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Thread: Transgenic bees

  1. #1
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    Default Transgenic bees

    I have been keeping bees for about 10 years now as a hobbyist and can't help but notice how the global economy, for better or for worse, has been directly responsible for the import of honey bee pests. You hear the lament of those that began before the onslaught of plagues that now visit upon most who keep bees. So, I have a question that is sure to cause some amount of debate; how many of you would be willing to use genetically modified honey bees if they were truly resistant or immune to your favorite scourge?

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    >So, I have a question that is sure to cause some amount of debate; how many of you would be willing to use genetically modified honey bees if they were truly resistant or immune to your favorite scourge?

    What if there were no hypothetical question?

    This is the same as "would you give up your freedom if it would make your country safer". Well, since I don't believe it would, I'll say no, but that's not really the question. The question is hypothetical. The question comes with an assumption that I don't believe is possible.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
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    What if there were no hypothetical question?

    This is the same as "would you give up your freedom if it would make your country safer". Well, since I don't believe it would, I'll say no, but that's not really the question. The question is hypothetical. The question comes with an assumption that I don't believe is possible.

    I really didn't anticipate that response. I am a molecular biologist and don't see this argument as a matter of possibility. I think cloning miticide resistance genes (or others) into the honey bee is a likely extension of the honey bee genome project, honey bee virology and honey bee cell culture technology. It is some time off in the future (maybe 10 years) because honey bee sciences are so poorly funded which has had the predictable outcome of setting honey bees behind other organisms where genetic engineering is a simple proposition. Cloning the glyphosate resistance gene into agricultural crops to make them resistant to Round-up is a good example. Being a hobby beekeeper I personally am not sure where I stand on this issue. There are always unintended consequences when playing God but I am not very happy with all of our imported pests and diseases either. Classical breeding programs are well intended, and I have the utmost respect for people like Sue Cobey, but a positive outcome may not be in the cards. Stealing genes from other organisms and placing them into the honey bee is going to be the faster approach. Sue has an older paper on sperm mediated transfer of DNA into the honey bee and another paper recently published a method of growing embryonic bee cells in vitro. The only missing tool in the genetic engineers tool chest is a nice bee virus to shuttle recombinant DNA into honey bee eggs and integrate into the bee genome. So, you see, it is really more a matter of time than possibility.
    This is an area that should be considered because once these bees are for sale, they will have an opportunity to supplant feral colonies and of course mate with our bees. Genes that could be targets for improvement include all those that readily come to mind and many more. Is any of this a good idea?

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    I don't know why man thinks he can do better than nature. Invariably they make it worse not better. Unforseen circumstances abound! I would much prefer to utilize the genetic influence of feral survivors than go meddling with the gene structure.

  5. #5
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    I am not a fan of anything that has had its genetics altered. There has been some theories about ccd being caused by pollen produced by genetically altered plants. Although the cause of CCD has not yet been pinpointed. When they go to talking Geneticaly altered anything I try to run the other way.

  6. #6
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    Default GM bees

    Quote Originally Posted by HVH View Post
    This is an area that should be considered because once these bees are for sale, they will have an opportunity to supplant feral colonies and of course mate with our bees. Genes that could be targets for improvement include all those that readily come to mind and many more. Is any of this a good idea?
    NO, NO, NO and a thousand times NO! Not since those greedy, blinkered morons at Monsanto tried to plant their GM crap all over England have I come across an idea so wrong-headed, so appallingly lacking in the most basic forms of (un)common sense.

    BIODIVERSITY is the key to the success of all extant species on Earth. That means - for those of you with your heads stuck in a microscope - that VARIETY is the most important factor in the survival of a species - the More the BETTER. If you read Darwin, you cannot help but take away this basic, underlying principle: bees - along with every other successful (i.e. existing) species have adapted themselves to a huge variety of climates and conditions right across the globe - THAT IS WHY THEY ARE STILL HERE. As soon as there is a 'Roundup Resistant Superbee', a bunch of profit-motivated idiot bee-breeders will be peddling it around the globe and before you can say 'biodiversity', they will oust all other honeybees, because Monsanto (or whichever Frankenstein factory produces them) will make sure that they are heavily promoted and at the same time a 'mystery virus' will conveniently wipe out all other genotypes.

    They will thrive for a while - maybe a few years - maybe decades - in their pristine genetic purity until one day, some beekeeper finds that all his colonies have died out. More follow, until a team of researchers discover that there was a fatal flaw built into the GM bee - unsuspected by its inventors - but unfortunately incurable.

