Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Colony collapse disorder (CCD) is a phenomenon in which worker bees from a beehive or European honey bee colony abruptly disappear. While such disappearances have occurred throughout the history of apiculture, and were known by various names (disappearing disease, spring dwindle, May disease, autumn collapse, and fall dwindle disease), the syndrome was renamed colony collapse disorder in late 2006 in conjunction with a drastic rise in the number of disappearances of Western honeybee colonies in North America. European beekeepers observed similar phenomena in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and initial reports have also come in from Switzerland and Germany, albeit to a lesser degree while the Northern Ireland Assembly received reports of a decline greater than 50%.

The growth in the use of neonicotinoid pesticides such as acetamiprid, clothianidin and imidacloprid, some of the most widely-used pesticides in the world, has roughly tracked rising bee deaths since 2005. In 2012, several peer reviewed independent studies were published showing that neonicotinoids had previously undetected routes of exposure affecting bees including through dust, pollen, and nectar; that sub-nanogram toxicity resulted in failure to return to the hive without immediate lethality, the primary symptom of CCD, and indicating environmental persistence of neonicotinoids in irrigation channels and soil.These studies prompted a formal 2013 peer review by the European Food Safety Authority that said neonicotinoids pose an unacceptably high risk to bees, and that the industry-sponsored science upon which regulatory agencies’ claims of safety have relied is flawed. CCD is probably compounded by a combination of factors. In 2007, some authorities attributed the problem to biotic factors such as Varroa mites,Nosema apis parasites, and Israel acute paralysis virus. Other contributing factors may include environmental change-related stress, malnutrition, and migratory beekeeping. Another study in 2012 also pointed to multiple causes, listing pesticides behind the varroa mite, genetics, habitat loss and poor nutrition.

Colony collapse is significant economically because many agricultural crops worldwide are pollinated by European honey bees. In April 2013 the European Union announced plans to restrict the use of certain pesticides to stop bee populations from declining further and by the end of the month passed legislation which banned the use of several neonicotinoids for the following two years. Shortages of bees in the US have increased the cost to farmers of renting them for pollination services by up to 20%

Genetically Modified Organisms

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are plants which have been developed through bio-technology which may include insertion of DNA from other species into the plant to promote characteristics desired by the developer. An increasing number of commercial commodity crops are dominated by GMO varieties. Many consumers are wary of purchasing and consuming GMO food products. With guidance from governmental and non-profit certification programs, consumers can determine which grains and other foods are not GMO.

There are over 60 GMO crops on the market, but of these, corn and soybeans are the only GMO grains being marketed as of December 2009, according to FoodConsumer.org, a non-profit news and information resource providing consumers with information about the food industry. Purchasing 100 percent whole grains other than soybeans or corn–such as oats, wheat, rice, quinoa, sorghum, spelt or barley–as single-ingredient items will avoid GMOs at present. However, now in 2013 some plant development companies like Monsanto have proposed genetically modified wheat and oats, so these grains may not be GMO-free in the near future. Prepared food products containing wheat, rice or other non-GMO grains may not be entirely GMO free, as other ingredients in the product may contain GMOs.

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