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What is Happening to California's Bees? Are GMOs causing these deaths? I have reason to believe that this is the case. Why are the powers that be claiming the increase in bee deaths are a complete mystery?

This story made the front page of the New York Times recently: Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms

Do you know how important our bees are to our own livelihood and nation's food supply? The EPA must have an idea because they sent their acting assistant administrator for chemical safety and two top chemical experts here, to the San Joaquin Valley of California, for discussions recently.

Some facts about bees:

  • Honey bees pollinate much of the fruits, vegetables and nuts, and without that, the crops would be in trouble. 1/4 of America's diet depends on food that is pollinated by bees.
  • Beekeepers charge for pollination services. The value of these pollination services is commonly measured in the billions of dollars.
  • Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) wipes out the entire hive. It was first noticed in 2005.
  • Bee deaths rose swiftly last autumn and dwindled as operators moved colonies to faraway farms for the pollination season.

The bees are dying but why? There has been concern that neonicotinoids (a powerful new class of pesticides) incorporated into the plants themselves are the cause. This goes back to the GMO issue raised in previous blogs, which is, of course, also being disputed. Could it be that the bees are bringing the poisons home to the hive causing or contributing to the death of the whole hive?

Experts are claiming viruses and weather are the cause of 40-50% hive loss in California in the past year. The pesticide industry claims to be open to further studies to clarify what is happening though.

How long will it take to gather enough data? What studies are needed for the so-called experts to get it? How many more bees will die in the meantime?

With less bees, this means less crops, which in turn means less food. As a result, food prices will rise. Farmers are forced to rent bees for pollination services in an attempt to make up for the difference; this too adds to the food prices to the consumer.

In the San Joaquin Valley, where 1.6 million hives of bees just finished pollinating an endless expanse of almond groves, commercial beekeepers who only recently were losing a third of their bees to the disorder say the past year has brought far greater losses. However, Jeff Pettis, head of research at a bee research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland said:

he was confident that the death rate would be “much higher than it’s ever been.”

Europe already voted to ban the bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides last month, backed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). However, the bad news is that the United States EPA just approved the bee death pesticide.

If the main reason we should condone GMOs is to increase our food supply, then, by killing bees, wouldn't GMOs be ultimately endangering our food supply? I would like to know just what the pesticides in the foods are doing to the bees. Wouldn't you?

Hello, I'm Claude Wyle. Do you have any ideas to help educate people on food safety in California? Please comment or ask for a subject you would like to see researched or discussed in this blog. Thanks. Feel free to contact me at

About the author: Claude Wyle is an aggressive advocate for San Francisco dangerous product safety, especially for children. Claude has decades of experience representing those harmed by the wrongful conduct of others, and, as a San Francisco dangerous product attorney, has fought to protect the rights of citizens throughout his legal career.


  1. Gravatar for Leigh Ann Little
    Leigh Ann Little

    On Saturday, May 25 there will be a March Against Monsanto WORLDWIDE, in hundreds of cities, to demand labeling, transparency, accountability, and more. You can find the one closest to you at this website:

    Please spread the word!

  2. Gravatar for Karenna Love
    Karenna Love

    Thank you for a great article! Yes love the March against Monsanto Leigh, thanks for sharing!

  3. Gravatar for First Officer
    First Officer

    Huh, there are no GMO's that produce neonicotinoids. Nor do the crops have to be GMO's to be sprayed with them. Neonicotinoids are insecticides not herbicides. You are confusing them with Bt GMO's.

    Are you sure you're an attorney and not a creationist? Creationists also don't believe in the evidence.

  4. Claude Wyle

    Dear First Officer,

    I appreciate your comment to my blog. And I would like to learn more about what you know. Aren't they introducing pesticides to plants by way of genetic modification? If they are introducing pesticides to plants I was questioning whether there is some connection between the pesticides in the genetically modified foods and the damage to the bee population.

    It seems that you do not believe there is a connection. Would you please explain why I am incorrect in asking the questions that I have asked in this blog.

    As an attorney I am indeed interested in the evidence and the facts. I understand that there are often more than one side to a controversy. And I sincerely appreciate hearing both sides. Could you please share?

  5. Gravatar for First Officer
    First Officer

    The only pesticides that only some GMOs produce are of the Bt variety. Neonicotinoids are applied to either seed or plant, GMO or not. So even if neonicotinoids are the culprits, whether the crop is GMO or not doesn't matter.

    Have you ever noticed that the charges leveled at GMO's by some of the more, ehem, vocal anti-gmo groups are eerily similar to those leveled at witches in the 1600's?

    Crop Failures

    Livestock deaths


    Unexplained illnesses

    World domination


    Against God or Nature's will or plan

    Here is a site that seems to be good for info on biotech. It may take a couple of years to read through all the material though:

  6. Wayne Parsons

    A powerful chemical pesticide, fipronil, has also been linked in news stories to bee death. Fipronil, marketed as Termidor is applied in huge quantities to the soil in treating for subterranean termites and also was used in agriculture. In Louisiana it was used to treat rice crops and washed into the water system where it wiped out shrimp farms and resulted in a $25 million lawsuit settlement. Unfortunately the damage to the soil and the water system takes decades to overcome. They invent something to deal with a single issue and then let it loose in the envirnment where it affects many unintended targets. Then the product is withdrawn from the market after millions of dollars of profits for the corporations and millions or billions of dollars of damage to the land and to people. Then a new "safe" product replaces the old one. "Safe". Sure. You bet.It is all about corporate profits.

