Saturday, March 10, 2007

Where Have All the Bees Gone?

Could genetically modified crops be killing bees? asks John McDonald in The San Francisco Chronicle today. Yikes. Beekeeper McDonald raises some compelling questions in his attempt to understand the sudden decline in bee populations he's been documenting.

A couple of years ago, I was giving a talk about genetically modified foods to a Chemsity class at my old high school. After my presentation, one super sharp (and somewhat cocky) kid, raised his hand. With the kind of risk aversion (he did actually use those words!) you're talking about how would we ever innovate? Isn't there always some degree of risk when we're trying new things? If we didn't take any risks at all, we'd still be reading by candlelight and riding aroud in horse-and-buggies.

Damn good question, I thought. I was glad he asked it, because it allowed me to make a critical point. I said: Listen, I'm not against innovation, nor are any of the GMO critics I've interviewed. But if we're going to experiment, and take serious risks, we should be doing so in the laboratory, not in the wide open spaces of our fields and farmland.

That day, in that high school science classroom, I detected a few nods--even the cocky kid seemed somewhat satisifed with my answer. Today, as I read about the frightening prospect of this untested experiment-gone-wild on our bee friends, I'm reminded how important it is to speak up, and stand up, to this technology, one that still holds so many unknown impacts on our bodies, our plants, and... yes... even the bees.