Industry’s war on nature: ‘What are the bees telling us?’

By Rady Ananda

While industries continue to pollute the planet with their toxic chemicals, toxic waste and toxic spills, Earth’s pollinators sing a swan song that leaves no doubt as to the folly of modern civilization. Our ability to hear and appropriately respond to the crisis of declining pollinators will determine humanity’s survival.

“In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist, philosopher and social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse.” Queen of the Sun

Steiner believed the industrialization of bees would lead to their demise. It looks like he was right. In recent years, the United States has lost between 100 and 300 billion bees, and the problem has spread to Europe and beyond. While industrialized beekeeping operations do kill millions of bees each year, several other factors contribute to their massive die-off.

Pollinators are further sickened by lack of a diverse diet from the tens of millions of monoculture acres. By ingesting genetically modified crops, pollinators also ingest GM microbes, to their detriment. By and far, though, agrochemicals contribute most to pollinator decimation. In a last ditch effort to save the hive, some bees seal off hive cells that contain inordinate amounts of pesticide. But even these hives eventually die.

Bolstering industry’s multi-factor assault on nature, the ubiquitous communications industry adds electromagnetic pollution, causing bees (and birds) to lose their ability to navigate. Taking advantage of weakened, disoriented bees, exotic pathogens like the Varroa mite, imported via globalized trade, suck the remaining life out of them. And, so, we see the collapse of the honeybee and North American bats.

Much of this we learn in Taggart Siegel’s part philosophical love story, part documentary, Queen of the Sun: What are the bees telling us? Theatrically released on March 25, the award-winning film is further supported by a newly released report from the United Nations Environment Programme, Global Bee Colony Disorders and other Threats to Insect Pollinators.

A sure way to collapse an ecosystem is to decimate a keystone species – one from which the entire localized web of life radiates. Pollinators contribute nearly ten percent to the global food economy, or about $218 billion USD (€153 billion) a year. Of the 100 or so crop species that provide 90% of the world’s food, bees pollinate 71 of them, according to UNEP’s report. Among the 20,000 known bee species worldwide, the honeybee, Apis mellifera, is most important, contributing between $33 and $82 billion annually (€22.8 to €57 billion).

So while we are witnessing the planet’s sixth extinction spasm (popularly detailed in Ed Wilson’s The Diversity of Life), it is the bee that garners our deserved attention.

“Bees are the legs of plants,” Michael Pollan explains in Queen of the Sun. They co-evolved so that the sessile organism feeds the aerial one in exchange for propagation. That mutualism supports much of life today. Without pollinators, crops will collapse. As crops collapse, myriads of species, including humans, will starve.

The collapse of flowering plants will initiate a chain reaction dying that can easily lead to the end of the Age of Mammals. This would be similar to the end of the Age of Dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. The “terrible lizards” will have outlasted us by 100 million years. Only about half of all species survived that last extinction spasm – notably alligators and crocodiles. But human survival is hardly guaranteed if 40% of our food sources vanish. While gators and crocs can go a year or more without eating – and this survival mechanism vastly contributes to the species’ longevity – humans cannot.

The UNEP report lists eight reasons for colony collapse disorder: Habitat destruction, invasive species (like the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor), air pollution, electromagnetic pollution, pesticides and other chemical pollution, industrial transport, colony splitting, and diet. The report does not mention genetically engineered crops as a contributing factor to bee decline, but does attack monocultures:

“It is increasingly difficult for pollinators to obtain sufficient pollen sources for all their essential amino acids. Consequently, this can weaken the insects’ immune system, making them more vulnerable to various pathogens.”

In Queen of the Sun, several speakers have no doubt that GM crops kill bees. When plants are genetically altered (via a crude gun method), the process is so unreliable that only one out of thousands of cells transmutes. Dr Vandana Shiva explains that, because of this, antibiotic resistant genes and viral promoters have to be added. “Every genetically engineered seed is a bundle of bacteria, toxins, and viral promoters.”

These GM bacteria, toxins, and viral promoters are transferred into our gut (and that of bees), where they continue to function within the host. Only now, we’re the host. The bee is the host. And bees aren’t doing so well. Science has shown that high fructose corn syrup, a GM product fed to bees, inhibits genetic expression of immunity and detox functions.

Queen of the Sun highlights the delicate balance among the various members of an ecosystem, making the point that genetic integrity is required for the system to work. In order for the bee (or the flowering plant) to be the best at what it does, its DNA must remain intact.

Both the film and the UNEP report leave no doubt that the collapse of pollinators is the most urgent problem facing humanity today. Both make several suggestions to agribusiness and individuals, including: Stop (or greatly slow) the use of pesticides, grow bee friendly crops, buy organic, provide habitat and fresh water, and become a sustainable beekeeper. The UNEP report notes that pollinator conservation efforts should also plan nursery habitats, since the requirements of larval stages differ from winged adults.

Given that bee and bat decline is most severe in the United States, which has the longest history of deploying GM crops and which uses more agrochemicals than any other nation, the culprit seems pretty obvious. The top six agrochemical companies, Syngenta, Bayer CropScience, BASF, Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences, and DuPont, also spread genetically modified crops.

Pollinators are keeping score of the corporate war on nature. They are telling us that pesticides, biotechnology, and cell phones are winning. The tragedy is that when pollinators go, so will flowering plants and, likely, the Age of Mammals.

Check here for a list of upcoming screenings and see this list of 10 things you can do to help bees.

Rady Ananda holds a B.S. in Natural Resources and administers the sites, Food Freedom and COTO Report.

11 responses to “Industry’s war on nature: ‘What are the bees telling us?’

