Neonic-resistant bees? (Apr 12, 2016)

Neonic-resistant bees?

Not on the horizon, says York University researcher

By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content

Researchers from Ontario Genomics and Genome BC are exploring whether some bees can be genetically engineered to withstand Canada’s harsh winters.

With concerns about pollinator health and Ontario’s pending restrictions of neonicotinoid-treated seed usage, could bees be genetically engineered to withstand neonics?

According to a York University researcher, not right now.

“We talked about it and we decided against it for a few reasons,” said Dr. Amro Zayed, a professor at York University involved in the research with Genome BC.

Amro Zayed
Dr. Amro Zayed

The first reason Zayed mentioned is the uncertainty surrounding the transfer of the specific trait from one bee to another.

“To do selective breeding, you have to know that the trait is actually heritable,” he said. “You can’t do selective breeding on a trait that isn’t controlled by genetics.”

Using dairy cattle as an example, he said if milk production was not genetically determined and cows were selectively bred based on high milk production, the next generation of cows would return to average production because the difference is in the environment, not genetics.

“We don’t know what the heritability of neonicotinoid resistance is.”

Zayed also explained there are simply too many bees to consider, and selecting one kind of bee could harm the other pollinators.

“The honeybee isn’t the only pollinator,” he said. “There’s also the bumblebee and in Ontario, between 700 and 800 species of native bees.

“Imagine if we were able to do selective breeding for neonic resistance on the honeybee. Only the honeybee would benefit. The technology would only work for the honeybee and not all the other native bees; the honeybee would do well but we’d be sacrificing other pollinators.”

Wow, this demonstrates the depths of ignorance we have sunk to...the fact that someone would actually think that genetically engineering the honeybee to be resistant to neonics would solve the problem illustrates the general lack of understanding of the issues surrounding neonicotinoid use. Honeybees are actually a small part of the concern. Prophylactic use of neonics - putting them on all crop seeds prior to planting - exposes not only honeybees but ALL pollinating insects, beneficial insects, and even aquatic insects to these highly toxic and mobile systemic pesticides. Neonics are systemic - meaning they are taken up from the seed coating to all parts of the plant - making the plant, its pollen, and nectar toxic to many insects. Also, seed coating is a very inefficient delivery mechanism...most of the pesticide remains in the soil. And because neonics are highly mobile in water - they have to be to move through the plant - they also move with water in the soil to the nearest stream, river, pond, or lake. Literally hundreds of scientific papers have demonstrated effects of this class of pesticides on non-target native pollinating insects, beneficial insects (i.e., insects that prey on or parasitize crop pests), and aquatic insects - species that benefit agriculture or make up critical links in the food chains of most wildlife. A large body of peer-reviewed scientific literature has been reviewed on neonic effects and is reported here: So, again, genetically engineering honeybees to be resistant - stupid idea - but maybe appealing to those who think technology can solve the problem.
Posted by Jay on 4/13/2016 9:33:23 AM
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