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Invasion of the ‘Frankenbees’

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Invasion of the ‘Frankenbees’

The Danger of Building a Better Bee

The Guardian,

5 min read
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What’s 10,000 times as potent as DDT and decimated the bee population in Germany?

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Clothianidin is a pesticide 10,000 times more potent than DDT. In 2008, clothianidin devastated bee populations in Germany when farmers employed it to combat insect infestations in corn. A cocktail of pesticides and other modern threats work together to confuse honeybees, arresting their superb sense of direction, sterilizing the males and disrupting the queen’s reproductive capacity. The result is known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). It’s clear that the world’s bees are in danger. It’s not as clear what to do to save them and the important pollination work they do each year.


In 2014, evolutionary geneticist Martin Beye’s team used gene-editing techniques to successfully produce a genetically modified queen bee. If it were up to a growing number of beekeepers, however, scientists wouldn’t be tampering with bee DNA in the first place. Beekeepers argue that honeybees are a public good. They fear that corporations will use Beye’s 2014 paper as a roadmap to genetically modify, patent and privatize their own bees in a strategy similar to what “Big Ag” – or the agriculture industry – has done with seeds and pesticides. First, they...

About the Author

Bernhard Warner is a writer based in Rome. His writing has appeared in Bloomberg Business, Wired and The Guardian.

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