Monsanto Killing Bees?

Monsanto Killing Bees

While Monsanto is celebrating increased profits and earnings results, those concerned about the health and well-being of bee colonies remain troubled about the company’s track record of killing bees. We all depend on bees to pollinate our plant food, as does Monsanto. Yet the agribusiness colossus continues to undertake activities which appear to be decimating bee populations throughout the world.

Colony Collapse Disorder is a major threat to all of us. Studies estimate that nearly one-third of the honeybee population has been wiped out. These bees are important to agricultural production worldwide. Without the bees, the pollination necessary for plant harvesting does not occur. At the very least, lower crop yields potentially hurt grocery prices. At worst, our access to fruits and vegetables diminishes. The honeybee population is a concern for all of us.

A feverish debate rages between those most interested in preserving the bee population. Organic farmers and some bee keepers allege that the neonicotinoid insecticides produced by Monsanto, among others, are killing vast numbers of bees. Major commercial farmers and other beekeepers counteract those assertions with their own claims that agribusiness depends on the insecticides for good crop yields and that bees have died from other causes.

Scientific research backs up the claims of health minded individuals that the crop sprays developed by Monsanto is killing large numbers of bees. The neonicotinoid based bug killers also appear to harm butterfly and bird populations as well. Agribusiness champions state that the studies are flawed and introduce the insecticides to the bees using methods inconsistent with typical farming practices. They also point at the absent effective insecticides the crop yields we enjoy would diminish. After all, the insect killers are used for a reason.

Monsanto has purportedly stepped up its efforts to use more bee friendly insecticides. The company even held a summit with beekeepers last June to outline its activities. The agribusiness supporters assert than instead of insecticide induced honeybee decimation, the real culprit is a small insect called the varroa mite. The mites do not directly kill the bees, but are a source of germs for bee killing viruses when the mites are present among bee populations. The insecticide supporters point out that neonicotinoids are widely used in Australia and the bee populations remain stable there. The difference is that Australia does not have a varroa mite population.

Many organic farmers and alternative medical practitioners remain skeptical of Monsanto and other large commercial farmers. They are concerned over the impact of genetically modified food products in addition to pesticide fears. The combination of genetically modified organisms plus liberal use of neonicotinoids raises fears of cancer and other long-term health disorders. These types of concerns will take years, or even decades, to determine whether an increase in today’s crop yields justifies the possible decimation of bees and cancer deaths in the future.

Whether Monsanto is killing bees through its use of neonicotinoids remains open to debate. What is not debatable is the decimation of the bee population. The jury is still out as to its cause. Health minded individuals prescribe safer insecticides as the answer so that we can attempt to keep our crop yields while alleviating long-term health concerns.

By William Costolo

Organic Consumers Association
St. Louis Post-Dispatch