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In 2011, Monsanto acquired a company specialised in bees. Claims are circulating on the internet about an alleged Monsanto bee patent. In its most radical form, the claim is:

Montanto bee claim

Monsanto is killing off the world's bee population to make way for their genetically modified frankenbees

After being blamed by massive amounts of bee keepers for the Honey Bee collapse, Monsanto purchased the largest bee research firm called Beeologics back in September of 2011. They now also want to own the means of pollinating the food. Their frankenfoods that produce pesticides are killing the honey bees. Monsanto's solution to the colony collapse disorder is to replace God's honeybees with Monsanto's GM bees that are resistant to all the pesticide producing food they make. Monsanto is the #1 enemy to mankind, yet the gun grabbing politicians support them.

Now this contains a number of allegations and claims, some quite wild, but it contains some truths if other sources are to be trusted. To quote a source that appears more reliable, although not objective, investigative journalist Maryam Henein writes:

Considering that the honey bee genome has been sequenced, how long before we bear witness to a genetically modified bee? If seeds are any indication, Apis melifera may also soon belong to Monsanto. Kill the bees with GMO plants and pesticides, offer a band-aid solution by creating a bee that is resistant to all the crap peddled on the market and then “persuade” beekeepers to buy Monsanto bees or else. It’s wicked genius.

But I am sure Monsanto and many others would call all of this paranoid phooey. Take one well known scientist and beekeeper’s opinion on the subject: “Honeybees aren’t an organism that anyone who understands anything about their molecular biology would advise as a subject for genetic modification,” he recently told colleagues on the online Bee List. “Do you really think that Monsanto envisions that there would be any substantive return on investment on a patented bee?”

Personally, I certainly don't trust information coming straight from Monsanto. However, information from GMO-critical activists has also been mixing facts with semi-truths and disinformation. Googling for patent 2457842149 is not very helpful.

Is there a "bee patent"? If yes, what does this mean? If no, is there any truth is the story by Maryam Henein?

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Call me cynical, but I trust information coming out of GM-scare anti-scientific zealots a lot less than from Monsanto :) –  DVK Jan 16 '13 at 21:49
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Oh, I can't really imagine any source that I would trust less than Monsanto (meaning 0). I don't think I've ever come across a more unethical company, apart from military companies. –  gerrit Jan 16 '13 at 21:52
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US Patent Numbers are 7 digits long. That is not a US patent number. –  Oddthinking Jan 16 '13 at 22:09
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@KonradRudolph Really? I think that would make a great question if so. I never had a reason to doubt it. I think I remember seeing an interview with the guy, but I don't remember details. –  Sam I Am Jan 17 '13 at 13:54
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The bees in that picture aren't 'FrankenBees'. They're 'FrankenBee's Monsters'. The guy who made them is FrankenBee. Get it right, people. –  Richard Terrett Jun 3 '13 at 15:34

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

(I'm not convinced this is a complete answer, but I am not sure what else to add.)

Nitzan Paldi is a (random) researcher at Monsanto, who was formerly part of Beeologics.

Paldi is one of the inventors on a US Patent 8,097,712, which is assigned to "Beelogics". (Note the misspelling on the name, which is why I took the detour to show it is the same company, not a similar sounding one.)

The abstract of the patent is:

Compositions and methods for reducing susceptibility to infectious disease in bees using RNA interference technology, and more particularly, prevention and treatment of viral infections in honeybees such as Israel acute paralysis virus (IAPV) by feeding of pathogen-specific dsRNA. Further, multiple-pathogen specific dsRNA is disclosed.

The patent appears to be proposing a form of innoculating existing bees against virus by feeding them innocuous strands of RNA. It isn't replacing the bees with GM versions, but trying to prevent their hive collapse by being infected by viruses.

As will all discussions about patents, it is important to understand that there is a big difference between applying for a patent and having firm plans to produce a product. It does not even prove that an implementation has been made - patents can be speculative.

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1  
Argh, beaten by Henry by a minute! –  Oddthinking Jan 16 '13 at 22:28
    
It's not clear that you can feed bee's RNA without their digestive system destroying the RNA. On the other hand you could get the RNA into the bee's by manipulating the bee DNA. –  Christian Jan 17 '13 at 17:10
    
@Christian: if you are saying the patent is unworkable, I have no comment except to suggest it wouldn't be the first time, by a long shot. –  Oddthinking Jan 17 '13 at 22:13
    
After reading the patent in detail you might be right. It doesn't talk about DNA. I don't see a reason why it doesn't. In principle it seems much more workable to change the DNA to let the bees produce the dsRNA than to try to let the bees consume it orally. –  Christian Jan 17 '13 at 22:23

According to the Beelogics website, Monsanto bought Beelogics in 2011

Beelogics holds various patents and patent applications related to bees. For example US patent 8,097,712 covers claims for:

Compositions and methods for reducing susceptibility to infectious disease in bees using RNA interference technology, and more particularly, prevention and treatment of viral infections in honeybees such as Israel acute paralysis virus (IAPV) by feeding of pathogen-specific dsRNA. Further, multiple-pathogen specific dsRNA is disclosed.

Since 2457842149 is not a seven character number, it is not a US patent. Since it does not start with a date format it is not a US patent application. Perhaps it comes from somewhere else.

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Maybe the patent comes from Israel where the company originated. –  user13842 May 19 '13 at 1:54

protected by Community Jun 3 '13 at 6:27

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