DISORDER AND GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
Olson BA. Dip Ed.
Original version published
in The Northern Star
(GM) crops often contain a bacterium called
Most of the research on Bt
has looked at the directly lethal affects of Bt and
little research has looked for indirectly lethal affects
Some insects have been shown
to survive the Bt poison by having a strong immune
response to the Bt poison. (Ref R)
Insects generally and Bees
specifically, have been shown to experience learning
impairment and memory disorder, if they have an immune
response. (Ref A1, B, D, E)
A learning impairment or
memory disorder would mean that Bees could not navigate
back to their beehive
Thus, a learning impairment
or memory disorder is lethal to a foraging Bee
Colony Collapse Disorder
(CCD) of Bees, was originally called Fall Dwindle
Disease, meaning the disease occurred in the cold months
of the year
Bees use protein to
construct a memory and their protein comes from pollen,
but in winter there is no pollen
Bees also use protein to
achieve an immune response, so an immune response in
winter, means all protein reserves are rapidly used up
and none are left for memory formation. (Ref D)
Have you ever noticed that when you
are sick, that you can't think quickly and clearly? It's a bee
gets sick and can't think probably, it will not be able to
return to its beehive.
Studies listed below show that learning in bumblebees is
impaired, if the bumblebee has an immune response (Ref
The insecticide Bt is incorporated into many genetically
modified crops and Bt causes an immune response to a wide range
of creatures in nature, even if it does not kill those
creatures. (Ref Q,R,S)
It is a virtual certainty that the bumblebee does have an immune
response to the Bt present in the pollen of genetically modified
Bees only carry enough honey with them to fly directly to the
target flowers and straight back to the beehive. The navigation
to and from those flowers is extremely complex and so requires
the bee to have a very good memory. Since learning and memory
are impaired in bees that have an immune response, bees with an
immune response get lost, run out of honey fuel, fall to the
ground and are then are carried away by ants. Thus, if a bee
gets lost, for even a few minutes, it is dead.
The Encyclopedia Britannica states of CCD that,
"it appears that the disorder
affects the adult bees' ability to navigate". (Ref Y)
Thus suggesting that worker bees fly
out from the high hive to collect food, but get lost and never
In the case of the viruses and pathogens that have been
suggested as causes of CCD, those viruses and pathogens result
in large numbers of dead bees either inside or outside of the
beehive. Dead bees are found outside the hive, because worker
bees carry dead bees outside.
In CCD, the symptoms are that no
dead bees are found inside or outside the beehive, rather all
"worker bees from a beehive or
European honey bee colony abruptly disappear" (Ref V).
One of the most common traits
inserted into man-made genetically modified crops is resistance
to caterpillars, which is given by inserting a gene for a
naturally occurring insecticidal bacterium called Bacillus
In crops that are genetically
modified to contain this Bt gene, the Bt will be present not
only in the plants leaves and fruit but also in the pollen of
the flowers. Thus Bees that take pollen from genetically
modified crops are ingesting significant quantities of Bt
insecticide. Many scientists have assured the public that Bt is
safe, because Bt is not directly lethal to Bees.
However alcohol is also not directly
lethal to a car driver, yet many car drivers have died from
alcohol, even though alcohol is not directly lethal to a car
driver. Scientists looking for a cause for CCD have generally
looked for a direct cause, something such as virus or parasite,
that is directly killing the bees. Discovering an indirect cause
of mortality in bees, would be much more difficult and would
only occur after scientists had first exhausted examining the
most probable direct causes of mortality in bees.
A review of the literature shows
that at the time of writing, according to Cox Foster et
"no single culprit has been
identified" as the cause of CCD (Ref Z3).
German research (Ref C), showed that
bees who were fed Bt were not killed by the Bt, but that they
became greatly more susceptible to a subsequent disease
The Jenna University study showed
that mortality in Bees exposed to a parasite, was far greater in
Bees that had previously been fed BT, compared to Bees that were
not previously fed BT (Ref C). Meaning that BT increased the
susceptibility of Bees to the pathogen and thus Bt multiplied
the mortality caused by the pathogen.