  1. Good article; How does the saying go, The meek shall inherit the earth. The eggheads that run the show think they can out maneuver the Creator meanwhile they don’t have a clue of the rules. I detect incompetence.

  2. I am so excited because our local Biodynamic Steiner farm is showing Queen of the Sun on May 6. We’ll be there.

    @ Verity: You detect incompetence, I detect impotence! (with a capital “i”).

  3. Thank you Rady,

    Very good article we living not more in the year 0 or in the year 1900 we are now in the year 2011 and know that politcians did allowed in the year 1970 in the USA the pesticide Roundup (et al) with Glyphosate where all next Generations find the Metabolite of AMPA in the air, the water, the soil, the groundwater- and drinkwater but also in our food for Humans, their animals, birds, insects, amfibians, fish, seeds, plants, bush trees. T o bad that Consumers must pay for Toxic Chemicals in the air, the food, the wine and drinkwater. To bad that Farmers will produce Toxic Products that Sprayers poisoning everything, to bad that Politians and the most of our 194 Governments and their Presidents, Kings, Queens, Emperors, Dictators and Despots allow this Crime. Good that USA President Mr. Barack Obama did given orders to the “Bio-Ethical-Issues Commission in Washington where Mrs. Amy Gutmann is the Commission Chair did become also from me in another Continent-Europe in the Netherlands good details March 04, 05 and 15, 2011 but the answer is perhaps to difficult.
    Glyphosate deliver: Glycine, Seatmeel, Clair-Albumen and Sugars this is bad for all our Pollinators the Birds, Bats, Insects and all other life on this planet the Earht.
    My last experiment with 32 Beecolonies let me see…….They need us Humans in the most case all circa 9.640.719 Beekeepers when they STOP with their ‘hobby or for some their profession’ we will see soon all Humans will become Hunger. Must we Beecolonies feed with Beet- and or Cane Sugar with ‘Glyphosate’ ? Can we given Beeproducts as Pollen-Honey-Propolis-Royal Jelly-Bee Wax or Bee Venom for FREE or sell contaminated this Beeproducts to Consumers? Yes we must support all Beekeepers we can’t loose them and their Beecolonies but write as Beekeeper it is a tricky hobby because Beekeepers breathe by nose, mouth, skin ‘Toxic Chemicals’ and some they can given the illness up to Cancer. My reason to use not Beeproducts and let all what they find allone for the Beecolonies and see this is from bad quality and quantity in my Environment I hope the most Beekeepers find a better safe-clean Environment. The will come that we Humans make our Pollinators infertile-sterile and we must start with pollinate flowers on plants, bush and trees by hand. With now more as 6.900.000.000 Citizens and their animals they will become ‘Hunger’ when we can’t STOP GMO’s Seeds-Plants-Bush and Trees with their Toxic Chemicals.

    Best regards,
    Hans van den Broek

  4. right on, Hans ~ thank you for your comment.

    If you no longer keep bees, maybe you could just plant bee-friendly flowers and leave some water out for them.


    ~ Rady

  5. Excellent.

    I was just thinking about a story I heard recently about honey they found in a tomb that was over 3,000-years old and was perfectly eatable. Honey is the only food they know of that seems to last nearly forever. The perfect food. And it made me think about exactly what your article reports about.

    I’m starting to lose faith that perhaps even if we were to stop the insanity, that if we haven’t already passed the point of no return. Not that nature won’t go on, but in what capacity if indeed we have managed to shot ourselves in the head? Will it be in the end a world inhabited by radio-active spider-goats?

    On an up note. I have noticed more bees here this spring than I’ve seen over the past 3-years.

    • yes,! I just saw that story about 3,000-yr-old honey… on some TV show.

      I just got ahold of “really raw” honey — it even had the wax in it … They just scooped out a chunk; did not filter it or heat it or twirl it. Man is it good. And I hear that really raw honey has medicinal properties… I dunno, but I’m eating a teaspoon a day.

      but, yeah, between nuclear radiation and industrial pollution, I’m thinking we’re pretty much goners. I’m hoping that any humans who do survive the next century are NOT the rich. Those are the psychopaths (and their parents and grandparents) who got us into this mess in the first place. Humans don’t have a chance if only they survive. They’ll just do it all over again.

      I’m hoping that some tribes survive

  6. Speaking of psychopaths. If I had to say to Prince Phillips remark to re-incarnating as the virus that takes mankind out.
    I have only one thing to say.
    Your kinds already a parasite on humanity.
    Doesn’t seem virus is much of a step.

  7. Written in 1969

    Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
    News had just come over, we had five years left to crying
    News guy wept and told us, Earth was really dying
    Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying
    I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
    I saw boys, toys electric irons and T.V.’s
    My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
    I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
    And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
    And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
    I never thought I’d need so many people

    A girl my age went off her head, hit some tiny children
    If the blacks hadn’t a-pulled her off, I think she would have killed them
    A soldier with a broken arm, fixed his stare to the wheels of a Cadillac
    A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest, and a queer threw up at the sight of that

    I think I saw you in an ice cream parlour, drinking milk shakes cold and long
    Smiling and waving and looking so fine, don’t think
    you knew you were in this song
    And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor
    And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there
    Your face, your race, the way that you talk
    I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk

    We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
    Five years, what a surprise
    We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
    Five years, that’s all we’ve got
    We’ve got five years, what a surprise
    Five years, stuck on my eyes
    We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
    Five years, that’s all we’ve got
    We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
    Five years, what a surprise
    We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
    Five years, that’s all we’ve got
    We’ve got five years, what a surprise
    We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
    We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
    Five years, that’s all we’ve got
    Five years
    Five years
    Five years
    Five years

  8. but don’t give up:

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