For my op-ed, I wanted to provide my opinion on colony collapse disorder because it has garnered so much attention from the media in recent years. When I first learned about this issue, I felt as if many people had voiced their concerns about the consequences of bee declines. However, I felt that there was very few people mentioned possible solutions to these problems. In my article, I wanted to examine these potential solutions, especially in light of recent events regarding Trump’s administrative decisions.
Protect Pollinators, Don’t Ignore Them
It has been more than 10 years since colony collapse disorder (CCD), a global crisis threatening bee populations, first garnered the attention of scientists and the media as a pressing and serious issue. Yet, very little has been done to resolve it. In fact, instead of reducing the number of bees that die from CCD, the number has consistently grown each year.
As the media attention regarding this issue has grown, it is almost as if Americans have tried harder to ignore it. This should stop now. To prevent further degradation of our agricultural systems, the U.S. needs to take action and stop this issue in its tracks. It is necessary for our nation to regulate the use of pesticides and preserve pollinator habitats.
To do so, we must consider the negative effects that refraining from action will result in. There will be impacts on our diets and the U.S. economy. These effects can be directly attributed to the actions of our past and current government administrators.
Colony collapse disorder occurs when worker bees collectively desert their queen and hive. causing them to become dysfunctional and fail. This can occur through natural causes, such as parasites like the varroa mite. However, humans can also impose these issues through pesticide poisoning and habitat fragmentation. Beekeepers in the U.S. lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies between 2015 and 2016, according to the Bee Informed Partnership.
The U.S. relies on bees to pollinate nearly one-third of the calories its consumers eat and to pollinate an even higher fraction of agricultural crops produced. Foods ranging from apples to avocados and almonds rely on pollinator processes. Thus, a loss in the diversity of food options available to us has the potential to adversely affect our health and diets.
In this sense, nearly every individual in the U.S. is directly dependent on the natural processes of pollinators through their diets. As both a country and as individuals, it would be a detriment for Americans to ignore their collapse.
On a similar note, decreasing pesticides would also be a simple method of decreasing pesticide poisoning in humans. Farmers and their families are often exposed to these chemicals through hand labor and residue. The effects of this exposure, such as birth defects, nausea and increased risk of cancer, are severe.
From an economic perspective, colony collapse disorder has already cost our agricultural industry billions of dollars in income. Pollinated crops contribute nearly 30 billion dollars to farm income in the U.S. annually, according to a Cornell University study.
Pollinators, then, are a critical component of our national income. They are especially necessary to the livelihoods of most farmers, especially poor farmers, who are disproportionately affected by a lack of agricultural biodiversity. Poor farmers are unable to find alternative sources of income in the situation that their crops fail to grow.
The U.S. has demonstrated that these effects and this issue are critical enough to evoke policy change. In June 2014, President Barack Obama established a National Pollinator Health Strategy and created the Health Pollinator Task Force. The plan included immense goals, such as bringing honey bee colony health to sustainable levels by the year 2025 and restoring at least seven million acres of land as pollinator habitat over a 5-year time span.
These goals showed promise for the protection of bee colonies. Furthermore, the U.S. government took action quickly by prohibiting the use of neonicotinoid pesticides until risk assessments were completed.
However, these ideas were not put into place until 2014. This constituted a slow start to imposing policies and regulations on farms. Few nationwide, detailed and action-oriented plans were enacted in the U.S. before then. It is critical that the U.S. acts swiftly now in order to rectify this sluggish start.
In a July 2015 article for Time Magazine, Jeremy Kerr, a professor at the University of Ottawa researching climate change and its effects on pollinators, took a similar standpoint.
“Impacts [on pollinators] are large, and they are underway,” Kerr said. “They are not just something to worry about at some vague future time.”
But instead, the U.S. government has taken a step back. In February 2017, President Donald Trump’s administration postponed a decision to list the rusty patched bumblebee as an endangered species. Listing the species as endangered would have provided federal protection to prevent the species from reaching extinction.
This is an unnecessary and unjustifiable setback. The U.S. needs to revoke this decision and this attitude now.
Americans should examine pesticide spraying plans. We should impose policies that limit the use of pesticides in areas where pollinators have habitats to ensure that they are used only when necessary or not at all.
As a historical example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned DDT, a pesticide used for insect control, in the 1970s. DDT had negative health impacts on humans, and neonicotinoid pesticides have negative effects on pollinator species. Given these similarities, we should take a similar stance and ban neonicotinoids.
Likewise, it would be beneficial to create a no net-loss of pollinator habitats policy that requires pollinator habitats, such as flower gardens and grasses, to be planted nearby wherever they are damaged. Pollinators should be treated as equally as important
as livestock to farmers in regards to protection. After all, they are equally as profitable.
Bearing this information in mind, the public should not let another 10 years pass before taking action. We need defined goals and federal policies for our nation. Our next step should be to work with farmers and prevent President Donald Trump’s administration from doing any further damage to pollinators.
Read my bibliography for this assignment by clicking here . Learn more about this topic through my feature story and podcast . To learn more about colony collapse disorder, watch this TED Talk by Marla Spivak, an entomologist who studies insects: