h/t Steve Kurtz from Energy RoundTable
It appears that geneticists have found the smoking gun for our Vanishing Bees problem.
GMO crops with the Bt gene inserted produce pollen, containing this natural pesticide.
Insects that feed on the pollen are then ingesting small quantities of the pesticide.
Now laboratory tests show that the levels are low and the Bt toxin in pollen in these amounts are not immediately fatal to many insects. but the story doesn't stop there. Bees concentrate the nutrients in pollen to produce Royal Jelly. That is the food for the Queen Bee. So Bt toxins in the pollen could become concentrated during this process.
But still this isn't deadly on it's own. According to the paper linked above, the Bt toxin changes methyl groups in the bees. Now methyl groups are chemicals bound to DNA that regulate how the DNA is expressed. They can activate or deactivate genes. They can create virtual genes, and they can change gene function.
So this gets us to reproduction. when the queen is producing eggs, the Bt toxin modifies the way genes are expressed in the developing larvae. It changes the way their body chemistry and brains develop. When they finally join the hive as adult bees, they are a different breed than their sisters. Their brains may not have formed with the correct encoding and structures to function in the hive. So they fly away and never come back. Perhaps they get lost? Perhaps their navigation is totally screwed.
Now that we know that Bt crops modify the development of bee larva from a genetic level, researchers will be able to carry forward experiments in this vein to get a clearer view of exactly what the Bt toxin may be doing to destroy nature's pollinators.
It's ironic that technology designed to increase food production, may inadvertently cause it to crash, and set our agricultural systems back hundreds of years.