Monsanto Fights Bee Disappearance

November 16, 2013

Editor’s Note: The article below describes the actions underway by a leading US corporation to preserve a viable national stock of bees. Until which time the products of this major commitment to research and development are available it is imperative that regulators not act prematurely.

 A preponderance of evidence demonstrates that the varroa mite is the major destructor of bees and we encourage regulators to take the appropriate action.  CRE is concerned however that a number of advocates are recommending regulatory action be initiated as a result of the chemical treatment of seeds, “seed treatment”.  Consequently CRE will be examining seed treatment in considerable detail.

CRE will publishing the outcome of its review on this Interactive Public Docket due to the deference accorded to the IPD by influential sources.

Consider, for example a story carried by the prestigious publishing house Thomas Reuters on  their Sustainability wire, “Nanopesticides: weighing the risks and benefits in U.S. policy” that is available here,  The story contains a link to a post on CRE’s ESA Pesticide IPD through AGS-20”  The AGS-20 links to the following story on the IPD,

In addition, CRE filed comments with EPA last year on the SAP meeting on the Pollinator Risk Assessment Framework.  CRE’s comments are available online, on the University of Minnesota’s Entomology department. See,

The Big Stage (New York Stock Exchange Blog)  By Josh Dean

The agro-giant is taking biotech, science and old-fashioned beekeeping to the battle for the bees.

Honey bees are critical to our global food supply, but just how critical they are might surprise you. At least one-third of the foods humans consume are available to us because of pollinators.

“Honey bees are the fundamental keystone pollinator of pollinator-dependent agriculture,” says Jerry Hayes, commercial lead for Monsanto Co. unit Beelogics — an Israeli biotech acquired by Monsanto in 2011. Bees move pollen from one plant to another, allowing seeds to form that will eventually become flowers, and then nuts or fruit. “Bees are a huge component of nutrition that allows people to be healthy,” Hayes explains. Unless we’re willing to forgo things like apples, broccoli, strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, nuts and even beef — because honey bees pollinate the alfalfa that is the primary cattle feed — we need to find a way to reverse the much-publicized decrease in bee population, he adds.

Hayes has devoted his life to the study of honey bees, and he joined the St. Louis-based agri-business giant last year to lead the efforts to save them. We have no reliable replacement for bees, Hayes says. In one region of China, peasants were hired to climb trees and hand-pollinate flowers using goose feathers and paintbrushes. That’s hardly a scalable solution.

Numerous factors have put bees at risk. The major problem, Hayes says, is related to the global economy: Diseases and parasites are shipped around the world in boxes and on ships. One such parasite — the Varroa mite, which carries a vectoring virus — is a growing plague here in the U.S., and the only current solution is for beekeepers to introduce pesticides into a nest. That works, but it’s problematic. “They have to kill a little bug on a big bug, using pesticides, which has collateral damage,” Hayes says. “And bee comb absorbs chemicals. So you can kill the little bug but it can stress the big bug too.”

An agricultural biological alternative could be the answer. And Monsanto is working to find just such a solution. Scientists are in the research and development phase of a genomic-based technology that takes a molecule found in nature and unleashes it upon a particular pest — in this case, the Varroa mite. Such a technology may enable specific and effective products with a wide range of applications — including weed, insect and virus control. Monsanto is calling the technology BioDirect™, and hopes to bring it to market by the end of this decade.

In the meantime, the company is working to stem the loss in other ways — bee colonies are losing approximately 30 percent of their populations every year. Last summer, Monsanto’s Honey Bee Advisory Council and Project Apis m. (PAm) hosted the Honey Bee Health Summit at Monsanto with 70 leading experts to discuss mites and other key issues, including poor nutrition and communication between farmers and commercial beekeepers.

In his short time at Monsanto, Hayes says, the partnership is already bearing serious fruit — and progress will pay off for both producers and consumers of the food supply. “Monsanto has seen directly, because of their consumer base, how important honey bees are.”


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