Produce, Population and the Pollination of our Nation

Coffee.  Whether your meeting a friend at a cafe to chat about the latest and greatest, or slamming espresso shots to stay up in order to ace tomorrow’s exam; coffee seems to be an important clog in our culture.  According to the various studies on coffee and caffeine intake, 60% claim they need a cup or two to start their day.  Americans alone drink an estimated 400 million cups a day, and coffee itself is a $30 billion industry.

Chocolate.  Do I even need to say it? We all love it.  In fact, 87% of men and 91% of women consume it regularly.  We crave it, it’s delicious and comforting.  Also, chocolate is pretty much associated with almost every one of America’s major holidays in some shape or form.

Both of these industries, as well as over 120 commercial crops, would completely evaporate into thin air – if not for one very hard working species.  Without this busy-body, our produce departments across the nation would be virtually vacant.

Even though there are more species of bees than mammals and birds combined, only one can do the work that needs to be done, and that bee is the Apis Mellifera, or as it is more commonly known: the honey bee.  A staggering 1:3 bites you eat directly or indirectly benefit from the pollination of crops by the honey bee.

Personally, bees in general kind of freak me out.  But, they play a very vital role in not only my existence, not only yours, but the entire world’s well being and survival.  As Khalil Gibran once said:

For the bees, the flower is the fountain of life, for flowers, the bee is the messenger of love”.

What would if that fountain were to be tainted? What would happen to us?

Well, the honey bee population has been declining rapidly ever since the discovery of sudden losses of hives in October of 2006.  In that year alone, beekeepers began reporting anywhere from a 30% to a 90% loss of their hives.  Since then, an average 30.5% loss of colonies every year over the past 6 years has resulted in the collapse of approximately 10 million hives.

These losses have been characterized as loosing entire hives all at once, a few bees die here and there, then an entire hive collapses.  This phenomenon has been named CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder).

Scientist have not yet pinpointed a specific trigger for CCD, but they have concluded that some factors may be main contributors.  The first of these possible causes include the innovation of the Varroa mite, more commonly called the Varroa Destructor, which is a parasite that latches onto larvae or very young honeybees. The second is the Nosema Cerana, a pathogen discovered in 1995 that infiltrates the diestive system of the Apis Mellifera.  Third on the list is a tracheal mite called the Acarapis Woodi, this parasite weaves it’s way into breathing tubes of bees.  The fourth cause for CCD is the overall nutrition of hives – which leads to the most important factors, pesticides and GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms).

GMO’s are usually seeds that are sold at a massively discounted price to farmers as an incentive, and are modified to be able to withstand heavier pesticide exposure.  GM foods are far from health.  According to the Organic Consumers Association:

“There is [also] a direct correlation between our genetically engineered food supply and the two-trillion the U.S. spends annually on medical care, namely on  [the] epidemic of diet-relatied chronic disease”.

Another report by eight international experts stated that the flimsy and superficial evaluations of GMOs by both regulators and GM companies:

“Systematically overlook the side effects” and underestimate “the initial signs of diseases like cancer and diseases of the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive systems, among others.”

Also, independent studies paired with the hands on experience of bee keepers show that the pesticides and insecticides used in agricultural crops weaken the immune system, allowing parasites to attack without resistance from the bee’s normally resilient defense.  This means easy access for the Varroa Mite, Nosema Cerana, and the Acarapis Woodi.

But, what many do not put together is that these pathogens and parasites have been around a lot longer than CCD.  However, one factor has changed dramatically: the food supply.

In addition to crops being dosed with harmful chemicals, bees are transported regularly to maintain the pollination of crops all over the U.S.  This transportation in not news though – we have been moving bees for years – it began with using rafts to transport bees up and down the Nile, now it’s just changed to transporting them in semis up and down the coast, or from coast to coast.  The difference ow is that since there are no flowers for bees to feed on as they travel from town to town in trucks, most farmers feed them a steady diet of corn syrup that is laden with neonicitinoids.

Which is quite unnerving, seeing these studies alongside the fact that Michael Taylor, an advisor to a trillion dollar company known for their GMO and Pesticide products (along with numerous cancer-causing products), became the Senoir Advisor to the commissioner of our own FDA in September of 2009.  For those of you who don’t know, the FDA is the Food and Drug Administraiton, and they are responsible for making sure that the food we eat is safe and our pharmaceuticals are appropriate for public consumption.

Now, as Colony Collapse Disorder becomes a very prevalent and dire situation, this pesticide and GMO manufacturing company (still being advised by Taylor) called Monsanto, is now one of the leading beneficiaries that is helping fund research to prevent CCD.

I’d like to show you a short satirical YouTube video on the subject of corporate financial gain opportunities available due to the decline in bee population:

Even though this video was meant to be sarcastic, Monsanto has actually bought a company called Beelogics, which is “dedicated to finding a solution for the honey bee problem”.  Their first product, called Remembee helps to heal a virus that was first discovered in Israel.  But, the second project they are working on, called RNAi, or RNA interference, might end up very similar to the video – but with one change, instead of one company controlling a force of human pollinators, the company will own a “super-bee”.

Jerry Hayes, one of the leaders of Monsanto’s Colony Collapse disorder efforts and the commercial lead for Beelogics, is soon to start the RNAi project which will be centered around toying with the honeybee’s RNA in order to make them less susceptible to pesticides, therefore making their immune system against mites, parasites, and pathogens.

By selling GM seeds to farmers, supplying them with powerful pesticides, as well as providing a solution to CCD, Monsanto and other similar companies are creating a recipe for profits, and disaster.  GM bees pollinating GM crops heavily laden with pesticides and chemicals – yummy!

In conclusion, bees are dying out due to pesticides, GMO’s and their new diets.  A trillion dollar company is providing the problem and a solution, but the solution is merely a bandaid, and will end up hurting us all in the future.  A genetically modified bees is just the beginning.  So, how can you help not only the bees, your community and your planet, but yourself as well?

Try planting a bee friendly garden!  If you don’t have the space for an entire meadow, try just plating one or two flowers in a pot.  Buy locally, fresh, non-gmo products.  It’s good for your body and it’s good for your community.  Also, refrain from using pesticides on your yard.  A staggering 11% of all pesticides are used on lawns.  Lastly, join me and hundreds of others in major cities across the world in the March Against Monsanto on May 24th.

Author: Rebekah A. Dobbs