The cause of CCD, or the reason why organic colonies seem immune, is still unclear. However, evidence is beginning to suggest that the problem may have to do with a powerful interaction between overbreeding, immune system failure and the potential role of genetically engineered crops.
Many people have speculated that the varroa mite is responsible for weakening the bees immune system and for transmitting disease. However, in a report issued three days ago, the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group reveals that high levels of mites were found in both healthy colonies and those suffering collapse. However, recent research involving genetically engineered crops add an interesting twist.
German researchers found that when healthy bees were fed pollen from a genetically modified corn species called Bt corn they remained healthy. However, when bees already infested with parasites (mites) were fed the same GE pollen their numbers were decimated.
The study concluded that there was no evidence of a "toxic effect of Bt corn on healthy honeybee populations." But when, by sheer chance, the bees used in the experiments were infested with a parasite, something eerie happened. According to the Jena study, a "significantly stronger decline in the number of bees" occurred among the insects that had been fed a highly concentrated Bt poison feed.
It would be interesting to have the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group cross reference bees exposure to GE corn versus high levels of mite infestation. If they correlate it may indicate a frightening link between this mysterious collapse and our increasing reliance on genetically engineered food. Currently, genetically modified, insect-resistant plants are now used in 40 percent of cornfields in the United States.
Definition: Colony Collapse Disorder is the unexplained mass die-off of bee colonies currently being experienced in North America and Europe. To date, 30% - 90% of bee colonies have collapsed in the continental United States, and other significant losses have occurred in Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the UK.