with dying bees bring in farming heavyweights
ST. LOUIS (AP)
-- One of every three bites of food we consume depends
on polination by honeybees, but these overlooked contributers to our
food system are continuing
to die in stubbornly
Beekeeping groups have held exhaustive conferences. Researchers have
forces. The U.S.
Department of Agriculture has
contributed some of its streached resources to tracking down the cause
myserious deaths, and in a
month, delivered a
frustratingly complex answer. Many factors may be responsible, from
agricultural and chemical heavyweights are getting into the mix.
Monsanto Co. which two years ago bought an Israeli bee
conference on bee health at its headquarters
in Creve Coeur this month. Bayer CorpScience is building
health center" in North Carolina, and with
fellow chemical giant, Syngenta, has developed a "comprehensive
industry has always crawled on its hands and knees to
USDA and universities, begging for help," said Jerry Hayes,
a bee industry veteran
hired by Monsanto
to run its bee research
efforts. "Now we have this very large company involved that
knows how important bees
are to agriculture."
And to the bottom
Bees pollinate up to $20 billion in American
agricultural crops, a number that gets the attention of the industry.
one, owns Seminis, the country's largest fruit and
vegatable seed producer -- and many of those seeds depend on bees.
Monsanto and its
rivals have a financial interest in
developing a marketable cure that has so far remained elusive.
researchers, and now the private sector, puzzle over the issue,
some scientist and enviormental groups are pointing to a major culprit.
companies working for solutions, they contend, are a main
cause of bee deaths in the first place.
beekeepers started noticing that bees were abandoning their
hives, a phenomenon scientists dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder. Since
then, the American bee
population has dropped by an average of 30
percent every year, sending researchers, beekeepers and farmers into a
head-sctratching frenzy to
figure out the cause.
somewhat narrowly, the disorder is being blamed on
mites and viruses. More broadly, researchers say, it's a symptom of an
agricultural system that
relies too heavily on
monocultures, including the vast swaths of corn and soy beans in the
historically, have not foraged on these crops for food, the
widespread presence of single crops means fewer dinning options for the
-- and that could be leading to weakened immune systems.