International Health News

Bees be warned

BURES-SUR-YVETTE, FRANCE. French researchers investigating genetically engineered rapeseed report that such plants may cause the premature death of beneficial insects and impede pollinating insects such as bees from recognizing flower smells. Genetically engineered plants designed to avert destructive insects interfere with normal insect digestion by producing protease inhibitors (proteins that interfere with enzyme activity). The end result is a severe and lethal case of indigestion in any insects feeding on the plants. To study the effects of protease inhibitors, researchers fed bees with sugar solutions for three months. Bees fed a solution containing up to 100 times the concentration of protease inhibitors found in engineered rapeseed lost their ability to differentiate the smells of different flowers and died 15 days earlier than did bees fed on normal sugar solutions. Says Minh-H… Phan-Delegue of the Laboratory of Comparative Invertebrate Neurobiology in France, "rapeseed is particularly important to bees since it is the first plant to bloom in the spring." Researchers are currently conducting a three-year study to conclusively determine the effects of genetically engineered plants on pollinating insects.
Crabb, Charlene. Sting in the tale for bees. New Scientist, August 16, 1997, p. 14

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