‘To bee or not to bee,’ that is the question I mummer to myself whenever I look up and focus upon an expensive bottle of organic honey, which is beckoning me to buy it from the colorful supermarket shelf in these great Pakistani days of the expensive price rise. I walk on down the aisle without adopting it, bearing the two seconds of weepy guilt which is written all over my face at that time.
Recently I was honey shopping with a dear friend and the above ‘mummer’ unwittingly released itself again with an amount of sadness, to which she impatiently said, “you’re not Shakespeare, so please decide on the honey you want to buy so that we can get out of here and get a coffee!” I quickly came back into reality and offensively defended my ‘to bee or not to bee’ mummer; by telling her that I am also ‘not’ a rocket scientist, but that the ‘great scientist’ Albert Einstein has quoted in the year of 1965 that “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
This is indeed a worrying thought for many of us who are solution-based individuals, but the reality is that one of the reasons for the decline of the bee is global warming. This is due to the unseasonal rains, along with the rising in temperatures which then damage the ‘honey time of year’ for the bees in Pakistan. The other reason some may argue for the bees decline is an increase in insecticide use which is not helping the cause, and some farmers have been targeted as major culprits in the demise of the honey bee population. On the other hand, there are also fears that agriculture itself is suffering because of the loss of bees; as the sustainability of the insect is a serious issue and has caused some concern in a demise of honey production. This demise is also effecting the income and employment of local communities in the dedicated honey areas of Pakistan.
On a global level and according to ‘Greenpeace’, Biologists have found more than 150 different chemical residues in bee pollen, a deadly “pesticide cocktail” according to University of California apiculturist Eric Mussen. The chemical companies shrug their shoulders at the systemic complexity, as if the mystery were too complicated. They advocate no change in pesticide policy. After all, selling poisons to the world’s farmers is profitable.
Furthermore, the wild bee habitat shrinks every year as industrial agribusiness converts grasslands and forest into mono-culture farms, which are then contaminated with pesticides. To reverse the world bee decline, we need to fix our dysfunctional and destructive agricultural system.
‘Give me some good news’ I hear you ask, but before we move to a hopeful solution for this grave problem in this ever complex and busy world of ours, it is important to remind ourselves, just in case it has skipped our mind, the actual importance to our lives which attributed by the generosity of the selfless bees.
Therefore, let me tell you that the honey bees can be wild and domestic. They perform about 80 percent of all pollination worldwide, which means that a single bee colony can pollinate 300 million flowers each day. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind, but fruits, nuts and vegetables are pollinated by the hard working bees. In short, you would be pleasantly surprised to know that seventy out of the top 100 human food crops supply about 90 percent of the world’s nutrition, which are pollinated by the bees.
After this amazing piece of continual hard work and generosity, it is incumbent upon us to find solutions that may save the bees from extinction. In fact common sense actions can help to restore and protect the world’s bees. Here’s a strong start:
- Ban the seven most dangerous pesticides
- Protect pollinator health by preserving wild habitat.
- Restore ecological agriculture.
Ecological farming is the overarching new policy trend that will stabilize human food production, preserve wild habitats, and protect the bees. The nation of Bhutan has led the world in adopting a 100 percent organic farming policy. Mexico has banned genetically modified corn to protect its native corn varieties. Eight European countries have banned genetically modified crops and Hungary has burned more than 1,000 acres of corn contaminated with genetically modified varieties.
Ecological, organic farming is nothing new. It is the way most farming has been done throughout human history. Ecological farming restores soil nutrients with natural composting systems, avoids soil loss from wind and water erosion, and avoids pesticides and chemical fertilizers. It also takes advantage of the natural ecosystem services, water filtration, pollination, oxygen production, and disease and pest control.
Let us wholeheartedly think about the plight of the bees as this also relates to human survival.