Thursday, 3 July 2008

Genetically Modified Bees

When Telf linked to this, my first thought was that why on earth would you have loads bees in the back of a truck, but when I accidentally caught this week's The Material World on Radio 4, I discovered it apparently happens all the time in North America.

Bees are regularly trucked around the United States to pollinate crops, it is thought bad conditions in trucking might be partially responsible for Colony Collapse Disorder. One suggestion is that the bees' immune systems may be weakened by all the constant travelling.

The latter half of the programme focused entirely on bees and was very interesting. One suggestion, which was given minimal treatment just before the end of the programme, was creating a super bee from the honey bee genome. Bees are facing a serious threat of extinction which could jeopardise world food supplies. The idea discussed was to create a species better able to fight off parasites, another possible cause of the vast disappearance of colonies across the globe. Today's edition of the programme isn't available on Listen Again just yet, but I suggest you keep an eye out. It's definitely worth hearing.

Nobody spoke the phrase "genetically modified bees" but I think the idea has many possibilities. The stuff of mad scientists' day dreams and low-budget horror movies.

If you could genetically modify a bee, what would you design it to do?


TheTelf said...

I can't think of many things I'd less like to drive than a truck full of bees. Maybe a van full of scorpions or a helicopter full of spiders, but that's it. Truck full of bees is definitely third.

Do the trucks have their own special warning signs like they do for trucks carrying industrial waste or dangerous chemicals?

In terms of GM bees, can we make them docile, meaty and the size of cows? Then we could feed the third world. Or try to harness them to solve our energy problem? Or we could remove their stingers and train them to seek out humans. Then we could use them to find people trapped under rubble after disasters.

I may be overestimating the power of genetic modification. said...

Help the honeybees! Prevent the loss of the world food supply.
Learn how you can help cure Colony Collapse Disorder.
Visit thebeetree(dot)org.