Diminishing Bee Populations
“Once the bees have left the earth, man will have four years left on the planet.”
The above statement is a paraphrase of a quote Albert Einstein made as he approached his death in 1955. The importance of bees' role in pollination within the food chain has been understood for quite some time. But the eeriness of this statement, made over 50 years ago, is that over the past two years many bee populations around the world have declined dramatically.
Bees pollinate vast amounts of crops, flowers and plants necessary for the food chain to flourish. Einstein may have been referring to the possibility that man may not be able to grow adequate crops to feed the world without pollination. There would also be other disruptions in the food chain as feed for farm animals would be greatly impacted, and plants in general would suffer. In many areas of the U.S. bee populations have declined by 50 percent or more [Source: Cox-Foster]. No specific cause for this drop has been identified, though infections, viruses, pollution and pesticides have all been implicated.
The loss of bees has been dubbed “colony collapse disorder.” To date, there are two popular hypotheses for this phenomenon. The first is the growing number of cellular phone towers. It is thought that the frequencies used by cell towers may disrupt the communication between bees and possibly how the bees migrate to and from the hive. Many experts fear that this issue will not be resolved because little research is being done on the safety of cellular communications. If cell towers are a problem for the bees, what problems could they pose to our children? The answer is not clear, but the public needs to be aware of the possible threat.
The second theory involves genetically modified foods. GMOs are substances that have had some alteration to their original DNA. For example, the seeds of many corn and soy plants have been modified to be resistant to certain pesticides so they can be used without harming the crop. Some researchers have voiced concerns that this area has been overlooked in regard to safety. There are arguments that GMOs may provide poor nutrition for bees or affect their life cycle. Other countries have been hesitant to allow GMOs into their food supply for these reasons. GMOs were “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, though some authors argued that there was no data to support the decision. Author Jeffrey M. Smith has written two books, Seeds of Change, and The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods, both of which explore many of the concerns with GMOs. Foods in the U.S. that do not alert the consumer of GMO use include potato chips and soy milk.
The demise of the bee is unexplained and unsettling. The safety of GMOs and electromagnetic frequencies from cellular phone towers will be very heated debates as both issues are fueled by billions of dollars. The bees work and thrive by communicating with one another as to where the flowers that need pollinated are located. One of the most important messages that we can gain from the bees now is the need to communicate the issues that may also be threatening our (and their) health and potentially existence. The demise of health care will not be fixed by some radical, partisan solution. It will require that the public be educated on what is truly needed to be healthy. The bees remind us that no matter how fast our technology grows, we are still intertwined with the governance of Mother Nature.