Monsanto's new commitment on honey bee health

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Monsanto recently announced its commitment to honey bee health at the 2013 Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting with support from the Keystone Center, American Honey Producers Association, American Beekeeping Federation, World Wildlife Fund, Project Apis m. (PAm), and commodity groups. The multi-stakeholder coalition will include individuals involved in honey bee health as well as new stakeholders, which include agriculture commodity groups, industry groups, government agencies, environmental NGOs, and agriculture companies, all focused on improving honey bee health.

The coalition will have four priority areas of focus: 1) improving honey bee nutrition; 2) providing research investment in novel technology for varroa and virus control; 3) understanding science-based approaches to studying pesticide impacts on honey bees and increasing awareness of pesticide best management practices among growers and beekeepers; and 4) enabling economic empowerment of beekeepers.

“One-third of our diet is made up of vegetables, fruits and nuts that depend on pollinators like honey bees,” said Jerry Hayes, Monsanto’s Commercial Bee Health Lead. “Honey bees play an essential role in ensuring crop yields – a critical need for global food security. The coalition will take an action-oriented approach to improve and sustain honey bee health.”

A significant decline in the honey bee population is posing a threat to agricultural sustainability and food security, as well as to ecosystem health and biodiversity. In the United States, beekeepers have seen an average winter loss of more than 30 percent of honey bee colonies every year since 2006 as a result of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), a phenomenon in which bees disappear abruptly from an otherwise healthy colony. The low survival rate of honey bee colonies is leading to a significant decline in the overall honey bee population. Historically, approximately 6 million colonies existed in the United States; today approximately 2.5 million colonies exist.

Monsanto has been involved with bee research since 2011 when it acquired Beeologics, an organization focused on researching and testing biological products to provide targeted control of pests and diseases in order to provide safe, effective ways to protect the honey bee. Monsanto also has collaborated with PAm to assist in forage projects in order to provide more nutritious food for bees, and is doing extensive research on the varroa mite, which may be one factor in the decline of honey bee health.

Additional information about the challenges facing honey bees and Monsanto’s commitment to improving honey bee health can be found on Monsanto’s honey bee health website.

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October, 14, 2013 at 07:23 AM

Another bogus attempt by a chemical company to subvert nature. Why wont these corporations learn that working against nature is a loosing proposition. Bees don't need anything more than a clean ecosystem to operate in...something MONSANTO has made impossible.

California  |  October, 14, 2013 at 04:33 PM

For the anti- Monsanto crowd nothing is good enough. In what way are they subverting nature by looking for answers to a problem?

Arthur Welser, Cornell "74"    
Albany NY  |  October, 14, 2013 at 08:10 PM

Monsanto has a lot at stake regarding bee health and can benefit financially from applying found improvements in bee health in new products development. As for CCD, I have recently found evidence that we have had the problem since at least the "80's, the "1880's" that is as Goodnough in his book "Scientific Bee Keeping" 1889, has a passage that describes CCD! "It is the compacting of colonies together in large apiaries, which bring about such results, thereby causing what is termed "the swarming-fever"-where swarms issue under the most unfavorable circumstances imaginable, sometimes even swarming without a Queen, thus leaving the parent colony broodless, and without means from which to provide themselves with a Queen. " To me the passage describes CCD and perhaps the underlying problem with Apis. Bees, regardless of pesticides and our more current agricultural methods, are not by nature, not designed to bee brought together as a communal group. Our current problems are just compounded by the needs of the Almond groves as they are the first crop to bee pollinated and as such, a "wet Winter" or unexpected disease leads to losses that exceed the norm and can't be rectified short of pulling northern bees out of hibernation or importing them from Australia. If the demands of the apple orchards and almond groves were reversed, there would not bee nearly the concerns over bee health as there are today in the US.

Iowa  |  October, 15, 2013 at 07:15 AM

Bill, if you want to go back to totally clean ecosystem with no chemicals or GMO crops then I hope your family is the one willing to go without food as the world starves. Nothing Monsanto will ever do will please the likes of you and your anti-Monsanto friends.

Raleigh, NC  |  October, 16, 2013 at 03:18 AM

We *can* go back to a clean ecosystem with no chemicals or GMO crops. And feed the planet. In fact, it really is the only long-term sustainable model. The current model is very very broken. Modern farming techniques (san-chemicals and GMOs) have vastly improved, are super-productive often outstripping "industrial" agriculture, and certainly less costly (ecological devastation has a cost). We simply have no need for such pollutants. As for Monsanto: Monsanto is the corporate equivalent of a violent career criminal now claiming to have come clean and leading a law-abiding life. Everyone is skeptical of anything they say. And rightly so. Maybe they are finally committed to something actually meaningful and helpful, but the "anti-Monsanto" folks (just about everyone) are in doubt because of Monsanto's past and current actions.

Raleigh, NC  |  October, 16, 2013 at 03:25 AM

It is going to take a massive corporate turnabout, for many many years, for anyone to trust anything Monsanto says. Have they suddenly become an ethical corporate citizen suddenly overnight? Folks will remain skeptical and should. Nevermind the massive ecological destruction of which they continue to be prime stakeholder.

USA  |  November, 01, 2013 at 07:15 PM

The same amount of people were starving 20 years ago prior to the introduction of GMO, as a matter of fact they were starving for the same reason people starve today, its called being poor, no money. I have never seen or heard of anyone starve to death with 20 bucks in their pocket!

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