For environmentalists, a spoonful of honey no longer bears a sweet taste. Concern about the world’s bee population is rising sharply as research continues to show a rapid decline in bee numbers. US beekeepers are reporting recent colony declines of up to 50%. But what is causing this rapid bee die-off? Well, Monsanto recently hosted a Bee Summit to find answers, although the answers they were looking for were supposed to prove agrichemical innocence.
Man’s existence relies on having bees around. Bees pollinate plants allowing continued food chain cycles – crops and harvests for human consumption and for livestock feed. There is some deep thought in the relationship between humans, plants and bees: without plants on the earth, humans are unable to survive. Plants are primary food sources for the human race and at the same time we rely on the role of trees in the carbon cycle, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing pure oxygen. Yet plants intrinsically rely on bees for pollination and continued existence. Thus in basic terms, an unsustainable loss of bees means huge trouble for the human race.
Many scientists believe that chemicals used in agricultural practices, agrichemicals, is the main suspected bee population decline cause (other potential causes still researched include electromagnetic disruption and GMOs affecting bee life cycles and nutrition). On the point of agrichemicals, leading agrichemical companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta vehemently disagrees. Conventional agriculture uses large volumes of agrichemicals for higher yields, but this means large volumes of chemicals, including aluminium, organophosphates, acid and alkaline agents released into the environment. Last month, the European Union took definite action towards controlling insecticides. Three of the most commonly used insecticides, all neonic insecticides, will soon be banned across the EU. This step follows major debates and voting; agrichemical companies lobbied hard to avoid this ban while countries Germany and Britain previously refused to approve the banning of these insecticides.
The bottom line remains this: agrichemicals are toxic substances. It does not take an expert scientists to say that high volumes of these toxins in the environment will cause damage. And high volumes it sure is. The sole three insecticides banned in the EU have an economic value of billions of dollars – explaining why leading agrichemical companies refuse to acknowledge that their chemical products are harmful to bees. But the European Food Safety Agency claimed otherwise, rating these insecticides as an acute risk for the world’s bee populations.
In the coming years we may see some greater resolution on which of human’s activities are in fact the greatest cause of bee die-offs, but till then, we are inclined to follow the EU’s resolution – agrichemicals are harmful and application control is necessary. A proactive approach is critical, as the urgency of Einstein’s well-known prediction explains: “…if bees disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life on earth left.”
Photo credits: some rights reserved by cipovic and acidpix via flickr
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