Bees are under attack – and German chemical giant Bayer is one of the main predators. As farmers coat their seeds in pesticides, honey-bees, bumblebees and other pollinators are dying; and as they die, our food security is threatened. But now, armed with new evidence, we can force governments to act.
Why bees are important
Bees help plants reproduce – without them we'd lose some of our most important plant life (including our favourite fruits, like apples and strawberries). The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that of the 100 crop species which provide 90% of global food, 71 are pollinated by bees. In the US alone, bee-pollinated crops have a value of $14.6bn.
In the early 1990s, producers began using a class of nicotine-based pesticides called neonicotinoids. These were developed because they are relatively non-toxic to humans but deadly to insects. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved their use in 2003, even though it had not conducted field tests – it relied on a study funded by Bayer itself. Today, neonicotinoids are one of the most widely used pesticides, and Bayer is a primary pusher.
Colony collapse disorder
These chemicals are regularly sprayed directly on seeds, contaminating entire fields and ecosystems – not to mention suburban gardens. Two research teams recently published articles in the journal Science on how these chemicals affect the honey-bee. One concluded that exposure to pesticides can leave bees disoriented, making it more difficult for them to return to their hives; the second suggested that these pesticides restrict bee growth, and production of the queens who breed the next generation.
Together, these studies shed light on the recent mass disappearance of honey-bees from their hives – a phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, or CCD. In 2009, CCD was responsible for plummeting bee populations globally – Japan alone lost up to 50% of its honey-bees.
Bees vs. Bayer
While Bayer's profits pile up, beekeepers and activists have started to fight back. In response to public pressure, the EPA agreed to push forward a review of neonicotinoid pesticides to 2018 – but with bee populations in steep decline, six years is too long.
Rather than waiting, we can act now. This Friday, Bayer holds its annual stockholders' meeting in Cologne, Germany. It's the perfect forum for citizens to fight to protect the world's bees and our planet's health.
Take action: Sign the Avaaz petition to save bees and secure our food systems.