How Industrial Farming is Killing Bees and Our Food Supply
Is it scary if an episode of black mirror becomes reality? More than sixty percent of the American honeybee population has died during within ten years. If the bees continue to die at the current rate, we might need these robotic bees soon.
Three out of four crops around the world relies on bees to pollinate.
To put it in perspective, each year California need more than two million bee colonies for the almond industry alone.
If this trend continues, we will see a big price surge fresh produce like apple, blueberries, and avocado and the end of food supply as we know it.
For the past few years, we lose on average 40 percent of the bee population each year, a 25 point jump since 2004,
So why are bees dying?
This is Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian writer who predicted the situation we are in in 1921.
He predicted in 80 to 100 years, there would be a major crisis, due to artificial breeding in the bee industry
Since the beginning of the 20th century, we start to get better at engineering and industrializing our food industry, and the one thing industrial farming really against is diversity.
The focus is to develop a high yield, low maintenance monoculture product for easy management. And that makes the crop vulnerable.
We’ve seen it in banana, wheat, quinoa. When diversity gives in to market economy
The banana industry is set up as the biggest monoculture in the world. However, when Panama disease came, we had no answer for it.
The banana your grandparents ate are commercially extinct. We got lucky when we happen to find a new banana string to replace it but at a huge cost.
The same goes for bees, despite there are over 240 different kinds of bees, we picked the one that makes the most honey.
Today, western honey bee is dominating species for pollination and honey production. So when these bees started to die for mysterious causes in mass. We are in real trouble.
Starting in 2005, beekeepers started to notice a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder among western honey bees.
The worker bees would abandon the queen and simply disappear.
However, there’s no consensus why they suddenly starts to die. Pesticide could play a large role.
In Southwest China, a combination of air pollution and heave fertilisation made wild bees so rare farmers resort to pollination by hands.
The same thing happens in the U.S. where farmers rent bees at over 350 dollars per hive in california for their crops.
95% of corn crops in the world uses pesticide containing Neonicotinoids. A substance known to kill bees.
The European Union banned the use of neonicotinoid in 2018, but the problem seem to persist.
Theres also a problem with mites, who squat in beehives and slowly takes over.
If the trend continues, what can we do to replace it?
Scientist at Harvard university developed a robotic bee that could survive in water, and most importantly pollinate.
Robobees are powered by artificial muscle. But this project has been going for at least 7 years, and it doesn’t look like it will finish anytime soon.
Scientists in Japan tries to take a short cut by using cheap drones and coding to do the pollinating. Walmart even came up with a pattern trying to get a head start on artificial bees.
A real bee hive can pollinate 8 million plants while producing one pound of honey. Robotic bee would have a hard time replacing 10 of billions of bees we need each year.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, we are constantly reminded the survival of humanity is hanging on a thread. As for our bee problem, we need to come up with a solution, and we need it soon.