In regard to that increased
mortality from a pathogen combined with Bt ingestion, the
"the significant differences
indicate an interaction of toxin and pathogen on the
epithelial cells of the honeybee intestine. The underlying
mechanism which causes this effect is unknown" (Ref C).
This is a highly significant finding
because when GM crops containing BT were being approved, the
universal assumption was, that GM crops containing Bt would be
totally safe, because Bt has no effect on bees. Thus government
scientists who approved GM Bt crops, would clearly have objected
to those crops, if they thought that GM crops containing Bt
would adversely affect bees.
In the USA, Cox Foster et. al. state of the CCD bee colonies
that they studied,
"we hypothesized that something
had compromised the bees' immune system, making them
susceptible to any number of infections that healthy
colonies would normally fend off" (Ref Z3).
This sounds quite similar to the
Jenna University findings above. Furthermore, Cox Foster et. al.
note that their Bee autopsies found symptoms never observed
before, such as scar tissue in the internal organs (Ref Z3).
Bt is a living bacterium, that forms crystals of
proteinaceous insecticidal endotoxins, whose mode of action
is to form a pore or hole in the insect's gut cell membranes
Since the mode of action of BT is to
damage the gut lining and since Cox Foster et al. found scar
tissue in the internal organs of Bees, the question must be
asked, was the damage to the internal organs of Bees that Cox
Foster et. al. found, caused by the Bt in the pollen of GM
crops, that the bees ate?
Cox Foster et al. 2006 noted during
"when wet mounts were examined
they appeared to have crystalline arrays" and that
"Crystal-like formations were observed in the thorax" (Ref
Bt toxins are crystalline.
Cox Foster et al. 2009, did consider the possibility that bees
with CCD may have been poisoned by pollen from genetically
modified crops. However the authors refer to earlier research,
showing that the Bt toxin is only activated in certain insects
and they note that the Bt toxin does not work in the digestive
tracts of honeybees (Ref Z3).
Thus because of prior research
showing that bees are not killed by Bt, and that BT cannot
possibly effect bees, many bee scientists have avoided testing
Bt on Bees, believing such testing has already taken place and
have thus ruled out GM Bt as possible cause of CCD of Bees. The
Wikipedia takes a very different view
however and does list GM crops as a possible cause of CCD
Testing for subtle, sub-lethal effects or synergistic affects of
Bt with other organisms, where Bt is a cofactor, rather than a
singular causative agent, has only been done recently. Where
such testing has been done, the finding of sub-lethal effects or
cofactor effects, was often by chance, rather than planned.
It was only by chance that the bees
in the above mentioned Jena University study became infected
with a parasite and thus only by chance that the scientists
observed the synergistic effect, of combining a pathogen and Bt.
The results of a growing number of studies, now show clear and
substantial, non-lethal effects and cofactor affects, of Bt on
Bees; a dramatic change from the previous scientific view, that
Bt has no effect on Bees.
Even so, the non-lethal effects and cofactor affects of Bt on
Bees still remain scantily studied and more research on these
subtle kinds of affects is urgently required.
Ramirez et. al. 2008, tested Bt toxin on honeybees and
discovered substantial non-lethal affects on the bees, including
"disturbed learning performances".
Ramirez et al. concluded:
"Our results show that
transgenic crops expressing (Bt) Cry1Ab protein at 5,000ppb
may affect food consumption or learning processes" in Bees
The honeybee depends upon an unusual
array of complex learning processes, in order to successfully
find its food and navigate back to the beehive.
Unlike a car driver who may not
remember exactly where the car is parked, in a large parking lot
and who can afford to take some time to find the car, the
honeybee cannot afford to forget, even for a short time, exactly
where the beehive is located, even if the hive is several miles
away. Memory impairment is not lethal to humans, but memory
impairment and learning impairment is indeed lethal to
honeybees. Thus in addition to causing increased disease
susceptibility, BT is also shown to produce cognitive impairment
It is important to note that BT is not the only insecticidal
that has been shown to cause cognitive impairment in Bees.
Cox Foster et al. mentioned
in 2006, that Neonicotinoid insecticides can produce sub-lethal
effects, such as learning impairment and that as a result of a
such learning impairment, Bees "may not be able to learn the
location of the hive" (Ref Z4) and may thus may be unable to
navigate back to the hive.
