Are GMOs contributing to the death of bees and butterflies?



Bees: EPA and other authorities recognize that bee populations may be challenged by a number of factors, including pests and parasites, microbial disease, inadequate diet and loss of genetic diversity, as explained by Paul Driessen, a senior policy analyst and author.

According to Paul, “the proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences indicated that bees may be dying not from a single toxin or disease, but rather from a variety of factors.” He goes on to say, “GM crops have not been implicated in CCD [Bee Colony Collapse Disorder] and, in fact, have made it possible to grow more food and other crops on less land, with fewer insecticides and even under conditions of limited rainfall or drought.”


Butterflies: There are a variety of factors impacting monarch butterfly populations, such as deforestation, parasites, and ebbing populations of their host milkweed plants, including claims that GMOs and herbicides are contributing to the decline in milkweed.


Andrew Kniss, associate professor of weed ecology and management at the University of Wyoming, explains why the cause for the milkweed decline is a complex issue, concluding that while herbicides may have played a role in the decline of species like milkweed,  “the research does suggest that there are more important factors than herbicides responsible for the decline of native plant species near crop fields, [such as] milkweeds.”  


Shifting land management practices is one important factor. Researchers, conservation groups, government agencies and the agricultural community are identifying ways to reestablish functional habitat on the agricultural landscape, recognizing the need for productive agricultural systems.


It is important to note that before a genetically modified crop can be grown commercially, companies developing GM plants must demonstrate that the new plants are not harmful to “non-target” insects, such as bees and butterflies.