Monsanto Co. announced Wednesday that it had bought Beeologics, a company that is developing a product that promises to help bees survive an illness that has been wiping out colonies across the world.
Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, did not disclose the terms of the sale.
Beeologics, a research company founded in 2007 with headquarters in Florida and Israel, has developed a product called Remembee, which is an anti-viral agent that the company's researchers believe could stem the impact of colony collapse disorder. The mysterious disorder has decimated honeybee populations around the globe, with far-reaching implications for agriculture.
"While the investment is an enabling technology for us, we're absolutely committed to Beeologics' existing work," explained Kelly Powers, a Monsanto spokesperson. "I don't need to tell you how important bees are to farmers who rely on pollination, and Remembee has great promise, pending approvals."
Remembee is still subject to further trials, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing Remembee for approval, Powers noted.
Remembee, according to Beeologics' website, utilizes RNA interference, a mechanism that blocks gene expression. The company claims that the agent has proved effective in mitigating the effects of a virus that may be linked to the disorder.
Bees are the "workhorses" of agriculture, pollinating everything from almonds to alfalfa, and an estimated $14 billion in American crops rely on bees for pollination. Since the disorder was first reported in late 2006, it has been confounding scientists who have blamed everything from mites to pesticides to travel-related stress. Bee colonies are shipped around the country, from field to field, for pollination. In recent years, partly because of colony collapse disorder, farmers have been paying increasingly high rates for pollination via rented hives.