Nearly 100,000 German beekeepers are calling for a nationwide ban on the cultivation of GMO crops. The beekeepers are represented by the German Beekeepers Association (DIB), which is pursuing the ban after the introduction of legislation allowing member states to opt out of GM planting schemes that have been approved at the EU level.
The new law allows a member state to ban GMO agriculture in all or part of its territory. The legislation is strongly opposed by GM proponents and has become a controversial issue throughout the EU.
The DIB is urging Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt (CSU) to enact a ban throughout the entire country, but the minister is calling for each state or region within Germany to decide on an individual basis.
The beekeepers argue that this will not be an effective solution because of the range that bees travel to collect nectar. The DIB maintains that such a “piecemeal” approach involving some areas that are GM-free and others that are not is “environmentally and agriculturally unacceptable,” adding that “bees have no borders.”
The threat to the honeybees created by GM agriculture comes from the widespread use of certain pesticides by the industry that contain neonicotinoids, which have been proven to be toxic to bees and other forms of life.
The Guardian reports:
Neonicotinoids are already known as a major cause of the decline of bees and other pollinators. These pesticides can be applied to the seeds of crops, and they remain in the plant as it grows, killing the insects which eat it. The quantities required to destroy insect life are astonishingly small: by volume these poisons are 10,000 times as powerful as DDT. When honeybees are exposed to just 5 nanogrammes of neonicotinoids, half of them will die. As bees, hoverflies, butterflies, moths, beetles and other pollinators feed from the flowers of treated crops, they are, it seems, able to absorb enough of the pesticide to compromise their survival.
Many experts believe that these pesticides are at least partly responsible for the continuing deaths of millions of bees due to what has been termed Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In 2014, 37 million bees in Canada suddenly dropped dead after nearby cornfields were planted with GMO crops.
GM supporters and apologists rushed to explain that the bees were not killed by the GMO corn, but experts believe that the deaths were due to the neonicotinoid pesticides used by the industry. Although the bee deaths were perhaps not directly due to the effects of GM plants, there is ample evidence indicating that they were indeed killed by the pesticides used in conjunction with the GM corn cultivation.
German beekeepers face a tough legal battle
Even though the new legislation allows member states to ban GMO crops in part or all of their territory, legal experts say that Germany will face an uphill battle in having a nationwide ban approved.
If the GMO industry challenges such a ban, which it almost certainly will, the European Court of Justice will be called on to make a decision. The ECJ “has a presumption in favour of the EU single market,” according to GMWatch.org.
It will be very interesting to see what happens in Germany because the case could set a precedent for the rest of the EU. It is hoped that the beekeepers will be able to force the implementation of a nationwide ban. GMWatch also reports that the “GMO industry may go down in history as having broken apart the European Union and set one sector of the food and agriculture industry against another.”