Bees are considered to be the “queens of biodiversity” but bee populations continue to decline as a result of a broken industrial agricultural system which intensively uses chemicals and large monoculture plantations — a system which is promoted by a few agrochemical companies like Bayer, Syngenta and BASF.
Taking the next step in our campaign to save the bees and agriculture, we continue exposing the failure of the current farming model and its impacts on bees. Greenpeace has today released a scientific report entitled: ‘The Bee’s Burden – an analysis of pesticide residues in comb pollen (beebread) and trapped pollen from honey bees’.
The study found that more than two-thirds of pollen collected in the fields and brought back to the hive by worker bees was contaminated with up to 17 different toxic chemicals. A total of 53 different chemical compounds were detected in the course of the study. They represented a wide range of pesticides. This research was one of the largest projects of its kind carried out to date in Europe, with more than 100 samples taken in 12 European countries over a single foraging season.
The wide range of toxic chemicals found suggests that bees may be exposed to complex mixtures of insecticides, acaricides and fungicides while searching for food and in the hive. The poisoned pollen is a direct threat to the entire bee population, because the colony, including larvae, worker bees and drones, eat this pollen as a source of protein and energy. The exposure of bees and bee larvae to such varied toxic pesticides is significant because, according to recent research, the interaction of different chemical components can lead to a cocktail effect which can be more toxic for bees than a single chemical.
Additionally, several studies show that pesticides can undermine the immune system of insects, making them more susceptible to diseases and to parasites like the Varroa mite which add greatly to the threats faced by bees.
The bee decline must stop. Although bees and other pollinators appear to be a small link in our food production chain they in fact play a massive and crucial role in our food security; one-third of our food, and most of the flowering plants on this planet, are pollinated by bees and by other insect pollinators. The value of global pollination has been estimated at some 265bn Euros annually.
Change is urgently needed now to protect our bees and our agriculture. With your help, Greenpeace wants policy-makers to expand the existing partial bans on four of the worst bee-killing pesticides and make them permanent. Furthermore, a ban on all bee harming pesticides is urgently needed. We need to have ambitious bee action plans to monitor the health of bees and other pollinators and to reduce their overall exposure to hazardous chemicals. Funding should also be shifted away from destructive industrial agriculture. Ecological farming is superior as a model – specifically for bees and for the planet as a whole.
Ecological farming, in fact, produces food without the use of bee-harming chemicals and relies on non-polluting and long-term pest protection techniques. The increase of biodiversity, the attraction of beneficial insects, crop rotation, mixed farming and the implementation of locally available ‘low input’ technologies are all ecological farming applications that help to protect our soil, water and climate. Only ecological farming will enable us to save our bees and produce healthy food without contaminating the environment with chemical inputs.
Join us in taking action now and to be part of the global movement to save the bees and promote ecological farming by signing our petition.
Matthias Wüthrich, is Greenpeace Ecological Farming campaigner and European bees project leader at Greenpeace Switzerland
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