Friday, January 18, 2013

Monitoring bee populations for food sustainability before decline and death.

It is no news that man is faced with a food crisis, especially in developing countries and Africa due to the effects of climate change. Millions go hungry and starve in countries like Sudan and Ethiopia because they do not have enough to eat. Why should it be news that a class of animals, the humble bees, are facing serious decline worldwide?

Bees. Valuable factors in food production. Credit:Alliect 27/Flickr.com
Bees, like bats, are pollinators. That means, they carry pollen from one crop to the other, thereby fertilizing plants. Plant fertilization is a factor for food production. So, the picture is that when bee population is on steep decline, plant fertilization will seriously drop and crop production will also decline. Eventually, if the matter is not tackled on time, we could be awaiting a food catastrophe the like that would drastically change world food sources and supply, and including who gets to eat and who goes hungry. Crops the bees pollinate are also needed as inputs in other industries like the clothing industry.

The mystery of the decline is solved.

The problem is manifold. First, bees are in serious decline. This situation has been referred to as “colony collapse disorder.” Male adult bees are rapidly dying off or deserting their queen, thereby weakening the chances of the survival of the colony. In addition to that, human manipulation has put the lives of these bees at risk. Pesticides have been found in wax samples, some like neonicotinoids, have been identified as posing a danger to the bees and their ability to carry out pollination. Furthermore, habitat destruction and fragmentation as a result of land development and the spread of monoculture agriculture makes the diverse natural food supply that pollinators need scarcer and more expensive. The planting of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops may also be responsible for poisoning bees and weakening their immune systems when these crops contain toxic insecticides within their genetic structure. A Nigerian agriculturist, Mr. Victor Obi, made a note that bee life cycles are being upset. How does this translate to your income and food supplies? In euro terms, about 153 billion euros would be lost worldwide if bees cannot carry out their pollination activities.

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This represents, at 2005 estimates, 9.5% of the value of world agricultural production that humans use as food. Food that are highly at risk are fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee and cocoa. The loss to you as a consumer, that is, what we all stand to lose if nothing is done to stem this rapid bee decline will, in euro terms, amount to between 190 and 310 billion euros in 2005 terms . Not only are widespread global agricultural catastrophe being awaited, but it would overturn and be a huge economic shock to so many economies in the world.

A laudable project you can partake in.

It is important then that this trend be well reported and monitored. It is as much of serious concern as climate change given the figures involved. That is why a lead organizer of an annual bee population counting program, “Great Sunflower Project”, Professor of Biology Gretchen LeBuhn, in a United Nations-sponsored study, is undertaking bee population counting projects in 200 locations worldwide. These projects are to serve as early warning signals that could help agriculturists and conservationists, understand the problem of declining bee populations. And the cost? Just a meager $2 million dollars. Designed to be simple, repeatable, inexpensive and quick to detect bee population declines, compared with the potential economic losses the world faces, the estimated costs for employing international sample sites scaled to fit regional monitoring needs is little change. You can join the Great Sunflower Project if you think you can help the world understand why bee populations are declining.

Solutions before the end comes

Counting and monitoring bee populations could be one solution to solving the problem. Another is also creating bee-friendly seed mixtures. You know, bees are specialized pollinators. That is, they are choosy about crops they pollinate. These seed mixtures aim to attract bees naturally to plants needing their assistance. Another approach would be for beekeepers to stay abreast of the news related to the industry, especially as it pertains to shipping bees to areas where they are needed for commercial pollination, staying clear of harmful pesticides and herbicides etcetera. The rapid decline in bee population is nature’s way of telling us that environmental conditions are seriously declining. Present human breeding practices and the use of deadly toxins should be rethought. Either we will eventually learn to live with less choices in food supply if this trend is not checked, or millions of persons will not find food reaching them for survival, or both. That is why we have to join the fight against bees decline now. You can show your support by visiting the Great Sunflower Project website now!
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