100,000 German Call for GMO Ban

GMO Cultivation Ban

GMO Cultivation Ban

German beekeepers have called for a nationwide ban on cultivating GM plants, reports the German NGO keine-gentechnik.de.

The call by the German Beekeepers Association (DIB), which represents almost 100,000 beekeepers, comes after Europe adopted controversial legislation enabling member states to opt-out of the cultivation of GMOs that have been approved at the EU level.

Under the law, a member state can ban a GMO in part or all of its territory. But the law has come under heavy criticism for failing to provide a solid basis for such bans.

The beekeepers are urging Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) to implement a Germany-wide ban on cultivation. The Minister pleads, however, for letting each state decide individually.

The beekeepers counter that a piecemeal approach will not work. Bees fly up to eight kilometres in search of food, the DIB said, so a juxtaposition of GM crop cultivation zones and GMO-free zones within Germany would be “environmentally and agriculturally unacceptable”.

“Bees know no borders,” the DIB added.

The beekeepers’ demand for a nationwide ban could bring them into direct conflict with the new opt-out law, as experts warn that such bans may not be legally solid.

National GMO cultivation bans will be tough to uphold

At a conference on the new European legislation hosted by the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture in Budapest, Hungary, in April 2015, Dr H.-Christoph von Heydebrand of the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture warned that a nationwide ban on GMO cultivation would be much harder to justify under the new law than a regional or local ban.

A lawyer from the EU Council, Matthew Moore, speaking at the same conference in a personal capacity, agreed that it would be far easier under the law to defend national measures that “do not extend to the whole territory”.

Mr Moore gave an example of the type of challenge that would-be opting-out countries will be faced with. If they argue that GMOs threaten small-scale and agroecological farmers in their nation, they could be asked: “Is the entirety of your agricultural sector really composed of small farmers whose domination by a large agro-industrial company and its single pesticide motivated you to act?”

Mr Moore explained that the principle of proportionality is written into the new law, as well as being a general principle of EU law.

This means that the ECJ will be more inclined to accept GMO cultivation opt-outs “in relation to a defined region than in relation to the entirety of the territory of a country the size of Hungary”. Any measure taken by an opting-out country to ban or restrict the cultivation of GMOs must not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the stated aim.

Mr Moore made clear that if opt-outs were challenged, for example, by the GMO industry, the case would end up in the European Court of Justice. And the ECJ has a presumption in favour of the EU single market.

In simple terms, that means the ECJ could take a lot of convincing to allow a country or even a region to opt out of cultivating a GMO that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) asserts is safe. Such an opt-out, if allowed to stand, could create divisions in the European single market and might bring the member state into conflict with the ECJ.

The current situation in Germany, with beekeepers ranged against government officials and pro-GMO farmers, also suggests that the new opt-out law will create internal divisions within a country.

The GMO industry may go down in history as having broken apart the European Union and set one sector of the food and agriculture industry against another.

 

Source:  globalresearch.ca

Swiss Chemical Company Rejects Monsanto’s

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Monsanto, in Bid for Syngenta, Reaches for a Business It Left Behind

Over the last two decades Monsanto has cast off its century-long history as a chemical company and refashioned itself as an agricultural life sciences company, led by its genetically engineered seeds.

But with its $45 billion bid to acquire the agricultural chemical giant Syngenta — a bid Syngenta rejected on Friday as inadequate — Monsanto appears to be trying to get back into a business it largely abandoned. That is a possible acknowledgment, some analysts say, that the biotech seeds might not be the engine to carry the company forward much longer.

“If you go back 10 years, they put all their marbles on biotechnology and they’ve done fantastically well there,” said William R. Young, managing director of ChemSpeak, a consulting firm following the chemical industry. “But going forward, maybe the growth is limited,” he said. Buying Syngenta “allows for some diversification in product line.”

Syngenta both announced and rejected Monsanto’s unsolicited bid on Friday, saying the offer undervalued Syngenta’s prospects and underestimated “the significant execution risks, including regulatory and public scrutiny at multiple levels in many countries.”

Monsanto offered to pay 449 Swiss francs, or about $490, for each share of Syngenta; 45 percent of the payment would be in cash. The offer represented a 35 percent premium to Syngenta’s closing price on Thursday.Monsanto, in its own statement, said it believed combining the two companies would create “an integrated global leader in agriculture with comprehensive and complementary product portfolios.” It said it was confident in its ability to obtain all necessary regulatory approvals.