  7. Claude Wyle

    Thank you, First Officer, and also Wayne. I know that this GMO issue is hotly contested. While I abhor a witch hunt, I also abhor causing our fragile environment any harm that may take decades to remediate. Shouldn't the benefit of the doubt fall on the side of safety and preservation of the earth? Why do we need GMOs? Do we need them to grow more food for the people? If that is the reason we need GMOs, then we need to research the long term effects on the entire ecosystem, not just the short term effects on reducing one particular bug population. If pesticides are the killer, and the GMOs don't necessarily include specifically horrible pesticides, I would still opt for safety first, and limit the use of harmful pesticides. What scares me most about the GMOs is that we are changing food on the genetic level, and this may be irreversible. Also, when bugs and birds eat the modified plants, does it not effect the bugs and birds on a molecular level? And then who eats the bugs and birds? I am not claiming to be a scientist, but I am encouraging more caution. Again, thank you for your contribution to the debate. I welcome any information you may share to help enlighten me and anyone who may wish to read my blog.

  8. Gravatar for First Officer
    First Officer

    First, i should say, neither scientist nor lawyer am i. I'm an engineer in both training and profession. But, in engineering, you do learn something of statistics and the scientific method.

    First, in your article, you hypothesized that GMO's are a cause for CCD. The evidence you presented is a growing concern that neonicotinoids are a cause. Somehow, you linked the two together. I myself can find no such link in that any GMO has been designed to expressly produce neonicotinoids or that any GMO's have been designed to explicitly work with neonicotinoids. Can you? Even if such a GMO exists, though, it is still not an indictment on the other GMO's nor on the technology itself. It would be like blaming all of cutlery for axe murders. Please notice that i am not arguing for or against neonicotinoids themselves here.

    Second, is this theme of manipulating plants and animals on a genetic level is something to be feared. Well, we've been doing this on one level or another since our species developed agriculture and animal husbandry (We're also not the only species that does so. Ants herd aphids and, even though it is unconscious, their selection pressure on the aphids is still just as real, which selects for genetic changes that benefits the ants). In the past several decades, to speed up the rate of random mutations that we can then select for, we've exposed many crop strains to gamma rays and chemicals to induce mutations. Now, with GE, we can forego the gunshot approach of the above and hope for the best and deliberately make just the changes we want to make. In the cases of Bt Corn or Golden Rice, existing genes are introduced from another species, such as Bt Bacteria, the kind sprayed on by Organic Growers, and a daffodil gene, to express Beta-carotene in the rice kernel.

    Does the above affect you on a molecular level? Only so much as eating anything would. Golden Rice would produce a great effect on those with VAD. They'll get to see and live out their lives! BT? Not a chance. Specific Bt proteins are toxic only to narrow ranges of insects, not to us. Which, speaking of the environment, is a great improvement over what is done for non Bt crops, namely, things like neonicotinoids and wideband insecticides. Just because something is toxic to one species or genus, doesn't make it toxic to others. Got chocolate? Remember too that all GMO's in commercial use have been tested. Which is more than we can say about any organically grown plant or animal that may be new to a regional population.

    Would eating GMO food change your DNA? Again not a chance. To do so, the genes in question would have to survive the digestion process, be excised as a whole unit and transported through your villi, into your bloodstream, cross, intact into your cells and incorporate into your nuclei. If the above can happen to a frequency that makes any kind of practical change, how does it know which genes are the GM genes and which it should leave alone? At the molecular level, all DNA, GM or not, are just sequences of just four nucleic acids, abbreviated as A,G,C,T. The empirical evidence that this doesn't happen with any affect to us is that we don't take on characteristics of what we eat.

    Third, and i'll be quick cause it's getting late, the fallacy of the Precautionary Principle is that it fails to take into account the risk of doing nothing or playing it safe, as it were. It also fails to take into account the risk of doing what we always had done or what we done in the past. RoundUp Ready GMO's do have the unintended, but not exclusive, risk of developing Roundup resistant weeds and killing off too much milkweed. But the risk of not using RR Gmo's was to continue using the more toxic herbicides that were in use at the time and continuing to till, which encourages both soil erosion and carbon release. NOTE: The weeds evolved their Roundup Resistance on their own, they didn't get it from some sort of gene flow from the RR crop. Nor is this an exclusive problem to RR GMO's. Any system where herbicides are applied will eventually lead to weeds resistant to them unless special steps are taken.

    Thank you too for taking the time to engage me.

  9. Gravatar for First Officer
    First Officer

    And now, it seems, the anti-gmo movement is taking an anti-semitic and anti-catholic turn.

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