Ecological transition in agriculture is the only way to save bees

27 May 2020

For some months now we have only heard of the ecosystem, the need to take care of it, the opportunity we have to change the way we operate. The emergency we are experiencing today, with human losses that have distorted the lives of many of us, asks us to look at the ecosystem in a different way and perhaps we could just start from where we left off. The urgent need to act to save the world of pollinators, those we generally enclose in the world of bees. 


Photo by Kai Wenzel on Unsplash

Bees have taught us how vital the ability to relate to their environment is. Each bee in the hive has a role that is functional for the whole family; he exits, flies, pollinates, then returns diligently, perhaps unaware that he has done an extraordinary job for all humanity. The production of fruit species and vegetables depends on his work. But it also depends on the survival of most of the spontaneous species that are able to reproduce thanks to effective pollination. 

We cannot wait anymore. The quality of the environment in which we produce becomes fundamental for the survival of these extraordinary insects. Their nervous system pays a very high price in environments where the anthropogenic pressure due to an industrialized agricultural model that uses synthetic chemistry is strong. The indiscriminate use of pesticides and herbicides has significantly compromised the life of bees with a hive die-off that in the last decade has been seriously questioning the possibility that they will be able to play their natural ecosystem role. Added to this is climate change, which gradually makes living environments less anomalous with abnormal temperatures and rainfall, which confuse and further inhibit insects. 


Photo by OC Gonzalez on Unsplash

Today there is more and more talk of ecological transition in agriculture; of a new approach that should guarantee a consistent strengthening of sustainability policies for a production system which, in a globalized, industrialized, and utilitarian vision, has instead contributed to bringing the planet to collapse. The path of transition is considered by many to be the only real alternative to work with the resilience of our natural environments. During the lockdown caused by the health emergency of the last few months, we collected testimonies from many quarters of an improvement in the health conditions of our seas, our rivers, the air we breathe. Confirming, for those who still had doubts, that every activity on the planet carried out carelessly with respect to plant and animal balances is at the basis of the serious worsening of the conditions of the ecosystem as a whole. 

What our answer may be is not much to discuss today. It is clear that the recovery that awaits us must take these aspects into account and the change of paradigm in our lifestyle, production, consumption, management of our presence on the planet must be tangible and lasting. 

The citizens of Europe are asking this forcefully by talking about bees and pollinators, aware that the world of these insects is an effective litmus test of the drama that our environment is experiencing. Thinking of replacing this role with technology (there are also those who imagine small drones to guarantee the pollination of flowers) is not a way to free one’s conscience and continue to operate in an unsustainable way. The interventions to limit the most harmful active ingredients (the so-called neonicotinoids) immediately appeared too shy and certainly not sufficiently effective. We need to strengthen a different, sustainable production model that knows how to take into account the balance between plant and animal organisms. We need to strengthen the principle of ecological infrastructure (hedges, meadows, etc.) not limited to an imposition of Community measures but finally real cultural components of our way of conceiving the management of agricultural production that cannot be lost in the name of globalization and maximizing profits. 


Photo by Ilana Grostern on Unsplash

It is truly unique that a series of significant events such as the Farm to Fork Strategy and the Biodiversity Strategy could see the light of day on May 20, the same day dedicated internationally to the world of pollinators. We really hope that the contents of these documents will prove to be a tangible and incontrovertible sign with a series of choices capable of giving a change of pace toward a world more respectful of every living being. Slow Food is already moving toward this goal: for about two years, together with Eataly, the University of Palermo and Arcoiris, an organic seed company, it has been carrying out the Bee The Future project with the aim of reviving areas suitable for the life of bees in agricultural areas compromised from an environmental point of view. Also in this case, it is the involvement of resistant farmers to guarantee the success of an initiative that today has over one hundred hectares of honey meadows, distributed from north to south, with the aim of strengthening the role that this virtuous approach can play in improving habitat and in the conservation of the beekeeping heritage of the whole Mediterranean. 

Currently, Slow Food advocates for the European Citizens’ Initiative “Save Bees and Farmers”, which aims to phase out synthetic pesticides in Europe by 2035, to restore biodiversity and help farmers in transition, and so to save bees from extinction in Europe.

You can support the initiative by signing it here.


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