At the moment, Colony Collapse Disorder (and this Spiegel article particularly) are causing a minor storm on the blogosphere. Many of the blogs are being fairly uncritical in their condemnation of GM-corn, with knee-jerk reactions predominating over reasonable analysis.
I found some interesting stuff from the Colony Collapse Disorder Working Group. This is a group of entomologists based out of Penn State that are trying to figure out why the bees in North America and Europe are dying. They're not quite as hysterical about the die-off as the conspiracy theorists at Spiegel:
During 2006, an alarming number of honey bee colonies began to die across the continental United States. Subsequent investigations suggest these outbreaks of unexplained colony collapse were experienced by beekeepers for at least the last two years. Reports of similar die offs are documented in beekeeping literature, with outbreaks possibly occurring as long ago as 1896. The current phenomenon, without a recognizable underlying cause, has been tentatively termed “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD), and threatens the pollination industry and production of commercial honey in the United States.They have a number of likely suspects:
What potential causes of CCD is the Working Group investigating? The current research priorities under investigation by various members of the CCD working group, as well as other cooperators include, but is not limited to:but consider GM-corn (BT-corn) to be an unlikely suspect:
• Chemical residue/contamination in the wax, food stores and bees
• Known and unknown pathogens in the bees and brood
• Parasite load in the bees and brood
• Nutritional fitness of the adult bees
• Level of stress in adult bees as indicated by stress induced proteins
• Lack of genetic diversity and lineage of bees
What are examples of topics that the CCD working group is not currently investigating?Now conspiracy theorists may point out that the working group hasn't completely ruled out BT-corn, but it is rather compelling that they have examined the deaths of these bees, and decided their deaths don't fit the symptoms expected by BT-poisoning. (Rather akin to finding a bullet hole in a corpse, and concluding that the person likely wasn't strangled).
GMO crops: Some GMO crops, specifically Bt Corn have been suggested as a potential cause of CCD. While this possibility has not been ruled out, CCD symptoms do not fit what would be expected in Bt affected organisms. For this reason GMO crops are not a “top” priority at the moment.
Radiation transmitted by cell towers: The distribution of both affected and non-affected CCD apiaries does not make this a likely cause. Also cell phone service is not available in some areas where affected commercial apiaries are located in the west. For this reason, it is currently not a top priority.