The deal would create an agricultural behemoth, combining Monsanto, the world leader in seeds and genetically engineered traits (like herbicide resistance), with Syngenta, the largest producer of agricultural chemicals.

The two companies are in some sense mirror images of each other. They are similar in size, each with over $15 billion in annual revenue. But Monsanto gets most of its revenue from seeds and biotech traits; the rest comes mainly from the herbicide Roundup. Syngenta gets most of its revenue from chemicals, like weed control products, and less from seeds.

So far, investors have seen more potential in the seed business. Monsanto has had a market valuation more than 60 percent greater than Syngenta’s.

Source:  nytimes

Bee Deaths Caused By EPA Approved Pesticide

U.S. Bee Deaths Caused By EPA Approved Pesticide:

 

U.S. Bee Deaths Caused By EPA Approved Pesticide

U.S. Bee Deaths Caused By EPA Approved Pesticide

 

The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, worrying beekeepers and farmers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. A number of theories have popped up as to why the North American honey bee population has declined–electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate change have all been pinpointed. Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.

The document, which was leaked to a Colorado beekeeper, shows that the EPA has ignored warnings about the use of clothianidin, a pesticide produced by Bayer that mainly is used to pre-treat corn seeds. The pesticide scooped up $262 million in sales in 2009 by farmers, who also use the substance on canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat, according to Grist.

The leaked document (PDF) was put out in response to Bayer’s request to approve use of the pesticide on
cotton and mustard. The document invalidates a prior Bayer study that justified the registration of clothianidin on the basis of its safety to honeybees:

Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects.

The entire 101-page memo is damning (and worth a read). But the opinion of EPA scientists apparently isn’t enough for the agency, which is allowing clothianidin to keep its registration…

Bees outpace Orchids

 

 

Bees outpace orchids in evolution:

 

 Bees outpace orchids in evolution


Bees outpace orchids in evolution

 

 

Orchid bees aren’t so dependent on orchids after all, according to a new study that challenges the prevailing view of how plants and their insect pollinators evolve together.

A male orchid bee collects fragrance compounds from flowers of a Notylia orchid. Female orchid bees choose mates based upon the mix of these chemical compounds. (R. B. Singer photo)

A long-standing belief among biologists holds that species in highly specialized relationships engage in a continual back-and-forth play of co-evolution.

“What we found was that this reciprocal specialization did not exist for orchid bees and orchids,” said study lead author Santiago Ramirez, post-doctoral researcher in the lab of Neil Tsutsui, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. “The bees evolved much earlier and independently, while the orchids appear to have been catching up.”

The bond between specific bees and the orchid plants they visited has been well-documented by botanists and naturalists, including Charles Darwin. Biologists discovered that male bees needed the specific perfume compounds produced by the flowering plants in order to mate with female bees.

In the study, published in the Sept. 23 issue of the journal Science, the researchers screened more than 7,000 individual male bees and sequenced DNA from 140 orchid pollinaria, which are small packages that contain all the pollen grains produced by a single flower. The researchers were able to infer the evolutionary history of both bees and orchids, and establish which species of bee pollinates what species of orchid. The researchers also quantified and analyzed the perfumes collected by orchid bees and compared them with the compounds produced by orchid flowers.

To their surprise, the scientists found that the bees evolved at least 12 million years earlier than their orchid counterparts. Additionally, they found that the compounds produced by the orchids only accounted for 10 percent of the compounds collected by their pollinators. The remaining 90 percent could be coming from other sources, including tree resins.

Male orchid bees can find the fragrance compounds they need for mating from decaying logs, as shown here, as well as from orchids. (B. Jacobi photo)

“It appears that the male bees evolved a preference to collect these compounds from all kinds of sources, and the orchids converged on that chemical preference millions of years later,” said Ramirez.

In essence, orchids need their bee pollinators more than the bees need them.

The findings have implications in conservation biology, particularly because of the alarming decline over the past 15 years of bee pollinators worldwide.

“Many plant species are extremely dependent on their pollinators,” said Ramirez, who began this work while he was a Ph.D. student in the lab of Naomi Pierce, Harvard University professor of biology. “If you lose one species of bee, you could lose three to four species of orchids. Many of these orchids don’t produce any other type of reward, such as nectar, that would attract other species of bee pollinators.”

