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Originally published August 25 2015

How Monsanto's GMOs and glyphosate are killing off honeybees and leading to global ecological collapse

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The global blockbuster herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) destroys the ability of honeybees to navigate back to their hives, and it might be playing a role in the ongoing collapse of pollinator populations worldwide. This is according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina and the Free University Berlin that was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology on July 10.

"These results suggest that, in honeybees, exposure to [glyphosate] doses commonly found in agricultural settings impairs the cognitive capacities needed to retrieve and integrate spatial information for a successful return to the hive," the researchers wrote.

Although 2014 saw many optimistic predictions about a slower rate of honeybee decline in the United States, the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture survey showed that the overall trend is still toward honeybee decline. In the past year, more than 40 percent of U.S. honeybee colonies died.

Glyphosate destroys bees' brains

Although glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, only a limited number of studies have been conducted on its effects in wild animals and even fewer have looked into its effects on honeybees. For the current study, the researchers trained honeybees to visit an artificial feeder stocked with a sugar solution. This solution was then spiked with three separate doses of glyphosate that are comparable to those that might occur in an agricultural environment: 2.5, 5 and 10 mg/L. The bees were then captured and transported across an open field, and their flights home were tracked using harmonic radar technology.

The researchers found that the honeybees that were fed the highest concentration of glyphosate took longer to fly home than the control group and those that were fed lower doses. In addition, their flights were more indirect.

Some of the bees were then recaptured and re-released from the same location. The control bees made the flight faster the second time, but the glyphosate-dosed bees did not.

The findings suggest that low-dose glyphosate exposure could have a serious cumulative, long-term impact on the navigational and foraging success of colonies, the researchers warned.

Another study, which was published last year in the Journal of Experimental Biology, found that glyphosate had other severe effects on bees' foraging abilities. Bees that came into contact with glyphosate were found to lose their ability to eat, and they also suffered significant decreases in their ability to learn (including learning foraging skills), their senses of smell, and their memories. Disturbingly, the study also found that bees transport glyphosate back to the hive, thereby poisoning even non-foraging bees.

Glyphosate impossible to avoid

The risks are not just hypothetical; bees are almost certainly being regularly exposed to glyphosate in enormous quantities. With the widespread adoption of crops that were genetically modified (GM) to resist Roundup about 20 years ago, the use of the herbicide in agricultural fields has exploded. Bees play a major role in pollinating commercial crops, and they are regularly taken to forage in agricultural areas. A single bee can fly more than 6 miles in a single day, so it is pretty much guaranteed that bees will forage in fields contaminated with glyphosate.

Earlier this year, a study experimentally confirmed this supposition. Researchers from Boston University and Abraxis LLC tested honey from Philadelphia grocery stores. They found that 45 percent of the organic honey brands on the shelves tested positive for glyphosate at levels above those considered safe for human consumption. Non-organic honey was even worse, with 62 percent testing positive for unsafe glyphosate levels.

The researchers found that honey produced in countries with GM crop cultivation was significantly more likely to have glyphosate contamination. Glyphosate levels were highest in honey produced in the United States.

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