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We are not Causing Genocide - Our Pollinators' Plight

Dr Herbert: Field-Realistic Doses of Glyphosate Lead to Honeybee Starvation

A new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology establishes a link between the world’s most sold herbicide Roundup and the dramatic decline in honeybee (Apis mellifera) populations in North American and Europe that lead to the coining of the term ‘colony collapse disorder’ (CCD) in late 2006 to describe the phenomena.
Effects of field-realistic doses of glyphosate on honeybee appetitive behaviour

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Authors: Lucila H. Herbert, Diego E. Vazquez, Andres Arenas, Walter M. Farina


Glyphosate (GLY) is a broad spectrum herbicide used for weed control. Presently, sub-lethal impact of GLY on non-target organisms such as insect pollinators has not been evaluated yet. Apis mellifera is the main pollinator in agricultural environments and a well-known model for behavioural research. Moreover, honeybees are accurate biosensors of environmental pollutants and their appetitive behavioural response is a suitable tool to test sub-lethal effects of agrochemicals. We studied the effects of field-realistic doses of GLY on honeybees exposed chronically or acutely to it. We focused on sucrose sensitivity, elemental and non-elemental associative olfactory conditioning of the proboscis extension response (PER) and on foraging related behaviour. We found a reduced sensitivity to sucrose and learning performance for the groups chronically exposed to GLY concentrations within the range of recommended doses. When olfactory PER conditioning was performed with sucrose reward with the same GLY concentrations (acute exposure), elemental learning and short-term memory retention decreased significantly compared to controls. Non-elemental associative learning was also impaired by an acute exposure to GLY traces. Altogether, these results imply that GLY at concentrations found in agro-ecosystems due to standard spraying can reduce sensitivity to nectar reward and impair associative learning in honeybees. However, no effect on foraging related behaviour was found. Therefore, we speculate that successful forager bees could become a source of constant inflow of nectar with GLY traces that could then be distributed among nest mates, stored in the hive and have long-term negative consequences on colony performance.

By Henry Rowlands|August 14th, 2014|Animal Evidence, Roundup Evidence, South America

Dr Huber: Glyphosate Could Cause Bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

There have been discussions about neonicotinoids, poor nutrition, Nosema, and mysterious viruses causing bee colony collapse disorder (CCD). Now plant pathologist Dr. Don Huber has pointed a finger at glyphosate as a possible cause of CCD in a paper written for the Center for Honeybee Research.

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Author: Dr. Don Huber


Bee colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a growing threat to the efficient production of fruits, vegetables and nut crops, in addition to the critical role of bees as pollinators for numerous seed crops (Neumann and Carreck, 2009; Wines, 2013).  CCD is characterized as a loss of adult (worker) bees from the hive that leaves the queen and immature bees (brood) inadequately attended even though there is adequate honey and other food present (van Engelsdorp et al, 2006; Wikipedia, 2013).  The etiology (reason) of CCD is listed as unknown (NFIC, 2013) although neonicotinamid insecticides have been implicated in several studies through disruption of the endocrine hormone system (van Engelsdorp et al, 2006; Tapparo et al, 2012; Wikipedia, 2013) that causes bees to become disoriented and fail to return to the hive (NPIC, 2013).

Acute poisoning and disease leaving dead bees in and around the hive can generally be ruled out, although there is sometimes an increased incidence of Nosema and European foul brood (EFB) in stressed colonies that could be contributing factors in some cases (Pettis et al, 2012). Mineral nutritional deficiency is also suspected as a contributing stress factor in CCD (Ahmed, 2012) and malnutrition is the only universal condition found in all cases of CCD even though there is honey and bee-bread generally in the hive. This could be because of toxicity to the Lactobacillus and Bifobacterium species in the honey crop that digest the nectar and render the honey and bee-bread digestible (Ahmed, 2012).

Perhaps a more problematic cause of CCD has been over looked even though it is the most indiscriminately and extensively used chemical in agriculture and the environment.  This organic phosphonate chemical that has been overlooked is the estimated 880 million pounds of the popular, broad-spectrum, systemic herbicide glyphosate (also marketed as Roundup®) used for broadcast weed control in general right-of-ways, home gardens, crop production, fallow fields, understory weed control in groves, vineyards, orchards, and parks; and for aquatic weed control in ponds and lakes. It is almost universally used on millions of acres of Roundup Ready® alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, soybeans and sugar beets.  An additional, more recent use has been as a crop desiccant prior to harvest for barley, beans, peas, peanuts, sugar cane, wheat, and for late season weed control in other crops.

These uses have created an extensive exposure level throughout the year with especially high concentrations in plants, air, water and soil during primary bee foraging periods.  The exposure, physiological damage, and biological impact of glyphosate are consistent with all of the known conditions related to CCD as shown in Table 1 (see in full paper).  Of all of the potential individual factors implicated in CCD, glyphosate is the only compound extensively used world-wide where CCD occurs that impacts all of them.  That compound, again, is the patented mineral chelator (USPTO, 1964), herbicide, and antibiotic (USPTO, 2000), glyphosate.  New studies refer to this compound as the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment (Samsel and Seneff, 2013). (E. Note: Samsel and Seneff is worth reading the abstract on the link. You can download the entire PDF, which goes into the modern diseases glyphosate is creating.)

By Henry Rowlands|August 5th, 2013|Animal Evidence, North America, Roundup Evidence|1

Dr Pleasants: Roundup Ready GM Crops Cause Monarch Butterfly Decline

Genetically engineered corn and soybeans make it easy for farmers to eradicate weeds, including the long-lived and unruly milkweed. But they might be putting the monarch butterfly in peril.