So one can now see, a proven trend,
of learning impairment in Bees, caused by insecticide exposure
at a sub-lethal dose. Cox Foster et al. 2006 clearly state what
happens when Bees eat pollen contaminated with sub-lethal doses
of neonicotinoid insecticides.
"If bees are eating fresh or
stored pollen contaminated with these chemicals at low
levels, they may not cause mortality but may impact the
bee's ability to learn or make memories" (Ref Z4).
That sounds very similar to the
above reference from Ramirez et al. 2008 who found "disturbed
learning performances" in Bees after consumption of GM Bt pollen
(Ref B). So the learning impairment in Bees, induced by
consumption of insecticidal GM Bt pollen, can be seen as part of
a larger trend for sub-lethal doses of certain insecticides, to
produce learning impairment in Bees.
The difference between a neonicotinoid insecticide spray and the
Bt insecticide in a genetically modified crop, is that the
former is very easy to restrict or recall, whereas the latter
may prove impossible to recall. With genetic materials, the
quantity of GM material in existence gets bigger as time passes.
If a problem develops with a GM crop, then that problem will
likely increase as time passes.
The fact that CCD can be transmitted by beehive equipment could
be to do the presence of the Bt bacterium in that beehive
equipment and and the fact that Cox Foster et. al. were able to
break the cycle of CCD by irradiating the beehive equipment (Ref
Z) and restocking with a new supply of Bees, could be due to the
fact that the Bt bacterium was killed by the irradiation.
In order to understand CCD, or the disappearance of bees, one
needs to understand something about the specialized lifestyle of
the bee. In order to save weight and increase performance, bees
only carry enough fuel (honey) to fly directly to the target
flowers and then straight back to the beehive. If a bee gets
lost, or encounters unexpected head-winds, it will not have
enough fuel reserves to make it back to the beehive. Instead it
will fall to the ground and die.
Ants will then carry the dead bee
down into the ant nest.
Memory is also crucial to bees because a bee has to learn from
other bees in the beehive, where the target flowers are located.
The Bee must memorize the directions from the hive to the target
flower and back again, so a perfect memory is essential for the
survival of bees. Other insects like mosquitoes are less reliant
on a good memory, and simply "follow their nose" to the food -
whereas bees rely on memorizing complex navigation tasks and
memorizing specific aromas (Ref F), to find specific food and
then to find their way back to the beehive.
If one was to impair the learning or
memorizing ability of bees, that would cause indirect mortality
in bees, since they would not be able to find their way back to
GM Bt pollen is widely known not to kill bees directly, but was
not tested prior to the release of GM Bt crops, for the ability
of GM Bt pollen to kill bees indirectly, through impairing the
memory of Bees.
There is scientific agreement that many different things can be
lethal to Bees - such as disease, chemical sprays and even
certain seed coatings.
Flour Moth Ephestia kuehniella,
a non lethal response to Bt and "tolerance (of Bt) correlates
with an elevated immune response" to the Bt. (Ref R). For 99.99
percent of creatures, such a non-lethal immune response to Bt is
of no practical significance and because of this, Bt is referred
to as "soft" and is used widely in organic agriculture.
There is however one particular
species that is very unusual, in that it has a life threatening
response, to sub-lethal immune stimulation (Refs B, D, E) and
that species is the Bee. Immune response in Bees, can lead to
memory loss and learning impairment (Ref B,D,E) and as
previously stated, loss of memory would cause bees to forget
where the beehive is located.
Bees are insects and an,
"immune response inhibits
associative learning in insects" (Ref E).
Bees are now eating GM Bt pollen and
Bt is toxin known to cause a non-lethal immune response in a
wide variety of creatures (Ref Q,R,S).
Bees use up protein in memory formation and they also use up
protein if they have an immune response (Ref D). Bees only
protein source is pollen and if pollen is in short supply and
bees have an immune response, they will use all available
protein for the immune response, leaving none available for
memory formation (Ref D).
