* By Ken Roseboro, ed.
The Organic and Non-GMO Report, December 2008
Straight to the Source
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A recent study found that honey bees fed on the active form of purified Cry1Ab protein, the genetically modified protein found in GM Bt corn, can be affected in the learning responses necessary to associate nectar sources with odorants.
The scientists wanted to determine if GM Bt is one of the causes for colony collapse disorder, a mysterious affliction that is killing honeybees worldwide.
In this study bees consuming artificial nectar containing 5000ppb of Cry1Ab continued to respond positively to a learned odor even in the absence of a food reward, while normal bee behavior is to become discouraged and seek more abundant food sources.
This learning response is important in bee foraging behavior and it has attracted the attention of CCD researchers since it is known to be inhibited by the insecticide imidacloprid.
The new finding is particularly interesting since it lends weight to a previous suggestion that Bt toxins may have other, non-lethal effects which become apparent only when the normal (i.e. lethal) effect is absent. If there were to be multiple modes of Bt action then many more non-target organisms would likely be at risk from GM Bt corn. Bt Researcher Angelika Hilbeck says that more research is needed that looks at the impacts of both the Bt toxin and imidaclopid on bee behavior.