Bees die on sunflower in Italy

Tuesday 20 August 2013

New alert in Italy, were bees are dying on sunflower crops. Multiple cases of honeybee colony decline and neurological symptoms have been reported in different points in Italy, where extensive sunflower cultivation exists. Having started in the region of Puglia last year, new signals of the phenomena also appeared this summer in the regions of Molise and Marche. Beekeeper’s video shows bees dying on sunflowers and in the vicinity of hives.

What are the changes introduced recently in the cultivation of sunflowers? Sunflowers herbicide tolerant varieties starts being cultivated in Italy. These seeds derived from mutagenesis, which is a genetic modification, are excluded from the scope of Directive 2001/18 on GMOs. These varieties are therefore subject to the same risk assessment procedures as varieties from conventional plant breeding.

A study published in 2011 by the French Ministry of Agriculture, INRA and CNRS, highlights potential consequences related to the use of such genetically modified crops: (1) Genetic contamination; (2) Lack of impact studies on bees; (3) Water pollution; (4) Increase in resistance of plant pests. When commercialized and planted, damage on the environment seems not having been evaluated.

In France, a group of agricultural, environmental and beekeeping associations expressed already deep concern and urge the French government to intervene and oppose to “hidden GMO” in oilseed rape and sunflower herbicide tolerant crops. See their letter here.