About one-third of the human diet comes from plants that rely on insect pollinators. Honeybees especially seem to be of great importance. They are responsible for pollinating 80 percent of our crops. For years, we have seen a vast decline in honeybee numbers, putting our food chain at great risk. The main culprit seems to be the extensive use of a specific class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. Under today’s conventional farming systems, insects and herbs are expendable.
The Organic Center released a report which details the current threats to pollinators. The report reveals several organic farming practices that support the health of honeybees and other pollinators while encouraging an agricultural system that respects the balance of nature. These pollinator-friendly farming techniques can be used on both organic farms and conventional farms to save the bees and the butterflies from extinction.
“Our paper takes an in-depth look at the challenges faced by honey bees and other pollinators, and we look at organic as a model for supporting pollinator populations,” said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. “We hope this report acts as a tool to educate policymakers, growers and consumers. Bee-friendly practices being used by organic farmers can be adopted by all producers to foster healthy pollinators.”
When farming practices disregard the health of nature’s pollinators, then farming starts defeating its own purpose, committing agricultural suicide over time. Honeybee populations have dropped by over a third since 2006. This is a significant concern, especially when three-quarters of all food crops rely on pollinators. The US produces $16 billion annually in pollinator crops like berries, apples, carrots, onions and other vegetables. If the honey bee population continues to dwindle, the most healthy grocery store foods could one day cease to exist. One day, all the diversity could be replaced by rolling fields of select corporation-owned genetically modified crops.
It’s easy to see why pollinators are dying off. Their natural habitat of wildflowers and herbs is being replaced by sweeping fields of pesticide-saturated GMO crops. These pesticide chemicals are affecting the bees’ nervous and immune systems, making them more susceptible to parasitic infections. Dr. Jessica Shade of The Organic Center said:
“Organic farming supports all of agriculture by maintaining and nourishing healthier pollinator communities, through practices such as crop rotations, hedgerow planting and the use of integrated pest management techniques. Our goal is to gain recognition for these important organic practices.”
Industrial agriculture uses insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides liberally without investigating the scientific impact that these chemicals have on soil microbes, water quality, pollinator health or entire ecosystem shifts. For example, an insecticide class known as neonicotinoids is used as both a spray and as a seed coating. These pervasive applications transfer into the crops and end up in the plant’s nectar, poisoning the bees. Instead of poisoning the plant, the bee and the soil microbes, farmers can use organic integrated pest management techniques that control pests while also considering the health of ecosystem in the process.
Organic farming techniques also exclude herbicides. Less herbicide means more wildflowers. These wild flowering plants provide a diverse habitat for pollinators to thrive. Organic farming improves these natural resources, protecting the bees’ native habitat. The biodiversity provides sufficient pollen for the bees to build stronger and more robust hives.
“One of the simplest ways to conserve our pollinator populations in an agriculturally reliant world is through organic farming. Consumers can rest assured that every time they purchase an organic product, they are supporting pollinator health,” said Shade.