google scholar and read some of the literature, making sure it is recent (within the past 10-15 years). Literature reviews are a great way to find out what the consensus is on any given topic. Don’t use popular media as your main source of information where science is concerned; they tend to favour scandal and exaggeration. You want to know what’s really going on? Check out some research articles and see for yourself.
Thanks for sticking it through to the end of this impromptu mini-essay! —Alice
Datta, K., Vasquez, A., Tu, J., Torrizo, L., Alam, M. F., Oliva, N., Abrigo, E., Khush, G. S., & Datta, S. K. (1998). Constitutive and tissue-specific differential expression of the cryIA (b) gene in transgenic rice plants conferring resistance to rice insect pest. Theoretical and Applied Genetics, 97(1-2), 20-30.
Decourtye, A., & Devillers, J. (2010). Ecotoxicity of neonicotinoid insecticides to bees. In Insect nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (pp. 85-95). Springer New York.
Duan, J. J., Marvier, M., Huesing, J., Dively, G., & Huang, Z. Y. (2008). A meta-analysis of effects of Bt crops on honey bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). PLoS One, 3(1), e1415.
Goulson, D. (2013). Neonicotinoids and bees: What’s all the buzz?. Significance, 10(3), 6-11.
Johnson, R. (2011). Honey bee colony collapse disorder. DIANE Publishing.
Nap, J. P., Metz, P. L., Escaler, M., & Conner, A. J. (2003). The release of genetically modified crops into the environment. The Plant Journal, 33(1), 1-18.
Romeis, J., Meissle, M., & Bigler, F. (2006). Transgenic crops expressing Bacillus thuringiensis toxins and biological control. Nature biotechnology, 24(1), 63-71.
This commentary is SO important. Succinct and with proper sourcing; beautiful.
It infuriates me when people blame GMO for everything without actually examining the evidence.
Minneapolis rapper and singer Astronautalis is not unfamiliar with Eau Claire – the Florida native has worked on projects with locals before and popped through town on more than one occasion. This time, he stuck around to give us a gorgeous live rendition of his ballad “Secrets On Our Lips.”
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Ambient Inks is either inking or thinking about inking. The Menomonie-based screenprinters and designers serve everyone from student orgs to Bon Iver (and Arco) and can design and print to match your style.
I dreamt i was coming back from another country. In the hotel room, i was loading my suitcase and bags, and wound up filling about 6 backpacks with stuff i recognized as mine and my girlfriends. After a taxi to the airport, boarding and departing, it wasn’t until midway though the flight that i realised i had left the suitcase in the room (Room 130 at the Marriott). Walking up and down the plane, which was the size and layout of a fancy restaurant with baroque chandeliers and everything, i found an attendant and asked them if i could make a phone call. He said i could, but not too right now seeing as we were flying and “people get nervous”. So, i waited until the plane reached it’s layover in Glasgow, which was part shopping mall, part space port. I wandered around for a bit, just kinda browsing. Then, upon opening a door, i accidentally caught a little baby off balance and he fell down with a bump. I helped him up, and was friendly and everything, which the baby (being a baby) just kinda ignored and went on with his babyish day. From there i started looking for a bathroom. As i did, jodie foster began walking with me, saying she saw how nice i was to the baby and that she’d really like that. I thanked her, and we talked about kids, growing up, acting, dating coworkers exes etc. We were just talking about her wife when we found a bathroom and went our separate ways. The bathroom stalls in the mens room were incredibly impractical. The one i wound up in directly faced the door, and featured a small staircase leading up to seat you about 5 feet in the air with no door. I did what i needed to, trying to ignore the family who followed a few minutes later. As i sat, i noticed a weird bump under my shirt, which turned out to be an abdominal prolapse: There was a loop of intestine popping out of me. I nudged it back in, and held a hand in place till i could get back on my plane and go, Leaving there, i passed a Jurassic Park themed store and found an open-ait Vegas Stirp looking area, in which i live brass band were playing FYI, I Want To F Your A by Ninja Sex Party. I, appropriately, flipped out, danced and sung along, to which my dad (who was there for this bit i guess) looked on, confused and maybe a little tired. By now i was searching desperately for my plane, and tried to backtrack my way to where i’d disembarked. Someone along the way told me the announcement had just come through for it leaving, but i decided since i’d not heard it, he was making it up. I searched for familiar land marks, cafes and sidings and anything that could get me back to the plane so i could board, then find a doctor. Along the way, i passed a trio of dancers, one of whom was showing his friends how to do a “glidee”, drifting backwards on both heels. Which he promptly did straight into me. Focused on getting to my plane, i just shoved him off telling him not to touch me, and heard him starting to get worked up as i walked through a door to an open air concourse, leading to the departure gates. I was nearly there when i passed a yellow alien working on her spaceship, whom i apparently knew and we struck up quick conversation. She told me she was working as an “anal engineer”, to which i made the quick choice to miss the plane with the rest of my bags on and get the abdominal prolapse repaired, which since i’d found it had been poking out all kinds of gross stuff. This repair was portrayed in my head as getting a couple of screws bolted into my chin. And then i woke up