During the late 1990's, beekeepers around the globe started reporting the inevitable. Years of destructive industrial pesticides, parasites/pathogens and climate change took a sudden toll on bee populations. Bees were disappearing and honeybee colonies were declining in very high rates, or what is now referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Bees make more than honey - because they pollinate crops, they are key to food production. Bees along with other pollinators are essential to the global ecosystem. We rely on their pollination for about one third of our food: vegetables like zucchini, fruits like apricot, nuts like almonds, spices like coriander, edible oils and much more. Since 2006, honeybee use commercially has declined by 40% in the US. The alternative is costly and time consuming; human pollination by hand. The work done by these insects is estimated to be worth 265 billion per year. It makes economic sense to protect the bees as well.
As reported by Greenpeace, the largest risks to our pollinators are bee killing pesticides, destruction of habitat, and monoculture, the practice of cultivating the same crop year after year in a single area. Industrial monocultures are not natural and are only sustained with high amounts of fertilizers,pesticides, and heavy machinery. Monocultures result in a lack of biodiversity, and limit the time and space that bees and other pollinators have access to food.
The negative effects of a chemical-intensive agriculture are becoming more and more apparent. The global bee decline is just a symptom of a failed industrial agricultural system. This system is based on increasing chemical use, large scale monoculture and dependency from a few multinational agri-companies. To protect our bees, we need to move away from destructive industrial agriculture, and adopt ecological farming methods.
Organic Consumers Association names the bee killing insecticides specifically as neonicotinoids, which scientists believe play a major role in CCD, the ongoing demise of honeybee colonies. So, who makes neonicotinoids? Syngenta, Bayer CropSciences, and Dow AgroSciences. Companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow AgroScience use them in the herbicides, pesticides and seeds they sell to farmers growing genetically modified (GMO) crops. These crops are drenched in the neonics, and killing its pollinators. Butterfly and bird populations are also affected and on the decline. Other herbicides and pesticides, especially Monsanto’s Roundup, used to grow GMO crops and kill weeds are decimating fish and wildlife, and some would say, humans.
How do we stand up to the large corporations that are poisoning our world, killing our bees, destroying our food? What can we do to pressure their customers into understanding the ecological destruction caused by such products? How do we force food manufacturers to stop using these poison drenched GMO crops in their processed food products? How do we get through to politicians who protect the interests of pesticides and gmo food manufacturing?
We do it with our choice, with our dollar. We make ethical buying decisions. Any progress in transforming the current destructive chemical agriculture system into an ecological farming system will have benefits for the environment and human food security. Boycott the corporations that continue to manufacture agricultural poisons. Ask, does my child’s cereal contain sugar from genetically modified beets? Did that steak on my dinner plate come from a factory farm, and was it fed a diet of roundup ready GMO corn?
According to Queen of the Sun website, there are ten things you can do to help bees:
1. Plant bee friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden, such as lavender, sage, mint, tomatoes, poppies, and sunflowers. Stay away from chemically treating them.
2. Weeds can be a good thing. Wildflowers, dandelions and clover are a haven for honeybees.
3. Don't use chemicals on your lawn or garden. They harm the biosphere, especially while flowers are in bloom.
4. Buy local, raw honey. Honey from China can be chemically contaminated. Look for the words "local", "pure" and "raw".
5. Bees are thirsty. Put a small basin of water outside your home.
6. Buy from a farmer you know.
7. Learn how to be a beekeeper with sustainable practices.
8. Bees aren't out to get you. Know the difference between bees and wasps.
9. Share solutions with others in your community.
10. Let congress know what you think.
“While agricultural multinationals like Syngenta and Bayer care only about profits, their bee killing pesticides put bees and other pollinators at risk. Without bees and their natural pollination, global food production would be severely damaged” -Greenpeace
“It is ironic to think that man might determine his own future by something so trivial as the choice of an insect spray” -Rachel Carson, Silent Spring