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Glyphosate makes bees prone to infections

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Bee on a blossom.
Scientists found that glyphosate makes bees more prone to infections. © Pixabay/DetBe

Officially, glyphosate has so far been considered safe for bees. "Our work has shown that this is not true," scientists at the University of Texas say, thereby calling for tighter guidelines for the use of the herbicide active ingredient. Three Green European politicians have launched a petition to Federal Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner. Their clear message: Glyphosate harms bees - now the herbicide has to be taken off the field!

Glyphosate's impact on bees' intestinal flora

Texas scientists have shown that glyphosate changes the intestinal flora of bees, making them more susceptible to infection. Thereto, they fed the bees glyphosate-containing sugar syrup for five days. The researchers wrote that the concentrations of the active substance at five and ten milligrams per litre correspond to those found in the environment and to which bees are exposed during collection. The maximum permitted amounts of glyphosate for cereals in feed and food are also in this order of magnitude.

The scientists observed that the absorption of glyphosate significantly changed the composition of the intestinal flora in bees and drastically reduced a bacterium that was regarded as particularly useful. They infected the bees with a pathogen widespread in beehives and found that glyphosate bees died four times more frequently from the infection than untreated bees. They were also able to explain the mechanism of action. In plants, glyphosate blocks an enzyme called EPSPS, which is required for the synthesis of certain amino acids. This causes the plants to wilt and die. Some types of intestinal bacteria also need this enzyme in their metabolism and therefore react sensitively to glyphosate. Since bumble bees have a similar digestive system to bees, scientists assume that glyphosate also affects their health.

The study showed that the use of glyphosate could contribute to the worldwide decline of honey and wild bees, wrote the University of Texas in a press release. As early as July, a Chinese study was published showing that bee larvae grew more slowly and died more frequently when fed glyphosate. It has been known for some time that glyphosate impairs the sense of orientation of bees. Glyphosate manufacturer Bayer/Monsanto told the British newspaper The Guardian that statements, claiming that glyphosate is harmful to bees, are simply wrong.

Petition to phase-out glyphosate

Green MEPs Sven Giegold and Martin Häusling used the study as an opportunity to launch a petition on the platform change.org. The petition addresses German Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner and calls on her to "phase out glyphosate completely by 2020 at the latest". Immediate measures, such as a ban on using glyphosate before harvesting, should protect bees until then.


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