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Monsanto Invests in Pollinator Research, Ignores Effects of Pesticides

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page, Honey Bee Health & Colony Collapse Disorder page, and our Farm Issues page.

Washington, DC-- St. Louis-based chemical and seed giant Monsanto Co. has purchased a company called Beeologics, which has developed a product intended to counteract viral agents that plague honey bee colonies in an attempt to stem the effects of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). However, advocates wonder whether the antiviral agent will result in any significant decline of CCD when bees around the country and across the world continue to be exposed to highly toxic pesticides that are known to have serious effects on a range of pollinators, including honey bees. 

Beeologics was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in both Florida and Israel. The company's antiviral agent, called Remembee, is designed to fight a virus that is commonly thought to be a contributing factor to CCD. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Monsanto spokesperson Kelly Powers said that, "I don't need to tell you how important bees are to farmers who rely on pollination, and Remembee has great promise, pending approvals." The product is currently being reviewed for potential commercial sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Efforts to counteract CCD are commendable, as a range of factors, including viruses as well as colony invaders such as the Varroa mite, are thought to contribute to CCD. However, doubt remains as to whether Monsanto recognizes the significant role that agricultural chemicals, especially pesticides, have on bee colonies.

CCD has devastated bees and beekeepers around the country in recent years, a phenomenon that that many scientists have tied to the use of the systemic neonicotinoid insecticides widely used in agriculture and gardens. Over the past five years, since the discovery of CCD, annual winter colony losses have hovered near the 30% mark. A report released jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) shows that losses of honey bee populations over the 2010/2011 winter remained abnormally high. According to the survey, 30% of managed honey bee colonies across the country were lost over last winter. The United Nations (UN) also revealed in a report that the collapse of honey bee colonies is now a global phenomenon.