    OK, I'm obviously a paranoid, lefty lunatic who hates Monsanto and their spawn. And who knows, I may be wrong - but do you really want to take the risk?

    What do you trust - millions of years of evolution, or a profit-driven agrichemical company?
    The Barefoot Beekeeper http://www.biobees.com

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    > ....because Monsanto (or whichever Frankenstein factory
    > produces them) will make sure that they are heavily
    > promoted and at the same time a 'mystery virus' will
    > conveniently wipe out all other genotypes.

    Reverse the sequence here and you have the basis for a conspiracy novel.

    Today plus five years: A profit-driven agrichemical company has announced the successful development of a genetically modified bee that is resistant to varroa, CCD, etc. Availability is limited to those who sign an agreement not to breed their own queens or do for sale through approved retailers.

    > What do you trust - millions of years of evolution,
    > or a profit-driven agrichemical company?

    How soon would GMO bees be approved by governments and embraced by beekeepers?


    Trust is not a financial incentive and we all know the answer to both your question and mine.

  8. #8
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    Biologists know just enough about genes to screw everything up. As a scientist you should be responsible enough to look at the long term picture and stop trying the quick fixes.
    Procrastination is the assassination of inspiration.
    www.customwoodkitsinternational.com

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by HVH View Post
    the global economy, for better or for worse, has been directly responsible for the import of honey bee pests.
    I'm not sure the "global economy" can be blamed, since both types of mites were illegally imported.

  10. #10
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    Biologists know just enough about genes to screw everything up. As a scientist you should be responsible enough to look at the long term picture and stop trying the quick fixes.

    Can you cite a case where scientists screwed up everything due to their lack of knowledge of a particular gene? I can think of some fopahs that followed money, but I would submit that this wasn't a bunch of shallow thinking scientists as much as CEO's and share holders looking to make a buck.

    I understand the fear that some have regarding transgenics and being in this field I think caution is needed. On the other hand I can't cite a single Frankenstein story based on facts. Sure, people have blamed GM plants for every bad thing that defies explanation, but this is no different than blaming Zeus when facts are lacking. I have been a scientist for 30 years and would be the first to admit that we often times forge ahead blindly because we have a very simple picture of a problem in our heads and are unwilling (unable) to take in the "long term picture" (or money is involved). Should we throw away computers, stop space travel, give up on curing cancer because there will be unintended consequences. Consider the nuclear bomb. Was it a good idea to develop and use the bomb? Now we have to live with the fear of a nuclear holocaust. On the other hand, the fear of the holocaust may have already prevented numerous wars and deaths of millions. So, unintended consequences may be great or horrible.
    If one of our kids was deathly ill and the doctor said there is a new gene therapy that can cure their condition how many of us would decline. So in the end it boils down to 'cost-benefit-analysis'. Ok, we haven't lost all of our bees yet, and it may never get that bad, but is it 25% as moral to use genetic engineering to remediate 25% losses? Is it morally superior to use chemicals to solve our problems?
    It may sound like I am advocating transgenics, but I am not. I much prefer to play it safe. But just like antibiotics, I like the idea of having a plan B. The problem with researching for plan B is that it will become plan A as soon as it is developed.

    I'm not sure the "global economy" can be blamed, since both types of mites were illegally imported.

    There is an illegal and a legal global economy. I was simply suggesting that our pests (and bees for that matter) were from foreign soil. Trading with foreign nations is almost as old as man, but the speed of exchange of species and their pests is breakneck. Instead of new pests being introduces once a century we are seeing them hitting us hard fast and repeatedly. Expect more to come. In fact, count the ones we don't have currently and add them to the list of likely pests that you will have soon (relative term).

  11. #11
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    HVH is more likely right than wrong about where the future lies, and the implications are very uncomfortable.

    Less than a century ago Luther Burbank was vilified for messing with mother nature through hybridizing. The varieties he developed and the industry that has flourished since then still provides most of what we eat today. However, GMO is the new frontier with one big difference. The products are patented and companies reap huge financial rewards from a successful introduction e.g. Canola.

    Would a new strain of bee which resisted varroa, tracheal mites, CCD, AFB, etc developed under the following scenarios be lauded or vilified by beekeepers?

    A) UC Davis using Sue Colby's Instrumentally Inseminated techniques with breeder queens sold for $100 each.

    B) UC Davis using Sue Colby's bee virus to shuttle recombinant DNA into honey bee eggs with breeder queens sold for $125 each.

