Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.
The well-publicized problems in the US where the battle seems as good as lost can tend to overshadow the fact that potentially this is a worldwide catastrophe waiting to happen. Fortunately the picture in Europe is less clear cut.
Meanwhile those nice people at Bayer and Syngenta, aided and supported by British environment minister Owen Patterson are suing the European Commission in an effort to overturn the temporary ban on a small part of the arsenal of death-dealing chemicals that saturate European farmland.
Corporate lobbyists and other interested parties use a familiar line in obfuscation when explaining away the obvious connection between wholesale chemical application and the decimation of the pollinators our food supply depends on. But despite what they would have us believe there is no “mystery” as to why bee colonies around the world appear to be in a state of terminal decline.
Independent scientific research, that is research not funded by chemical companies, appropriated by agribusiness, or under the thumb of the British government has consistently found that the exposure of pollinators to cocktails of chemicals, (in some cases traces of as many as 35 different pesticides have been found in toxic pollen) is a crucial contributing factor in their decline.
Such independent research is also opening up a huge can of worms by exposing the relationship between the chemicals without which mainstream agriculture can barely function, and the looming calamity of pollinator decline. Neonicotinoids, those notorious pesticides now banned by the European Commission are just the tip of the iceberg it seems.
Guardian article April 2013: Insecticide firms in secret bid to stop ban that could save bees
European Food Safety Authority report published 21 November 2013: EFSA’s 18th Scientific Colloquium on Towards holistic approaches to the risk assessment of multiple stressors in bees