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GMOs and the Impact on Beekeeping

We are all of us living through a period of massive transition. Populations have never been larger, resources have never been scarcer, and the issues around food distribution and supply have never been more obvious.

As such, it is essential that more efficient technologies and approaches are utilized, lest we run out of the nutrients, minerals and space required to grow food and create the various materials that are key to our various supply chains. Hence the rise of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

However, this brings with it a number of inherent dangers or potential problems; by relying heavily on production methods that are untested, or whose long-term effects are not fully understood, there is every chance that there could be unforeseen issues which, at best, would result in the need for new procedures, and at worst could actively damage crops and harm an array of businesses in the process.

Nowhere is this issue more of a hot topic than in the world of beekeeping. While human populations continue to grow, the number of bees continues to decline, and this situation should make absolutely everyone sit up and take note.

Farmers and beekeepers around the world, as well as the numerous businesses that utilize honey – and favorite other crops – as ingredients to create their products, are becoming increasingly concerned about how plants will be pollinated in years to come. The key solutions, according to many people, is to fully embrace GMOs, but is this really the answer?

The Death of Bees

The decline of the honeybee is an incredibly worrying phenomenon. Population decreases have been attributed to numerous things, from climate change to the overuse of harmful pesticides, and such a fall in numbers could result in numerous crops failing, and therefore huge issues around the supply of food.

As a result, many people have turned to technologies and advanced science in a bid to mitigate this decline, but such an approach is not without its critics, nor is it entirely positive.

A Closer Look at the Dangers of GMOs

Bees have, in one way or another, been somewhat ‘modified’ throughout history; as human populations have expanded, different types of bees have come into contact with each other, meaning that gene pools have mixed. However, while this is altogether natural, modifications are now altogether unnatural; they are designed to get immediate results and are very much fabricated by the hands of humans.

So, given that that’s the case, it makes sense that there are inherent dangers associated with doing something that goes against the natural order. As Professor Dhan Prakash once famously said: “The effects of changes in a single species may extend well beyond to the ecosystem. Single impacts are always joined by the risk of ecosystem damage and destruction.”

Many crops have been altered genetically so as to enhance yields, but in many cases, this can lead to wide-ranging problems. With specific reference to bees, increased uses of herbicides and pesticides has widely been regarded as one of the reasons by numbers continue to fall; these chemicals, as well as the increased prevalence of the Varroa mite, a parasite which is particularly adept at killing bees, are thought to be the key contributors.

On a similar note, the rise in GMO usage is altering the structure of honey, which can be incredibly damaging to beekeepers and other people who rely on the sale of honey to keep their businesses afloat. The key issue here is that, if honey becomes excessively contaminated with GMO material, it can no longer be marketed as food as there is no guarantee that it will be safe for human consumption. Rather, it has to be labelled as ‘animal feed’, meaning it cannot be sold, nor given away, and so very often simply has to be destroyed.

The GMO effect on beekeeping is, quite clearly, by no means entirely positive.

The Future of GMOs

Understanding GMOs is not easy; it is a blanket term that covers numerous areas of science, research and application, but it would appear that GMOs are – whatever the desired outcome – only liable to become more prevalent around the world. This is liable to result in increased issues for those who rely on the sale of honey to gain an income.

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