    C) GMOflectics Inc with breeder queens sold for $250 each.

    D) GMOgrabit Inc with breeder queens sold for $100 each, availability limited through authorized breeders and restricted licensing fees for usage (supercedure queens breach the license).

    E) GMOgrabit Inc with breeder queens sold for $500 each, availability limited through authorized breeders and restricted licensing fees for usage (supercedure queens breach the license).

    If a poll were taken I suspect the results would be:

    A) $100 Lauded
    B) $125 Lauded with some reservations
    C) $250 Lauded with many reservations
    D) $100 Vilified
    E) $500 Vilified

    When the structure and licensing is offensive, the entry cost becomes a secondary factor.

    Even supporters of GMO technology who believe in patent protection dislike the exclusionary business policies and aggressive enforcement.

  12. #12
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    I'll be the first to admit I'm not very knowledgeable in this area, but I have a few thoughts and a few questions
    It seems to me that the folks who develop the GM organisms, plants/bees whatever, have a doomed business plan
    start with corn
    they sell GM corn to farmer A
    he signs on the dotted line that he won't save any seed corn and will buy new seed from the "EVIL CORPORATE ENTITY" next year
    but his corn pollinates farmer B's corn who didn't sign the contract
    over time the "EVIL CORPORATE ENTITY's" secret is going to spread into neighboring fields (I realize this is the nightmare scenario everyone worries about, it's not what I' talking about here)
    how can they legally tell farmer B he doesn't have the rights to his own seed corn?
    he didn't sign a piece of paper
    jump to bees
    I buy a $500 breeder queen
    I sign a piece of paper that says I'll pay for every queen I raise from her
    what if she swarms
    what if I encourage her to swarm
    what if after 5 years her genetics are spread all over my local area
    (I swear I didn't encourage this to happen)
    I just don't see how this is much of a business plan for the "EVIL CORPORATE ENTITY's"
    I understand the issues with some kind of unintended problem occurring and what I'm mentioning here is just an example of how that is bound to happen, but it seem inevitable
    I don't know, just rambling here
    the world is getting to be a scary place:confused:

    Dave

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    If the argument ends up coming down to transgenic bees being inevitable, then we should support the Sue Cobey labs of the world and hope Darth Vader and his evil minions don't get the patents first. Personally I don't see corporate America as evil for making a profit. You either have the private sector driving a free market economy, or you have government forced egalitarianism or worse. If a transgenic bee, resistant to miticides is developed, I would hope that those involved would test it first in a closed system for a few years and see if the gene can hop to mites and see what effect it has on feral populations near the transgenics.

  14. #14
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    Hi Dave,

    > It seems to me that the folks who develop the GM organisms, plants/bees
    > whatever, have a doomed business plan
    > start with corn
    > they sell GM corn to farmer A
    > he signs on the dotted line that he won't save any seed corn and
    > will buy new seed from the "EVIL CORPORATE ENTITY" next year
    > but his corn pollinates farmer B's corn who didn't sign the contract
    > over time the "EVIL CORPORATE ENTITY's" secret is going to spread into
    > neighboring fields (I realize this is the nightmare scenario everyone
    > worries about, it's not what I' talking about here)
    > how can they legally tell farmer B he doesn't have the rights to his own seed corn?
    > he didn't sign a piece of paper

    Au contraire...Google will turn up situations where Monsanto has been bringing (and winning) lawsuits against next door neighbors for stealing the patented corn. The rights and wrongs are less clear than the apparent vindictiveness with which Monsanto pursues lawsuits. The supposed strategy is to target individuals and destroy the owner's livelihood in order to spread fear and encourage compliance.

    > I understand the issues with some kind of unintended problem occurring
    > and what I'm mentioning here is just an example of how that is bound to
    > happen, but it seem inevitable

    Yes it does seeem inevitable, and yes that's the way things work in the real world but not in the court of law where because Monsanto has been winning.

    You read more about such lawsuits overseas. One headline declared that Monsanto was suing the Danish importer of grain grown in Argentina because the GMO patents are valid in Europe. GMO seeds are sold in Argentina even though the law there prevents Monsanto from registering its patents.

    The hour-long Christian Jentsch documentary called "Patent for a Pig" made a strong impression because it was 60-Minutes style and very believable. It covered Monsanto's effort to patent the genes for boosting meat production in Germany. The claims are so broad that heritage German pigs which are grass-raised and never been fed GMO crops show three of the genes Monsanto claims to have created in the lab.