“Our study is consistent with the emerging theory that insect sensory biases have played a major role in driving reproductive adaptations in flowering plants,” said Ramirez. “It highlights the ecological and evolutionary inter-dependence of flowering plants and their specialized pollinators, suggesting that new threats to insect pollinators may have profound effects on the ecosystems they inhabit.”

Scientists discover what’s killing bees

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought:

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought

The 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.

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

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.

“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

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.

In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two years in Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But vanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.

“It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says vanEngelsdorp.

Monsanto’s gobble’s up bee research company

Monsanto buys leading bee research firm after being implicated in bee colony collapse:

Monsanto buys leading bee research firm after being implicated in bee colony collapse

Monsanto buys leading bee research firm after being implicated in bee colony collapse

Amid all the controversy over genetically-modified (GM) crops and their pesticides and herbicides decimating bee populations all around the world, biotechnology behemoth Monsanto has decided to buy out one of the major international firms devoted to studying and protecting bees. According to a company announcement, Beeologics handed over the reins to Monsanto back on September 28, 2011, which means the gene-manipulating giant will now be able to control the flow of information and products coming from Beeologics for colony collapse disorder (CCD).

Since 2007, Beeologics has been studying CCD, as well as Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), for the purpose of coming up with intervention-based ways to mitigate these conditions. And based on the way the company describes both CCD and IAPV on its website, Beeologics has largely taken the approach that intervention, rather than prevention, is the key to solving the global bee crisis.

Now that Beeologics is owned and controlled by Monsanto, the company is sure to completely avoid dealing with the true causes of CCD and IAPV as they pertain to Monsanto’s crop technologies — GMOs and their chemical counterparts. So going into the future, it seems expected that Beeologics will come up with “scientific breakthroughs” that deny any link between CCD and GMO technologies, and instead blame mystery pathogens and other factors that require more chemicals to eliminate.

According to Anthony Gucciardi at Activist Post, Beeologics has also long had a cozy relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is convenient for Monsanto. The USDA, in fact, considers Beeologics to be one of the foremost bee research organizations in the world, as does the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the mainstream media and “leading entomologists” worldwide, according to the company.

Monsanto to use Beeologics’ ‘biological tools’ to develop more GMOs, crop chemicals

Beeologics’ acquisition announcement explains that Monsanto plans to incorporate all the biological research that Beeologics has conducted over the years into its own programs for developing more GMO systems. Monsanto has also seized control of a key product that is currently in the Beeologics development pipeline that supposedly “help[s] protect bee health.”

“Monsanto will use the base technology from Beeologics as a part of its continuing discovery and development pipeline,” says the announcement. “Biological products will continue to play an increasingly important role in supporting the sustainability of many agricultural systems.”

To translate, it appears as though Monsanto plans to use even more chemical inputs to supposedly solve the bee collapse problem, even though it is these very inputs that are largely the cause of the bee collapse problem. Several recent studies, after all, have definitively linked crop pesticides and herbicides, as well as high fructose corn syrup, to CCD.

The future looks bleak for bees, in other words, as Monsanto appears poised to slowly gobble up all the competing companies and organizations that threaten its own GMO products, while pretending to care about the dwindling bee populations. And unless drastic action is taken to stop Monsanto in its continued quest to dominate global agriculture, the food supply as we know it will soon be a thing of the past.

Bee’s colony collapse likely due to Pesticides

Bee colony collapse not due to inbreeding:

