The Other I

May 5, 2008

Bee colony collapse disorder

Filed under: Life as a Nun — theotheri @ 4:09 pm

When I was at Maryknoll last weekend, someone asked me what I knew about bee colony collapse and its relationship to genetically modified crops.  She said she’d read that first generation bees seemed to show no effect, but second generation bees suffered from serious immune deficiencies that made them vulnerable to the viruses and diseases that seemed to be wiping them out.

I had not heard about this possibility before, although I was aware that the sudden and unexplained collapse of bee colonies was becoming a serious concern to American farmers who depend on the bees to pollinate their crops.  So I did a search on Google to see what I could learn.  I appreciate that using the internet as a source of reliable information much be approached with great caution and belief should be suspended until one is sure of the reliability of the source. 

Nonetheless, what I read is leading me to follow this question up with some serious concern.  I think it is not hysterical hype to believe that the collapse of bee colonies and other pollinating insects (which are also declining, but not as the same rate as bees) is potentially catastrophic.  Unlike global warming which could gradually squeeze essential water and food supplies over the next half century or so, bee colony collapse could lead to a devastating loss of almost all the world’s entire food supply in less than a decade.

So how bad, really, is the problem, and what is causing it?  I’m fairly certain that it is reliable information that 1/2 of  all American states are affected, most badly on the east and west coasts where 60-70%  of the bee colonies have collapsed without apparent cause, and that the disorder has now begun to spread to Europe.  I don’t know at this point how fast it is spreading, nor how much of our food supply is actually imminently under threat.  I am going to try to find out.

The cause or causes of the disorder are equally problematic.  Some scientists say we simply do not know at this point.  Some think the radiation generated by mobile phones is contributing to the problem, while others are looking for some toxin or chemical fertilizer, as well as at some types of GM crops.  There are reports that when the colonies collapse, other insects do not raid them for their honey, which is usually the case, and that the dead and dying bees show unusually high levels of viral infection.  I have been aware that the US government has put some money into research toward solving this problem, but I haven’t had bee colony collapse disorder high enough on my worry list to keep abreast of current developments.

However, the problem has just made a giant leap up my Priority List of Mega Concerns.   

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