The Buzz Behind the Monsanto/Beeolgics Acquisition

Insect inoculation may be the latest rave, but is it the best solution?

By Maryam Henein |

There was quite a stir amongst beekeepers and anti-gmo activists this past October when chemical and seed giant Monsanto purchased Beeologics , a small company best known for its  “groundbreaking research” vis a vis the application of RNAi technology on honeybees, a mechanism meant to block gene expression.

This was Monsanto’s first acquisition of a pest control biotech company. Yet surprisingly the terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Since its inception in 2007, Beeologics has been developing Remebee,® an anti-viral treatment for use in honeybees affected with Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV), a bee-specific virus, which originated from Australia and found and named in Israel in 2002.

I first heard about Beelogics, which is headquartered both in both Florida and Israel, in April 2008 when President and CEO Eyal Ben-Chanoch reached out to Vanishing of the Bees via email after viewing our trailer and spotting some familiar faces.

Eyal explained that Beeologics was assembling scientists, beekeepers and business people “to create the missing corporate support” in an industry that traditionally has only been supported by a few hardware manufacturers. Sure there were hives, tools, bee suits and the like being offered but very little had been invested in technology and medicine for the bees — until Beeologics came along that is.

Why were they drawn to Beeologics? Was it because the competition (Syngenta and Bayer Crop Science) had also expressed interest? Or was it because they’d identified some low-hanging fruit to add to their portfolio of proprietary life forms? Perhaps Monsanto, which boasts a revenue of more than $10.5 billion per year, plans on buying anything and everything to do with gene manipulation?

To put things in context, many scientists were all abuzz about IAPV at the time. Many firmly believed that it was a primer for Colony Collapse Disorder. Remembee, meanwhile, was regarded as a first line of defense to control the virus and its effect on bee mortality.

We inoculate humans, why not insects?

Eyal assured me that Remembee wasn’t another “snake oil” product but rather a treatment developed by ‘real’ scientists at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They were testing the product with the help of the University of Florida, Penn State, the USDA/ARS and some of the largest beekeepers in the country including David Hackenberg, CCD’s poster child and the main character in our film.

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