24 Dec 2010

Alarm at prospect of genetically engineered bee mite

7:30 am on 24 December 2010

The Soil and Health Association is alarmed at the prospect of researchers looking into genetically engineering the varroa mite to stop it from attacking honey bees.

Varroa is the biggest worldwide killer of bees, and costs the beekeeping industry millions of dollars a year to control.

Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland say they have discovered a way of switching a gene in the mite, which could eventually make it attack itself.

But Soil and Health's spokesperson, Steffan Browning, says genetically engineering varroa mites to self-destruct is not a Christmas present for beekeepers.

He says tampering with the mite's DNA could make varroa worse than it already is, or have other unintended effects on bees and the indigenous ecosystem.