Pollen for bees is in short supply
during Autumn and Winter, so if bees have an immune response
when pollen is in short supply, they will lose their memory (Ref
D). CCD was originally called Fall Dwindle Disease,
meaning loss of bees in the Autumn, when pollen from flowers is
in short supply. If bees loose their memory, they lose their
navigational skills, they fail to find their way back to the
beehive, they fall to the ground, die and get carried away by
ants and are never seen again.
As mentioned above, the loss of
memory due to an immune response, is not confined to Bees, but
occurs in insects generally.
"The cost of an immune response
(in insects) therefore not only affects survival of the
host…. but also everyday behaviour and memory formation"
This learning impairment was only
discovered recently (Ref E), long after GM crops had already
been planted, however the effects of the GM Bt crops will go on
for millions of years, since, like other introduced foreign
species, GM crops can not be recalled.
During discussions with various Bee scientists, the writer was
unable to find any scientist who had ever heard that insects and
Bees loose their memory if they have an immune response. Perhaps
the reason they did not know, is because the discovery of an
immune - memory relationship in insects is very recent.
There is no evidence of direct
mortality in bees from exposure to GM Bt crops, yet there is
substantial evidence of sub-lethal effects in Bees from such
exposure, that can result in high indirect mortality of Bees. If
every air plane pilot had a sudden, non-lethal lapse of memory,
there would be chaos which could cause in high mortality.
Similar chaos occurs for Bees if they have a sudden lapse in
memory, caused by an immune response and coincident pollen
protein deprivation (Ref D).
When speaking to a PhD at a Gene Regulator's office, that PhD
scientist described some of the information herein as "new" and
not previously known by that Gene Regulator. Scientists that
wish to defend GM Bt crops, need to counter the proven
scientific evidence of indirect mortality in Bees that is
provided herein, rather than simply stating that GM Bt pollen is
not directly lethal to Bees.
Bt toxins produce sub-lethal effects in Bees and those
sub-lethal effects result in changes in the Bee's "feeding
behavior", "learning processes" and "foraging efficiency" (Ref
B). Behavior change is evidence of learning impairment, and
learning impairment can lead to lethal situations for Bees in
the field - navigation problems and reduced flower finding
abilities (Ref F), which are dependent on a perfect memory.
The different kinds of toxic GM Bt crystalline proteins are
designated with different letters; Cry1A, Cry2A, Cry3A, etc.
Scientists in Mexico discovered
Bt toxin Cry1Ab caused
reduced foraging activity in bees after they were fed with
syrup containing the toxin" (Refs A, A1).
Something new is being put into the
Bee's environment; something which is herein shown to impair the
Bees functions and to increase their mortality from diseases
such as parasites (Ref C).
Bees do not simply go out and look
for any flower. They learn and memorize the aroma and location
of a specific flower while in the hive, then they fly directly
to that specific flower's location (Ref F). Memory impairment
would thus prevent Bees from finding a specific flower's
location and similarly prevent Bees successful return to the
It is crucial to understand that with CCD, dead Bees are seldom
found in or near the hive.
When Bees are attacked by the lethal
"thousands of dead bees will
pile in front of the hive" (Ref U), as a result of
In the case of CCD however, few if
any dead Bees are ever found in or around the hive.
Varroa mite is a serious
disease of Bees, its symptoms do not match the symptoms of CCD.
Also, the timing of Varroa mite infestation does not match the
timing of CCD appearance. Varroa first entered Japan in 1960's,
Brazil in 1971, France in 1982 and the USA in 1987 (Ref T), but
CCD was first noticed in USA around 2004, and in Europe about
2006, many, many years after Varroa arrived, but only shortly
after GM crops were widely planted.
The writer does not wish to rule out
other possible causes for CCD, because the intent is to simply
demonstrate that GM Bt crops may harm Bees, regardless of
whether they are the sole cause CCD or not.
It took decades to show that
cigarette smoking was harmful and it could take just as long to
gain consensus over the cause of CCD. It is simpler to suggest
GM Bt pollen causes Bee memory loss (Ref D, E). That memory loss
occurs when Bees have an immune response and are deprived of
pollen (Ref D).
The German Speigel article states that the bacterial
toxin in the genetically modified corn may have "altered the
surface of the bee's intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees
to allow the parasites to gain entry" (Ref C).
