Wednesday, May 31, 2017

GMO Crops and Bees

New technologies are, rightfully, viewed with skepticism. One of our blog readers asks, “Is there any effect of transgenic crops on bees?” The use of genetic engineering involves transgenic material, a portion of one plant or animal, being inserted into another organism. The resulting plant or animal is described as being a “genetically modified organism,” or GMO. In the case of crops, the purpose of the transfer of genetic material is to produce a new crop with desired traits. A number of crops are regularly produced using transgenic technologies include corn, rice, soybean, cotton, and rapeseed. Some GMO crops, especially soybean, cotton, and canola (rapeseed), are regularly foraged by honey bees. Careful study continues to determine any effect that the planting of GMO crops that are food sources for honey bees will have on the health of the bees and the safety of the honey that the bees produce.

Currently, there are two principal uses of GMO technology used to produce agricultural crops. The first employs Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) genes to produce a toxin in crop plants as a means of controlling insect pests. The second GMO technology in common usage is designed to control crop weeds. The herbicide glyphosate, known as Roundup, is in widespread use to control broad-leaf weeds and grasses. Genetically modified corn, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, and cotton are resistant to glyphosate. The herbicide can be sprayed over the genetically modified, glyphosate-resistant crop plants and weeds, killing only the weeds. Neither Bt toxin nor glyphosate-resistant GMO technologies appear to be harmful to honey bees and other pollinators, nor do they contaminate honey. The use of glyphosate-resistant technology does have a negative effect on bees and insect pollinators when it destroys the weedy field margins that previously provided food and habitat for these insects. Today’s photo shows a GMO soybean field. Glyphosate herbicide killed the weeds and grass in the crop area and along the field margin, leaving soybean plants growing without competition.

1 comment:

  1. I am not from farming field but always curious to find how things work there. This post have so much information for me in it, thanks for sharing it with us