Originally this blog post was going to ask how America can catch up with our European Partners, who are going to great lengths to save their pollinators. In Britain, officials are making moves to create a “superhighway” of wildflowers and natural undergrowth for bees and other insects. In Sweden scientists at the Lund University have discovered that lactic acid and bacteria from the stomachs of healthy bees can help heal bees who are affected by the many issues that make up Colony Collapse Disorder.
The European Union has also taken swift steps to enact a controversial two year ban on the neonicotinoid class of pesticides. While many are hailing this as a major leap for bee-kind, the legislation has harsh critics who claim that Europe’s agriculture will suffer massive losses without their strongest pesticides and may turn to even harsher chemicals to protect their crops. Should we be falling for this worst-case-scenario mentality? Should we believe that humans simply cannot survive without chemicals in our foods? After checking out these claims, it does seem true that if we were to suddenly discontinue all pesticides, even just neonics, our global crop yields would drop- at least for the first year or few.
However, despite a consistent lack of funding for it, there is a growing body of research to suggest that in the long run, crop yields of organic farms can be as productive and healthy as conventional methods. In a study of organic versus conventional crop yield the USDA reports that, “In general, organic soils are showing enhanced soil function, greater nutrient use efficiency, more labile nitrogen and cations and higher carbon sequestration. Organic soils are more efficient at supplying nitrogen to growing crops than conventional soils that have conventional fertilizers applied. This is due to extended rotations, legumes, cover crops and application of compost.”
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development also recently released a report on the state of the world’s food that “makes a lengthy case for organic, low-input, small-scale agriculture as the best means for not only feeding the world, but for also managing the stresses of drought, rain and other catastrophic weather brought on by climate change.”
So this blog post has less to do with an imaginary race between continents to save bees and lives. It has more to do with remembering not to get wrapped up in the pessimism and hopelessness of the uphill battle to save the world. It is important in times of uncertainty and change that we look to beacons of hope like the UN Conference and Lund University, instead of the people and institutions who seek to make us fearful about the food and animals we have lived with for millennia. We do not need to rely on a man-made chemical support system to thrive along with our pollinators and insects, we need simply to trust and work with our technology and environment as a community so that we may all find a truly sustainable niche!