    > the world is getting to be a scary place

    Yes indeed....

  15. #15
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    YIKES!!

    you're scaring me!
    you mean because you're activities have polluted my "stuff" it's MY fault?
    that's just WRONG!

    Dave

  16. #16
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    drobbins,

    > how can they legally tell farmer B he doesn't have the rights
    > to his own seed corn?
    > he didn't sign a piece of paper

    > you mean because you're activities have polluted my "stuff" it's MY fault?

    Though my tongue is firmly planted in cheek, it is conceivable that an article such as the following could appear in the Raleigh Gazette some day.

    In April 2008 drobbins was called to collect a swarm on the
    other side of town. It was thought to be a feral swarm from a
    giant poplar tree that had been damaged in the March storms.

    The queen proved productive. Neither she nor her daughters
    suffered heavy winter losses and within three years all his
    hives were descendants of that first swarm. drobbins became
    the toast of the NCSBA Wake County chapter after he provided
    supercedure and swarm cells to his friends in the club.

    The president of the club lauded the quality of the bees and
    thanked drobbins for his generosity at the August meeting.
    The secretary posted it on the club website where it
    attracted the attention of a GMOgrabit employee.

    GMOgrabit bought a hive from an unnamed club member and has
    since filed suit against drobbins after finding evidence that
    gobblyanto genes were present in the bees. The suit claims
    that "drobbins either knew or ought to have known that bees
    which are varroa and CCD tolerant bear the patented genetic
    strain developed by GMOgrabit".

    It is now believed that the 2008 swarm may have issued from
    the staging site of a commercial beekeeper.

    In case you think this is too much of an exaggeration, what I did was translate into bee speak the content of a real article at http://westernfarmpress.com/news/7-6...lumn-Monsanto/

    For over forty years Schmeiser has grown and bred his own
    variety of canola. In 1997, he found evidence of glyphosate
    tolerant (Roundup Ready) canola in his fields. He did nothing
    about it and saved seed from one of his fields for use in 1998.

    Farmers who purchase glyphosate tolerant canola have to sign
    a license agreement agreeing not to save seed from one year
    to the next. Schmeiser, however, has never purchased canola
    requiring such an agreement so he was unconcerned about
    saving seed from his own field.

    In 1998, Monsanto found evidence of their patented glyphosate
    tolerant genetic material in Schmeiser's canola and ended up
    suing him in court. The Canadian court found Schmeiser guilty
    of "selling or otherwise depriving the plaintiffs [Monsanto]
    of their exclusive right to use plants which the defendants
    [Schmeiser] know or ought to know are Roundup tolerant, or
    using the seeds from such plants." The court held that
    Monsanto had the right to retrieve their patented genetic
    material in Schmeiser's canola even though they could not
    prove how it got there. In addition, Schmeiser was ordered to
    pay Monsanto $140,000 in damages and legal costs.

    Schmeiser did not distribute his seeds to anybody else, so the costs were limited.

    In the bee speak scenario could the penalties go beyond civil court into the crimimal domain because dastardly villain drobbins actively distributed a patented and restricted material that was the sole property of GMOgrabit? Sure hope the warden lets you keep bees in jail.....

    The sad part here is that no one can really be sure whether the above is merely a lame attempt at humor or a prediction.

  17. #17
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    " Personally I don't see corporate America as evil " no, they are not all bad but try to remember ENRON, THE CABLE BROTHERS, AND LEONA HELMSLY(may she rest in peace). capitalists are not evil but the potential for abuse is always there so many will always be cautious.
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  18. #18
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    "In the bee speak scenario could the penalties go beyond civil court into the crimimal domain because dastardly villain drobbins actively distributed a patented and restricted material that was the sole property of GMOgrabit? Sure hope the warden lets you keep bees in jail....."
    you don't have to go to jail to have all you worked for taken away by predatory lawsuits that deep pocket companies may bring against you if you are the unlucky one used as an example.
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  19. #19
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    note to self:

    when self goes and collects a swarm of "magic bees" and decides to donate some queens from them to NCSBA, tell said recipient that my name is Alfred E. Newman and wipe queen cages down for prints

    Dave

    psorry Al

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    By the same arguments used by the seed companies and reversed, would a person who found their seed crop "contaminated" by genes from transgenic crops be likely to win a suit against a seed company?

    What about the person who faces greater weed control costs because genes for GM plants have "jumped" into "weed" species? Could/would that person be likely to win a suit against the seed companies?

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