By Jennifer Zmurchyk – Prairie Sky Wellness
I was recently very disturbed when I saw a new advertisement from Cheerios Canada for their ‘Bring Back The Bees‘ campaign. Now the ad itself isn’t offensive – in fact it’s a cute ‘call to action’ to plant sunflowers using free seeds provided by Cheerios as a food source for the bees to help restore the bee population. On the surface that sounds to be a commendable and socially conscious thing for the company to do, however this advertising campaign is highly misleading. In all of the studies I have read and looked at concerning colony collapse disorder in bees, not one mentions lack of food as the cause for the alarming decline of world wide bee populations. However, one thing that the studies show is linked to colony collapse in bees are the agricultural chemicals used in spraying crops such as corn and wheat – ironically two of the main ingredients in Cheerios.
Here is one of the advertisements in question for the ‘Bring Back the Bees’ campaign:
Now I do not wish to attack Cheerios. This advertising campaign is positive in the sense that it’s raising awareness around the alarming decline of bee populations. Bees are the main pollinator of 30% world’s crops and without these fuzzy little creatures, human populations of the world world would quickly run out of some of our major food sources. So the ‘Bring Back the Bees’ advertising campaign is good in the sense that awareness is being raised around the issue, however it is irresponsible for Cheerios to ignore the science and not reveal the true cause of declining bee populations in their ads.
What is bee colony collapse disorder?
According to Pollenity:
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), first identified in 2006, occurs when the vast majority of bees in any given colony — generally worker bees — die out unexpectedly. Because the queen bee needs the nectar provided by these workers to nurse new bees, ultimately the entire colony collapses. Since its emergence, CCD has remained a major threat to the agricultural industry as a whole.
Why is this alarming? Not all food crops require insect pollination, major ones such as corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans are self pollinating or wind pollinated. However, almost all of the fruits and vegetables that we eat worldwide require pollination by insects with bees being the major ones to do so. Such foods include:
What are the causes of bee colony collapse disorder?
Though there are many factors thought to cause colony collapse disorder current research shows that the use of agri chemicals such as neonicotinoids and Monsanto’s glyphosate damages the beneficial bacteria in the guts of bees which leaves them defenseless against parasites. Glyphosate specifically found in Monsanto’s Roundup which is the most popular pesticide in the world, specifically targets the internal microbiota that bees need to grow and fight off pathogens. Recent research in China also shows that the larvae of bees exposed to glyphosate grow more slowly and die more often. The chemical also affects the cognitive functions of adult bees which makes them less able to carry out the complex tasks of maintaining a beehive.
Erick Motta University of Texas
“We demonstrated that the abundances of dominant gut microbiota species are decreased in bees exposed to glyphosate at concentrations documented in the environment,”
What can be done to preserve bee and other insect populations negatively affected by agri chemicals?
The problem of colony collapse disorder is a complex one, and the issues causing it are not only limited to bees. Recent studies show that there has been an alarming 40% decline in insect populations worldwide, and a major contributing factor is thought to be the heavy use of agricultural chemicals. So what can we do as a population to help curb these numbers?
- Avoid using pesticides and herbicides in our own backyard. These chemicals are not only harmful to insect populations, they are also toxic to pets and people. Some pesticides such as Roundup can last in the soil for up to a year after application
- Buy organic produce when possible. By supporting organic farms which do not use pesticides or herbicides on their crops, as consumers we will encourage more organic produce to be grown as our demand for it increases
- Avoid foods containing high fructose corn syrup and choose organic meats when possible. 94% of the corn grown in the US is GMO, which means the corn is modified to withstand heavy doses of Roundup which kills any other plant that it comes into contact with. Most of the beef, chicken, and pork we eat are fed with this GMO corn and high fructose corn syrup found in a large number of consumer goods is made with GMO corn as well.
- Put pressure on companies that rely on GMO crops and put pressure on Governments to ban harmful chemicals such as Roundup. In fact governments in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bermuda, and Brazil have taken the bold step to outright ban glyphosate based herbicides
- Do not vilify the farmers. Farmers are not evil people who are out to poison the environment armed with bottles of toxic chemicals. I come from a farming background myself and farmers care about the land and are in general very good protectors of it as their livelihood depends on the health of the soil they grow their crops on. However they have fallen victim like the rest of society to corporations who have convinced us that these chemicals are safe
This article is only a small representation of the major problem of why bee populations are declining. It is a large social, economic, and environmental issue where a lot more study needs to be done. Ultimately, we need to remember the power we have as consumers in this equation. If we stop supporting companies that use ingredients that are GMO or ones coming from crops sprayed with harmful chemicals, and in turn support companies that manufacture foods using organic ingredients, this will go a long way to reducing these harmful things in our environment. Insects such as bees do not live in a vacuum – all systems in nature are connected, and humans are a part of that system. When we vote with our dollar as consumers, companies pay attention. The purpose of a corporation is to make money and if we show them that we want chemical free produce and food when making our grocery purchases, they will respond by offering products that do not contain ingredients whose production is harmful to the environment.
Cheerios Bring Back the Bees: https://www.cheerios.ca/bringbackthebees/
Pollenity Colony Collapse Disorder What Is It And Why Does It Matter? https://pollenity.com/colony-collapse-disorder/
Business Insider What Would Our World Look Like Without Honey Bees? https://www.businessinsider.com/the-world-without-honeybees-2013-6
Canada Agricultural and Food Museum – Bees A Honey of an Idea: https://www.bees.techno-science.ca/english/bees/what-is-a-bee/default.php
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: Glyphosate Perturbs the Gut Microbiota of Honey Bees
Biological Conservation – Worldwide Decline of the Entomofauna: A Review of its Drivers https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320718313636
Baum Hedlund Aristei Goldman Consumer Attorneys Monsanto Roundup Lawsuit – Where is Glyphosate Banned? https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/toxic-tort-law/monsanto-roundup-lawsuit/where-is-glyphosate-banned/