Can you imagine a world without bees?
Apart from the sadness of never again hearing their warm buzzing lull us to sleep during a summer nap, we would also have to deal with the loss of 4,000 different wild plant species along with 80% of the 264 cultivated species that provide us with food.
In other words, three-quarters of all commercial crops at a global level depend to some extent on pollinators. So, at the very least, a world without bees would mean a world without fruit. That’s why in China, where pollution, pesticides and deforestation have wiped out 95% of the hives in the Chinese countryside, millions of farmers are forced to hand pollinate in order to replace the work of insects. Does that really sound like the right solution to our current employment crisis?
We’re returning to the subject now because new scientific evidence is showing the major impacts that pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, are having on colony collapse disorder. And bees aren’t the only ones affected. Greenpeace has commissioned biologists at the University of Sussex in the UK to carry out an in-depth review of all the scientific studies published since 2013 that concern the effect of neonicotinoid insecticides on pollinators and the environment in general.
The resulting report shows that certain species of bumblebees have undergone a drastic decline and are dying out. A new study also reveals that bees are being harmed not just by crop treatments, but also by wild plants that have become contaminated despite never having been treated with neonicotinoids.
In short, the report confirms the risks identified by the European Food Safety Authority in 2013 and highlights the emergence of further risks for pollinators—and for us, given that neonicotinoids are increasingly present in the environment and are polluting water, soil and wild plants. These substances can remain on agricultural land, in the soil for many years, causing chronic contamination, even accumulating over time.
And these water-soluble compounds not only linger in the cultivated fields but also disperse in most places where they are used, in some cases travelling long distances in the water that runs off the fields. Laboratory experiments and tests in the field continue to document the variety of lethal and sublethal effects neonicotinoid residues can have on a wide range of different animal species.
For more details, read the whole report here.
These results should be more than sufficient to justify a total ban in Europe and to forget about the ridiculousness of the partial ban to which imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam (three neonicotinoids) are subject.
We could also do with a careful (re-)evaluation of all pesticides in order to verify their effects on bees before their use is authorized.
Let’s save our friends the bees!
Slow Food has put together a short book on the subject, A World Without Bees?, which you can read by clicking here. You can also read about some of our projects to safeguard bees around the world, like the Presidia for Sicilian black bees, Swiss black bees and Sateré-Mawé Native Bees’ Honey.
By Michela Marchi