What is next? GMO Bees?

Last week, the London Guardian reported that honeybees are dying off at too high a rate to guarantee their long-term survival.

honey bee, ant, tropical milkweed
Bee, ant, tropical milkweed

The Perpetual Motion Machine

Remember how the mainstream media tricked us into ignoring the dangers of smoking tobacco and then later tried to confuse us about the reality of climate change? The amusement ride isn’t over. Hang on tight because this time the theme is bee deaths. For the gritty details, check out Michele Simon’s report Follow the Honey 7 ways pesticide companies are spinning the bee crisis to protect profits.

Bayer, Syngenta and Monsanto are so practised at manipulating the media that they even ‘fooled’ the mighty NY Times. (Yes, that was a tone of sarcasm you just heard.) Just this week John Schwartz wrote a little piece about bees. Contrary to the Guardian’s conclusions, he decided that overall the news was pretty good because colony deaths were down to only 23.2 percent nationwide. He doesn’t mention that the population loss continues to be unsustainable.

John Schwartz and the NY Times are Baffled

There is a growing scientific consensus that bee deaths are probably connected to the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. These pesticides were not adequately studied before they were placed on the market. Now that they have been in use people are discovering evidence suggesting these pesticides do serious harm. Removing neonicotinoids from use until they can be proven safe seems prudent and hardly controversial.

But John Schwartz either prefers or pretends to be baffled about the causes for the collapsing bee populations. He briefly suggests the ‘mites are killing our bees’ theory from a few years ago but drops it since it obviously is easily disputed. He just puts it out there as a small diversion. Something to think about. Then he must have gotten tired of typing because he gives most of the rest of his article’s space to Bayer to explain that in their opinion everyone should just keep on buying and using their products. As a reader I have to admit to some bafflement myself. Are salespeople ever credible or objective about their products?

But propaganda is all in a day’s work for John Schwartz. Want to hear his punchline? In case the reader still wasn’t convinced that Bayer is blameless for collapsing bee populations, Schwartz ends the piece with some innuendo suggesting that maybe the problem is really the fault of beekeepers!

“People are being forced now to look more carefully at their bees,” he said. “If you don’t take care of them, you lose them.”

Well if that isn’t just cozy. I can just imagine the NY Times and Bayer snuggled up together whispering sweet bedtime fantasies. The people over at Syngenta must be a little bit annoyed though at being left out in the cold. How come Bayer gets all the free advertising when they are also killing the bees?

And What About Monsanto?

The people from Monsanto watching all this bee trouble unfolding must be thrilled. After all, every executive who has ever attended a motivational workshop ‘knows’ the Chinese symbol for crisis is formed from two concepts: danger and opportunity. As American foreign policy has proven since 1948, disasters almost always mean two things: huge profits and a chance for great PR. If you can pretend to be a humanitarian the rest of the story will just write itself.

Anyway, in 2011 Monsanto bought Beeologics, a company that focused on bee health. Some events were held, the usual schwag was distributed, websites were made, etc. If you blinked for a moment or got distracted you might have been tricked into thinking that Monsanto was actually a responsible and caring corporation.

But I learned something today from John Schwartz about how to write a proper conclusion. Like him, I am going to end this piece by playing what if. The game starts with a quote from Monsanto’s website about the acquisition of Beeologics:

Monsanto will use the base technology from Beeologics as a part of its continuing discovery and development pipeline. Both companies expect their combined research could provide farmers with novel approaches to the challenges they face.

Pipeline? Development? The idea of Monsanto examining bees is not at all reassuring. Does this mean Monsanto wants to create GMO Bees? Should we call them Frankenbees?

You can read the NY Times article here if you are inclined but really why bother?

carpenter bee
carpenter bee
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8 thoughts on “What is next? GMO Bees?

  1. John Schwartz is a terrible reporter, a science reporter who doesn’t seem to understand the basics of science. Also, he wrote a book that is a rehash of The Bell Curve, full of pseudo-science purporting to show that genetics=intelligence=wealth and social position.

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    1. I do not know if we should even call him a reporter. He is more like a publicist. Like so many of our gatekeepers he is a man with no moral compass. I mean he even exploited his own son to make a buck. That is beyond despicable.

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  2. Well that would be a very corporate-centric profit driving thing to do wouldn’t it? Distribute a pesticide that threatens bees and then release “special” bees that are somehow resistant? Talk about market capture…

    So OK, obviously we should not buy or thoughtlessly use pesticides in our own spaces. And we should do our best not to buy foods grown in systems dependent on pesticide use (for many reasons!). When we vote with our food dollars we absolutely shape the markets in ways that affect corporate behavior. Is there anything else we can do as individuals?

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    1. Women, as the people who do the shopping mostly, have power we don’t even use. We also need to tell our friends who don’t happen to know. And we have to educate our children, inform them about propaganda techniques and give them the skills to be critical thinkers. I remember one time taking my son to the store to get some clothes. Every single item had a logo for a sports team or a certain brand of running shoe. I said to him: your body is precious. You were not meant to be a space for them to advertise. And if they want to do that they should be paying you for the privilege. Let’s go somewhere else. It was a one off but he remembered. Even to this day he won’t wear a logo.

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  3. As usual an excellent post; well thought out and well expressed. I wish it could be available to newspapers around the world.
    Even in a small scale way gardeners are helping to destroy bees. In the UK we have the dreaded lily beetle which leave lilies shredded. People treat them with Bayer’ s Provado. The main ingredient is thiacloprid which is a kind of neonicotinoid. I do keep asking my friends not to use it. Squashing the beetles with your fingers is revolting but effective if done every day.

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    1. Thank you for telling your friends! The squish technique really does work. I have used it myself. I overheard a master gardener talking to someone with a pest problem once. The person complained that he was trying to grow a particular plant and it was overrun every year with one thing or another. The master gardener said: then that plant is telling you it doesn’t want to be there. Get rid of it and plant something else.

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