Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Are mobile phones wiping out bee populations?

Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for
mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees

By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross

Published: 15 April 2007

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film.
But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could
cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by
mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one
of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world -
the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late
last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which
started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was
beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with
bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving
species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as
it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants
suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature
workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are
never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The
parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and
pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near
the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of
all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per
cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on
the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal,
Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's
biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been
abruptly abandoned.

Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and
north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs insisted: "There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in
the UK."

The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's
crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that
if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life

No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites,
pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all
have drawbacks.

German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse
to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr
Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint"
to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government
and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties,
said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."

The case against handsets

Evidence of dangers to people from mobile phones is increasing. But
proof is still lacking, largely because many of the biggest perils,
such as cancer, take decades to show up.

Most research on cancer has so far proved inconclusive. But an
official Finnish study found that people who used the phones for
more than 10 years were 40 per cent more likely to get a brain
tumour on the same side as they held the handset.

Equally alarming, blue-chip Swedish research revealed that
radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting
that today's teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.

Studies in India and the US have raised the possibility that men
who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts. And, more
prosaically, doctors have identified the condition of "text thumb",
a form of RSI from constant texting.

Professor Sir William Stewart, who has headed two official
inquiries, warned that children under eight should not use mobiles
and made a series of safety recommendations, largely ignored by

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