Concerns about effect of glyphosate on pollinators essential to agriculture


Published: 2/4/2020 9:22:11 AM

In his My Turn, published in the Dec. 18 issue of the Greenfield Recorder, Rick Zimmerman implies that those of us, who are “demonizing” the use of glyphosate are “spreading misleading and false information” without any peer-reviewed scientific research to back the validity of our claims. He is one of the two executive directors of the Northeast Agribusiness and Feed Alliance (NEAFA). They will be hosting an annual meeting and forum this month. One of the “platinum” sponsors of this conference is Bayer, the present manufacturer of glyphosate.

Some of us, who are petitioning the Massachusetts Legislature to regulate the use of glyphosate, hold advanced degrees with experience in the fields of scientific research and education. Our concerns are supported by recent research published in scientific journals.

One article titled “Glyphosate Perturbs the Gut Microbiota of Honey Bees,” was published in the October 2018 issue of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” It reports the research by Nancy Moran at the University of Texas in Austin, supported by entomologists at the University of Illinois and North Carolina State University. Her research concluded that glyphosate killed bees by “disrupting the microbes in a bee digestive system, making them more vulnerable to infection.” This study raised the question of whether glyphosate could affect the gut microbiome of other animals, including humans. The National Science Foundation awarded a grant of nearly $1 million to a team of researchers at Virginia Tech and Eastern Washington University to further study the effect of glyphosate on the microbiome of honey bees. Their results, which supported the earlier research, were released in March 2019.

Articles published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry” in July and October 2018 reported the research of Pingli Dai and eight colleagues at the Institute of Apicultural Research, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing. They found that glyphosate was “a stressor that affects larval development,” “larval survival rate,” and “gut microbiome.” These findings supported research by Walter Farina at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, published in 2014 and 2015 in the “Journal of Experimental Biology.” titled, “Effects of Sublethal Doses of Glyphosate on Honey Bee Navigation.” He found that glyphosate affected a “bee’s ability to navigate.” It “could be stored in the hive and have long-term negative effects on colony performance.”

This exposure to glyphosate may be one of the reasons the hives of many commercial beekeepers in the U.S. fail during the winter. The “highest loss rate yet” was reported in June 2019 by the Bee Informed Partnership from the results of their annual nationwide survey.

One of our strongest hives survived last winter but was entirely wiped out in early spring, shortly after Eversource began cutting trees, and possibly using glyphosate in their power-line rights of way near our property. We had received a letter from Eversource saying they would be using manual cutting and/or herbicides to control vegetation within 15 feet of these power lines. The MDAR bee inspector took samples of our dead bees to test for pathogens. The report came back that no pathogens were found.

The use of glyphosate kills many non-targeted plants, such as dandelions and milkweed, on which monarch butterflies and other pollinating insects depend. There are concerns that glyphosate may affect the reproduction of earthworms, soil bacteria and algae, all important for healthy soils.

Anyone supporting the agricultural community should be concerned about what current peer-reviewed research suggests concerning the possible effect of glyphosate on the pollinators essential to agriculture.

Nancy Gray Garvin, a resident of Ashfield is a beekeeper, farmer, retired science educator, researcher and a member of PATH-Ashfield (People Against Toxic Herbicides).


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