Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, struck the
during 2006-2007 and other countries soon after. Characterized by the sudden disappearance of honeybees from their otherwise healthy beehives, CCD emerged as an unexpected and highly alarming phenomenon. Before long, CCD was making headlines as beekeepers in 24 United States states were reporting honeybee losses of up to 80%, occurring sometimes overnight! The importance of honeybees stretches well beyond preservation for the sake of preservation or even for the sake of honey production. Rather, because they can pollinate a wide variety of crops, can persist throughout the growing season, and can be concentrated in large numbers when needed, honeybees have become the dominate pollinators of a number of major crops including apples, avocados, almonds, pears, sunflowers, melons, etcetera, and are therefore critical to the agriculture industry. U.S.
Though stressors such as pathogens, malnutrition due to monoculture food sources, insecticide exposure, and stress due to commercial migration have been identified as potential causes of CCD, these are unsound explanations as such stressors existed long before widespread colony collapse was observed. In the last year, however, a key study conducted by Dr. Lu and colleagues at Harvard University finally succeeded in not simply identifying the likely culprit of CCD, but in fact demonstrating its impact on bee populations. The implicated culprit, imidacloprid (IMD), is a pesticide introduced by Monsanto some years ago. To understand how this pesticide is suddenly affecting bees, one must first understand that for cost-effectiveness, bee keepers have in recent years been replacing the honey within bee hives with high-fructose corn syrup. This allows keepers to profit from the honey while still keeping their pollinators alive throughout the year.
Though IMD as well as corn syrup substitution has existed for some years, historically IMD application consisted of spraying the chemical over corn fields, in which case the corn itself was protected by the corn husk from direct contact with the pesticide. As of 2005, however Monsanto introduced a new method of integrating IMD into corn production. Rather than spraying the chemical, the industry now soaks these corn seeds in highly concentrated solutions of IMD such that the chemical is dispersed throughout the entire corn plant during the growing process. This means that the corn itself contains a considerable amount of IMD. It is when this corn is made into corn syrup and subsequently fed to honeybees that bees are ultimately exposed. Through Lu’s study in which 20 hives spanning 4 locations were fed IMD-dosed corn syrup, the phenomenon of CCD was demonstrated to occur, and to occur increasingly in hives containing higher doses of IMD.
If you’re wondering if IMD is present in corn products served to humans, the answer is "yes." If you’re wondering what impact this might have on human health, the answer is far less certain. Having said that,
has suspended the growing of seeds soaked in a pesticide similar to IMD so as to avoid continuing losses of honeybees, potential human health effects, and agricultural repercussions. The France has yet to take such action. To avoid the negative publicity associated with IMD, the agriculture industry has reassured the public that over 90% of its corn crops are not treated with this pesticide. However, this is only because the industry has cleverly defined the term “treatment” so as to include spraying, but not to include seed soaking. I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Lu about his study and experience in dealing with reps of the agricultural sector. Not surprisingly, there appears to be tremendous resistance by industry to accept anything from health scientists that would damage company profits. U.S.
To read Dr. Lu's study, visit:
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Shahir Masri, MS