I am writing in reply to Roy Exum's opinion piece from March 21, entitled "Bring the Bees Back." I agree with Mr. Exum that it’s a wonderful idea to plant wildflower seeds and do everything we can to save the bee population, but I take issue with categorizing the General Mills program as a “glorious campaign.” The truth is that unless the giant multinational food and agribusiness corporations, like General Mills, change their approach to farming and food production by using mass quantities of deadly herbicides and pesticides, the devastating loss of bees and their colonies will likely continue. Keep in mind that it has been estimated that if bees were to completely die off, we would have about three years left before human life would become unsustainable.
“Herbicide” is the acceptable word for “plant killer,” which is what it means. Many modern herbicides basically kill all plant life they come into contact with, so much so that a food crop’s DNA has to be genetically modified so the poison won’t kill it too. Do we really believe that we can dump billions of gallons of this kind of poison on our crops and not have any negative effects on other forms of life?
The agribusiness companies deny that they are harming bees or the environment in general, and they have funded millions of dollars of research to “prove” it. However, there is a lot of independent research that says otherwise. One of the most commonly used herbicides, glyphosate (popularly known as Roundup), has been shown to have many negative effects on bee populations, harming their ability to track and find food, learn, smell, and remember. It is thought that the reason that bees who have been exposed to glyphosate have higher frequencies of Colony Collapse Disorder is because they can’t remember how to get back to their hive. The bees who do return to the hive have been found to poison the rest of the colony and harm its ability to function. Glyphosate (and other herbicides and pesticides) also weaken the bees’ immune systems, which make them much more susceptible to bee viruses, another major cause of bee population loss.
When you look at the research on the effects of pesticides on bee populations, the picture gets even worse. Several widely used insecticides have been shown to have devastating effects on bees, not only at the site of application, but also in neighboring areas, tainting the pollen of other plants – including wildflowers.
So, although I am glad that General Mills is giving away wildflower seeds, I find it more hypocritical than glorious. It’s a bit like a dictator committing genocide on his own people, and then initiating a food stamp program for the survivors because he’s afraid there might not be enough people left to even have a country to rule.