Wikipedia says that the mode of
action of Bt through making pores or holes in the gut lining
(Ref T) and such holes caused by Bt, would obviously allow the
parasites a new and easy pathway into the Bee. Is it not
logical, that Bt exposure in the wild, would cause a similar,
significant increase in mortality from parasites, like
Microsporidia, just as it did in the trials (Refs A2, C)?
Bees are a key species for human food supply and bio-diversity
and several lethal risks to Bees from GM Bt pollen are
Britain's chief scientist Sir David King, once proudly
Genetically Modified (GM) crops
"could solve third world hunger". Later he admitted that his
claim was wrong (Ref M) and in fact the real outcome would
appear to have been the exact opposite of his prediction. Now
that GM crops have been widely planted and hence can not be
recalled, we learn that GM crops actually produce significantly
lower yields than natural varieties do.
A large American study showed that,
"modified soya produces 10 per
cent less food than its conventional equivalent" (Ref O).
NB: References with
a PMID number can be found at the US National Library of
Medicine website below, by simply typing the PMID number in the
search box and hitting the enter key.
ISIS Press Release 26/04/07
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins (Ontario Univesity)
Mystery of Disappearing Honeybees - Quote: "The Bt toxin
Cry1Ab caused reduced foraging activity in bees after they
were fed with syrup containing the toxin"
Ramirez-Romero R, Chaufaux J and Pham-Delègue M.
Effects of Cry1Ab protoxin, deltamethrin and imidacloprid on
the foraging activity and the learning performances of the
honeybee Apis mellifera, a comparative approach Apidologie
2005, 36, 601-11.
The effects of Bt maize pollen on the honeybee, 2001-2004
Jena University, GMO Safety, Federal Ministry of Education
Ecotoxicol Environ Saf. 2008 Jan 16
Does Cry1Ab protein affect learning performances of the
honey bee Apis mellifera L. (Hymenoptera, Apidae)?
Ramirez-Romero R, Desneux N, Decourtye A, Chaffiol A, Pham-Delègue
Instituto de Ecologia A.C., Km. 2.5 Carretera Antigua a
Coatepec No. 351 El Haya, 91070 Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.
The tested concentrations of Cry1Ab protein did not cause
lethal effects on honey bees. However, honey bee feeding
behavior was affected when exposed to the highest
concentration of Cry1Ab protein, with honey bees taking
longer to imbibe the contaminated syrup. Moreover, honey
bees exposed to 5000ppb of Cry1Ab had disturbed learning
performances. Our results show that transgenic crops
expressing Cry1Ab protein at 5000ppb may affect food
consumption or learning processes and thereby may impact
honey bee foraging efficiency.
PMID: 18206234 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]
University of Jena, Germany, 2004
Spiegel Online International: March 22, 2007
Are GM Crops Killing Bees?
By Gunther Latsch
quote: "when, by sheer chance, the bees used in the
experiments were infested with a parasite... a
"significantly stronger decline in the number of bees"
occurred among the insects that had been fed a highly
concentrated Bt poison feed."
According to Hans-Hinrich Kaatz, a professor at the
University of Halle in eastern Germany and the director
of the study, the bacterial toxin in the genetically
modified corn may have "altered the surface of the bee's
intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow the
parasites to gain entry -..."
Brain Behav Immun. 2006 Mar;20(2):135-8. Epub 2005 Aug 9.
Insect psychoneuroimmunology: immune response reduces
learning in protein starved bumblebees (Bombus terrestris).
Riddell CE, Mallon EB.
Department of Biology, University of Leicester, UK.
There is evidence that protein is intricately involved as
this immune induced reduction in memory only becomes
apparent after the bees are deprived of pollen (their only
PMID: 16084688 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Proc Biol Sci. 2003 Dec 7;270(1532):2471-3.
Immune response inhibits associative learning in insects.
Mallon EB, Brockmann A, Schmid-Hempel P.
Ecology and Evolution, ETH Zürich, ETH-Zentrum NW, CH-8092
Here, we present behavioural evidence indicating a link
between the immune system and the nervous system in insects.
The cost of an immune response therefore not only affects
survival of the host, as previously shown, but also everyday
behaviour and memory formation.
