By now, most of us have heard about how bees around the world are dying. This phenomenon is called colony collapse disorder, and it began in 2006, when beekeepers noticed that their bee populations were dropping at an alarming rate. By 2012, 340 beekeepers in Ontario reported “abnormally high” bee deaths over the winter. The next spring, beekeepers reported a 58% loss of their honeybees.
Bees play a critical role in the ecosystem of our food production Bees fertilize around one third of our food supply, and without them our food supply is threatened.
So what’s the deal? What’s happening to our bees?
Part of the answer is GMOs, or genetically modified organisms.
When the Ontario beekeepers tested their bees, they found that 70% tested positive for a type of pesticide called a neonicotinoid, which is often sprayed on GMO crops like corn and soybeans.
But wait, weren’t GMOs created to use less pesticides?
That hasn’t necessarily been the case. In 2016, The New York Times decided to take a look at the actual yields produced by GMO crops, and the fungicides, herbicides and pesticides sprayed to find out whether GMO crops were all they promised to be.
They analyzed crop yields in North America (where GMOs are regularly grown) versus Europe (where GMOs are virtually nonexistent) and found that corn crops produce roughly the same yield in Europe as they do in North America. But they also found that GMO crops actually use up to 21% more herbicides than non GMO crops. You can check out The Times’ more detailed comparisons here: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/10/30/business/gmo-crops-pesticides.html
With greater herbicide use comes a greater impact on the wildlife that rely on the land – and this is being noticed in some European countries that use pesticides.
Researchers in Germany found that other flying insects have dwindled by a whopping 76% on nature reserves. Birds eat insects, and without accessible food, farmland bird populations have fallen by one half in the EU in the last 30 years, according to the European Bird Census Council.
All roads lead back to the gut.
Pesticides and herbicides are designed to kill off pests like bugs and weeds that could threaten crops, and there’s another unfortunate and unexpected side effect of this.
Our bodies are filled with trillions of bacteria that play a massive role in our overall health. These bacteria are also incredibly vulnerable to chemicals found in herbicides, especially Roundup, a herbicide used on Monsanto’s GMO crops that contains a chemical called glyphosate.
A study published this year showed exactly what happened when mice were fed glyphosate. Chronic exposure, even at “safe levels” increased anxiety- and depression-like behaviour and decreased the diversity of their gut bacteria.
And it’s not just glyphosate that’s the problem. Chlorothalonil is the most-sprayed fungicide in the US, which has been found to impact bees as well. Researchers still aren’t entirely sure how a fungicide that targets mold and mildew has such an effect on bees, but they suspect that it could disrupt their microbiomes, making them more vulnerable to a parasite called nosema bombi.
The bottom line: there are many layers. GMOs and the use of pesticides have multiple impacts on insects and humans. This is an important issue and we care deeply about it.
What can you do?
Vote with your dollars and say NO to GMOs: While it used to be difficult to know which foods contain GMOs, new labelling laws are making it easier to identify foods that are free of GMOs – so look for icons on products that indicate that a product does not contain GMO ingredients. And you can rest assured that ALL Genuine Health products are GMO-free. What this means for you is that we rigorously source non-GMO ingredients in our products (this is no small feat—greens+ contains 23 different ingredients!). We then take it a step further: Once our products have been made, we test them for glyphosate, the herbicide commonly used in GMO crops. We’re also working to transition our products to organic certification and third-party verified non-GMO status—fermented organic gut superfoods+ is certified USDA organic and non-GMO Project Verified. And we recently transitioned our popular and innovative fermented vegan proteins+ to USDA Organic and non-GMO Project Verified as well.
Protect your gut: Eating foods that have been exposed to pesticides like glyphosate can decrease the diversity of your gut bacteria, so consider repopulating your gut bacteria with a potent, multi-strain probiotic and taking a prebiotic superfood supplement can help to protect your gut by strengthening it with friendly and diverse probiotic bacteria.
Some good news…
In a small province in India called Sikkim, officials banned the use of pesticides, encouraging farmers to use organic approaches instead. Fifteen years later, organic farms cover 190,000 acres of the state. Crops are flourishing (cardamom yield, which is pollinated by bees, has increased by 23%), the soil is healthier, and bees are increasing in numbers.
|We are a BCorporation – a community of companies that use business as a force for good. What this means to you is that we care deeply about this planet we all call home, and all of the creatures that live on it. Learn more about us.|
 Hakim, Danny. Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops. The New York Times. Published online October 29, 2016.
 Hallmann, Caspar A. More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas. PLoS ONE 12(10): e0185809
 Aitbali Yassine et al. Glyphosate based- herbicide exposure affects gut microbiota, anxiety and depression-like behaviors in mice. Neurotoxicology and Teratology: 67, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ntt.2018.04.002
 McArt Scot et al. Landscape predictors of pathogen prevalence and range contractions in US bumblebees. The Royal Society Publishing: 2017. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2181
 Gowen, Annie. An Indian state banned pesticides. Tourism and wildlife flourished. Will others follow? The Washington Post. Published online on May 31, 2018.