Bee colony collapse not due to inbreeding

Bee colony collapse not due to inbreeding

The mysterious and widespread collapse of bee colonies in many parts of the world is not due to a lack of genetic diversity, a new study has found. The study by Brock Harpur, of York University in Canada, and colleagues, is reported in a recent issue of Molecular Ecology. “The relationship between genetic diversity and honey bee declines is tenuous given that managed bees have more genetic diversity than their progenitors and many viable domesticated animals,” write the researchers. In recent years, bee colonies in Europe and North America have been suffering a widespread collapse. Just as the process of domestication with other animals often brings about a decline in genetic diversity, some scientists believe this has occurred in managed bees and is the cause of colony collapse. “The honey bee, Apis mellifera, has been managed by humans for centuries for both honey and wax production and crop pollination,” write Harpur and colleagues. “Human management and selective breeding are believed to have caused reductions in genetic diversity in honeybee populations, thereby contributing to the global declines threatening this ecologically and economically important insect.” But in their genetic study, Harpur and colleagues found evidence against this. “We found that managed honey bees actually have higher levels of genetic diversity compared with their progenitors in East and West Europe,” they write. Professor Ben Oldroyd of the University of Sydney welcomes the latest study on the genetic diversity of managed bees. “[Harpur and colleagues] were using a new genetic marker … So they got a really good handle on it,” says Oldroyd, who studies the behavioral, evolutionary and population genetics of bees. Oldroyd has also found a similar genetic diversity of managed bees in Australia, which to date does not have colony collapse disorder. He says diversity in managed bees can be explained by the fact that beekeepers’ regularly import new queen bees from many parts of the world, and then these queens mate with feral bees. This is quite different from what happens in the domestication of many other animals. “In cattle there’s this big thing about staying within the breed but beekeepers don’t do that. Bees are a mongrel lot, like humans,” says Oldroyd. In the past he has been a skeptic of whether the collapse of colonies is a new development in the history of bees. “There’s been occurrences throughout history, going back as far as the 10th century where there’s been massive die offs of bees,” he says. “There was a big die off in 1910 in England when just about every colony died.” But, Oldroyd says his view is shifting as time goes on, given the world-wide scale of colony collapse, and number of colonies involved. He says there are many other theories for the problem ranging from the effect of mobile phone towers (popular in India) to the stress of bees from overwork in industrial-scale beekeeping. “The typical pattern in the United States is the bees are overwintered in Florida, driven to California for almond pollination and then they’re driven up to the north west to New York for pollinating apples and then maybe they’ll even get a honey crop in Canada,” says Oldroyd. “They work them hard. Particularly the queens get a hard time because they have got to be laying one to two thousand eggs a day for most of the year instead of for a few months.” But, he says the most likely cause of colony collapse disorder is pesticides, including, neonicotinoids that disorient bees so they can’t get back to their nest. “If there was any one thing that was supposed to be the cause of colony collapse I suppose that’s the most likely one,” says Oldroyd. “I think the evidence is mounting on that.”

Honey Bee Collapse not due to pesticides alone

 

Pesticides not yet proven guilty of causing honeybee declines:

 Pesticides not yet proven guilty of causing honeybee declines


Pesticides not yet proven guilty of causing honeybee declines

The impact of crop pesticides on honeybee colonies is unlikely to cause colony collapse, according to a paper in the journal Science today (20 September 2012). More research is now needed to predict the impact of widely-used agricultural insecticides, called neonicotinoids, on honeybee populations. UK scientists from the University of Exeter and Food and Environment Agency highlight flaws in previous research (published in Science, April 2012) that predicted that neonicotinoids could cause honeybee colony collapse. Neonicotinoids are among the most widely-used agricultural insecticides and honeybees ingest residues of the pesticides as they gather nectar and pollen from treated plants. The previous research has been cited by scientists, environmentalists and policy-makers as evidence of the future impact of these pesticides on honeybees. It is likely that the research was instrumental in the French government’s recent decision to ban the use of thiamethoxam, a neonicotinoid that is the active ingredient of Cruiser OSR, a pesticide produced by the Swiss company Syngenta. However, the new paper argues that the calculations made in the research were flawed because they failed to reflect the rate at which honeybee colonies recover from losing individuals. The previous research, led by French scientist Mikaël Henry, showed that the death rate of bees increased when they drank nectar laced with a neonicotinoid pesticide, thiamethoxam. It calculated that this would cause their colony to collapse. The research published today explains how the calculation may have used an inappropriately low birth rate. Lead author Dr James Cresswell of the University of Exeter said: “We know that neonicotinoids affect honeybees, but there is no evidence that they could cause colony collapse. When we repeated the previous calculation with a realistic birth rate, the risk of colony collapse under pesticide exposure disappeared. “I am definitely not saying that pesticides are harmless to honeybees, but I think everyone wants to make decisions based on sound evidence – and our research shows that the effects of thiamethoxam are not as severe as first thought. “We do not yet have definitive evidence of the impact of these insecticides on honeybees and we should not be making any decisions on changes to policy on their use. It is vital that more research is conducted so that we can understand the real impact of neonicotinoids on honeybees, so governments can put together a proper plan to protect them from any dangers that the chemicals pose.”

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