PMID: 14667337 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Insect psychoneuroimmunology: immune response reduces
learning in protein starved bumblebees (Bombus terrestris).
[Brain Behav Immun. 2006]
Social learning of floral odors inside the honeybee hive.
[Proc Biol Sci. 2005]
Science and Development Network News
Mexico confirms GM maize contamination
Katie Mantell 19 April 2002
Quote: The Mexican government has confirmed earlier reports
that transgenic maize is growing within the country's
borders and has apparently contaminated wild varieties,
despite a national ban on the cultivation of genetically
modified (GM) crops. A government-commissioned study has
shown that as many as 95 per cent of maize fields in the
Mexican states of Oaxaca and Pueblo contain evidence of GM
Lateral gene transfer (LGT), is any process in which an
organism transfers genetic material to another cell that is
not its offspring.
The only human clinical trial showed that transgenes from
soy transfer into intestinal bacteria.
Netherwood, et al (2 February 2004) Assessing the survival
of transgenic plant DNA in the human gastrointestinal tract,
Nature Biotechnology, Vol 22 Number.
Nature,November 29 issue 2001,
David Quist and Ignacio Chapela, University of California
Quote: "showed that DNA from GM maize had been found in wild
varieties" Lateral Gene Transfer.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Oct 9;104(41):16204-8. Epub
2007 Oct 8.
Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater
Rosi-Marshall EJ, Tank JL, Royer TV, Whiles MR, Evans-White
M, Chambers C,
Griffiths NA, Pokelsek J, Stephen ML.
Department of Biology, Loyola University Chicago, Chicago,
IL 60626, USA.
We show that corn byproducts, such as pollen and detritus,
enter headwater streams and are subject to storage,
consumption, and transport to downstream water bodies
Laboratory feeding trials showed that consumption of Bt corn
byproducts reduced growth and increased mortality of
nontarget stream insects. Stream insects are important prey
for aquatic and riparian predators, and widespread planting
of Bt crops has unexpected ecosystem-scale consequences.
PMID: 17923672 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN USA
Scientist who claimed GM crops could solve Third World
hunger admits he got it wronghttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/technology/technology.html?in_article_id=503339&in_page_id=1965&ito=1490
18 December 2007
The Independent. Exposed: the great GM crops myth
Jeoffrey Lean 20/04/2008
Mol Immunol. 2007 Feb;44(6):1209-17. Epub 2006 Aug 22.
Analysis of the cellular immune response induced by Bacillus
toxins in mice: effect of the hydrophobic motif from
Guerrero GG, Russell WM, Moreno-Fierros L.
Universidad Nacional de MÃ©xico.
Insecticidal Cry1A toxins from Bacillus thuringiensis elicit
strong humoral immune response in mice.
PMID: 16930715 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 March 2; 101(9): 2696-2699.
Published online 2004 February 20.
Quote: We present evidence that tolerance to a Bt
formulation in a laboratory colony of the flour moth /Ephestia
kuehniella/ can be induced ….. and that the tolerance
correlates with an elevated immune response.
Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 107, Number 7, July
Immune Responses in Farm Workers after Exposure to Bacillus
Leonard Bernstein, Jonathan A. Bernstein, Maureen Miller,
Sylva Tierzieva,1 David I. Bernstein, Division of
Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of
Cincinnati, USA. Quote: Exposure to Bt sprays may lead to
allergic skin sensitization and induction of IgE and IgG
Dr. James E. Tew, Associate Professor of Entomology,
quote: Colonies can die so fast from high Varroa
infestations that thousands of dead bees will pile in front
of the hive.
Science 12 October 2007:Vol. 318. no. 5848, pp. 283 - 287
A Metagenomic Survey of Microbes in Honey Bee Colony
Diana L. Cox-Foster Et Al
Solving the Mystery of the Vanishing Bees
Scientific American Magazine - March 31, 2009
Cox-Foster D. and vanEngelsdorp D.
Fall Dwindle Disease: A preliminary report
December 15, 2006 Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Diana Cox Foster,
Maryann Frazier, Nancy Ostiguy, Jerry Hayes,
CCD Working Group, The Pennsylvania State University