The rapid spread of herbicide-resistant crops has coincided with — and may explain — the dramatic decline in monarch numbers that has troubled some naturalists over the past decade, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University.

Full Paper Here:

PLEASANTS, J. M. and OBERHAUSER, K. S. (2013), Milkweed loss in agricultural fields because of herbicide use: effect on the monarch butterfly population. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 6: 135–144. doi: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2012.00196.x

1.  The size of the Mexican overwintering population of monarch butterflies has decreased over the last decade. Approximately half of these butterflies come from the U.S. Midwest where larvae feed on common milkweed. There has been a large decline in milkweed in agricultural fields in the Midwest over the last decade. This loss is coincident with the increased use of glyphosate herbicide in conjunction with increased planting of genetically modified (GM) glyphosate-tolerant corn (maize) and soybeans (soya).

2. We investigate whether the decline in the size of the overwintering population can be attributed to a decline in monarch production owing to a loss of milkweeds in agricultural fields in the Midwest. We estimate Midwest annual monarch production using data on the number of monarch eggs per milkweed plant for milkweeds in different habitats, the density of milkweeds in different habitats, and the area occupied by those habitats on the landscape.

3.  We estimate that there has been a 58% decline in milkweeds on the Midwest landscape and an 81% decline in monarch production in the Midwest from 1999 to 2010. Monarch production in the Midwest each year was positively correlated with the size of the subsequent overwintering population in Mexico. Taken together, these results strongly suggest that a loss of agricultural milkweeds is a major contributor to the decline in the monarch population.

4. The smaller monarch population size that has become the norm will make the species more vulnerable to other conservation threats.
By Henry Rowlands|May 30th, 2013|Animal Evidence, North America, Roundup Evidence|0

GM Bt Cotton Contains Poison that Benefits Aphid Boom

Genetically modified Bt cotton plants contain a poison that protects them from their most significant enemies. As a result, these plants rely less on their own defence system. This benefits other pests, such as aphids. These insights stem from a study supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).

Only ten years ago, genetically modified cotton grew on 12% of all fields – today it is cultivated on over 80% of all cotton fields around the world. Bt cotton contains a gene of Bacillus thuringiensis, a species of soil bacteria. The plant uses it to produce a poison whose effects are fatal to the principal cotton pests – voracious caterpillars. However, certain types of bugs and other pests begin to spread across cotton fields instead, as is the case in China. The decline in the use of chemical pesticides may be partly responsible for this development, but it is probably not the only factor.
Spoiling their appetites

A team of researchers led by Jörg Romeis from the Agroscope Reckenholz-Tänikon Research Station has now identified a biological mechanism that offers an additional explanation for the increase in new pests in Bt cotton fields (*). Cotton plants have a sophisticated defence system. When caterpillars begin to nibble on them, they form defensive substances, so-called terpenoids. This spoils the appetite of not only the caterpillars, but of many other nibblers as well.
Also helpful against bugs?

Cotton aphids generally do not cause severe agricultural damage because they succumb to their natural enemies out in the open. His results are therefore not relevant to farming, says Romeis. However, he has for the first time revealed an indirect effect of Bt cotton: the killing of the caterpillars also affects other plant-eating insects because the plants’ defence system remains inactive. Romeis now wants to investigate whether this effect is relevant to aphids only or also to the bugs that are creating problems for cotton farmers in China and in other cotton-growing regions of the world.

(*) Steffen Hagenbucher, Felix Wäckers, Felix Wettstein, Dawn Olson, John Ruberson and Jörg Romeis (2013). Pest tradeoffs in technology: Reduced damage by caterpillars in Bt cotton benefits aphids. Proceedings of the Royal Society B online. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.0042

(PDF available from the SNSF; e-mail: [email protected])

Dr Niels Holst: GM Maize Damages Protected Peacock Butterfly Larvae

This is an important new study that concludes that the planting of Bt maize in some areas of Europe would cause increased mortality in the larvae of the protected peacock butterfly.

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Increased mortality is predicted of Inachis io larvae caused by Bt-maize pollen in European farmland


A potential environmental risk of the field cultivation of insect-resistant (Bt-toxin expressing) transgenic maize (Zea mays) is the consumption of Bt-containing pollen by herbivorous larvae of butterflies (Lepidoptera). Maize is wind-pollinated, and at flowering time large amounts of pollen can be deposited on various plants growing in the landscape, leading to inadvertent ingestion of toxic pollen with plant biomass consumed by these butterfly larvae. To examine the possible effect of this coincidence, we focused our study on the protected butterfly Inachis io and two regions of Europe. Using climatic records, maize and butterfly phenology data, we built a simulation model of the butterfly’s annual life cycle, overlaid with the phenology of maize pollen deposition on the leaves of the food plant Urtica dioica, and linked these with the dose–response curve of I. io larvae to Bt-maize pollen (event MON810). The simulations indicated that in Northern Europe, where I. io is univoltine, Bt-maize pollen would not be present on the food plant at the same time as the I. io larvae. However, in Central and Southern Europe, where I. io is bivoltine, Bt-maize pollen and the second generation I. io larvae would coincide, and an increased mortality of the larvae was predicted. This prediction differs from earlier studies which predicted negligible effect of field-grown Bt-maize on I. iolarvae. Our model is an improvement over previous efforts since it is based on more detailed, empirical data, includes more biological detail, and provides explicit estimation of all model parameters. The model is open-source software and is available for re-use and for modelling the effects on other species or regions.

Authors: Niels Holst, Andreas Lang, Gabor Lövei, Mathias Otto
By Henry Rowlands|February 13th, 2013|Animal Evidence, Europe