Food prices could rise as bees die off
Theories about why the insects are suffering from a fatal disorder keep surfacing, but the impact on agriculture is clearly becoming acute.
The term "colony collapse disorder" might sound like something out of science fiction, but it's a growing problem with widespread economic consequences affecting one of the more beneficial insects to mankind: honeybees.
Whole colonies of honeybees have been dying off for years now, and no one seems exactly sure why. And if you think dead bees don't affect you, think again. As The New York Times notes, those bees are essential for pollinating much of America's fruit and vegetable crops.
"The Agriculture Department says a quarter of the American diet, from apples to cherries to watermelons to onions, depends on pollination by honeybees," says The Times. "Fewer bees means smaller harvests and higher food prices."
As an example, the newspaper points to the nation's valuable almond industry -- valued at around $3.4 billion in 2011. Most of America's almonds are grown in California on about 800,000 acres. And to pollinate that acreage, farmers need at least two beehives per acre, or about two-thirds of all commercial hives in the U.S. The Times says the bee shortage has pushed the cost of renting hives up 20% from normal prices, to around $200 per hive.
Experts have been looking at a number of possible causes for the bee die-off, from ongoing drought conditions across most of the country to pesticide-resistant bee mites to viruses. Last year, researchers at Yale University found genetic evidence that decades of exposing domestic bees to the antibiotic oxytetracycline may have weakened the insects' ability to fight off disease.
"It seems likely this reflects a history of using oxytetracycline since the 1950s," one of the study's lead authors told Voice of America. "It’s not terribly surprising. It parallels findings in other domestic animals, like chickens and pigs."
But some agriculture industry observers are looking closely at a group of widely used, nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids as a possible culprit. Neonicotinoids are less toxic to mammals and became commercially available in the 1990s. Usage of the chemicals has reportedly soared over the past eight years, from large farms to backyard vegetable patches. And scientists are discovering neonicotinoids can build up in a bee's system and become toxic.
"If you have one shot of whiskey on Thanksgiving and one on the Fourth of July, it’s not going to make any difference," Bret Adee, co-owner of Adee Honey Farms of South Dakota and one of the nation's largest beekeepers, told The Times. "But if you have whiskey every night, 365 days a year, your liver’s gone. It’s the same thing."
In January, scientists with the EU's European Food Safety Authority said they had identified some risks posed to bees by neonicotinoids, "with particular regard to: their acute and chronic effects on bee colony survival and development."
Several European countries have banned some uses of neocnicotinod insecticides. But two major producers, Syngenta (SYENF) and Bayer Crop Science, part of Germany's Bayer (BAYZF), are disputing the EU's findings.
The leaked document () was put out in response to Bayer's request to approve use of the pesticide on cotton and mustard. The document invalidates a prior Bayer study that justified the registration of clothianidin on the basis of its safety to honeybees:
Clothianidin’s major risk concern is to nontarget insects (that is, honey bees). Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid insecticide that is both persistent and systemic. Acute toxicity studies to honey bees show that clothianidin is highly toxic on both a contact and an oral basis. Although EFED does not conduct RQ based risk assessments on non-target insects, information from standard tests and field studies, as well as incident reports involving other neonicotinoids insecticides (e.g., imidacloprid) suggest the potential for long-term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects.
The entire 101-page memo is damning (and worth a read). But the opinion of EPA scientists apparently isn't enough for the agency, which is allowing clothianidin to keep its registration.
Who sold Hitler the phosgene gas to kill 6,000,000 Jews? Wasn't it Bayer
Isn't it ironic that Obama signed a bill the other day giving Monsanto the right to sell generically altered corn to people with no consequence.
Did anyone beside me notice that Monsanto escaped scrutiny here? Widespread use of the herbicide glyphosate could be largely to blame here and it gets a free pass. BT pesticide crops are not mentioned either. Nearly 50% of the monarch butterfly population has been wiped out too.
As far as pesticides go
98% are misapplied and do no good.
The same percentage of the world's food supply is destroyed by pests as before the use of these poisons.
This stuff eventually ends up in your drinking water and municipal water systems are not designed to remove it
Good luck out there
The "green revolution" is not sustainable. The term "Green revolution" was invented to make the public think that this would be environmentally beneficial agriculture. It was just a marketing ploy on the part of Monsanto. It should have more accurately been called the "black revolution of slow death ".
The farmer was promised that if he would sign on the dotted line, Monsanto would take care of all his worries. There would be huge yields, no weeds, no pests, and less work. What they didn't mention was the fine print. That the Monsanto agreement made the farmers that signed up for it virtual slaves to Monsanto. Monsanto would be the sole provider for all the inputs to the farm. With this control Monsanto could raise the input costs to the point that the farmer could barely earn a living no matter how hard he worked. In poorer countries like India Monsanto's input costs have driven farmers into so much debt that suicide is the only way out, and hundreds of thousands have taken that option. In the U.S. farming has gotten so bad that we will not be replacing farmers as they retire.
The end result can only be no farmers, no farms, and no food at any price. Don't worry though, the environment will be made so toxic from the poisons splashed on the farms that you probably won't make it long enough to starve.
By the way, that looks like a bumblebee on that purple flower in the photo in the article. Honeybees are different looking and have different habits. Where I live we have a bumper crop of bumblebees but they show very little interest in pollinating our vegetable garden. Last year we tried planting a row of nothing but flowers in an attempt to attract honeybees. I saw 1.
Too bad bees have to have stingers.I`ve been stung for no good reason.I guess because
I`m so sweet.
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