HALF MOON BAY, California, June 1997 - We do not realize how dependent we are on pollinating insects. Without them, there would be little or no grain, beans, nuts, fruits, and other food crops. The insects fertilize plants in one way or another so they may bear fruit and seeds. Scientists at a meeting in France shared their research results on the effects of some genetically engineered plants on honeybees. Honeybees are depended upon to pollinate many crops and their hives are actually carried about and placed strategically at pollination time.
"A paper presented by Minh-Ha Pham-Delegue of INRA (the French equivalent of USDA), on 1/9/97, described results concerning the relationship of honey bees and transgenic colza (genetically engineered canola). The development of transgenic varieties through genetic manipulation has provided some new properties to plants. These include production of protease inhibitors (PI) which confer resistance to fungi and insects. The overall strategy in this technology is to develop plants that require less insecticide in use. In transgenic plants, however, chemicals produced by genes designed to inhibit insect feeding or prevent fungal growth may also affect pollinating insects in two ways, according to the author:
"The results of the studies reported by the author indicate significant differences in quantity of nectar found in various transgenic varieties . . . Comparing volatile emissions between transgenic colza and control plants also indicates that genetic transformation can modify existent plant odors." (APIS, Vol. 15, No. 4, Copyright M.T. Sanford, IFAS/University of Florida)