Addressing Colony Collapse Disorder

Colony Collapse Disorder is a worldwide phenomenon that has been dramatically increasing in scale since 2006 and entails a significant decrease in the population of honeybees, one of the major building blocks of our ecosystem. Before taking a look at the role of legislation and government in addressing this crisis, it is first important to understand why honeybees are necessary and vital to agriculture and food supply. Three-quarters of the world’s flowering plants require pollination in order to procreate. Many of these plants include important fruits and vegetables that we eat. More specifically, one-third of the crop species in the United States depends on honeybees to pollinate. These crops include apples, nuts, soybeans, celery, peaches, kiwi, strawberries, and also clover, a crop that is given as food to dairy cows. Honeybees as pollinators are the most valuable compared to every other pollinator of crops globally. They are valued to be 15 to 20 billion dollars per year.

An indicator that Colony Collapse Disorder is present is when the adult worker bee population has abandoned the hive, leaving behind honey, pollen, the queen bee, and even worker bees. Mysteriously enough, the population is not found dead around the hive, but has plainly disappeared. What is even more interesting is that other insects in the area do not use the abandoned, bountiful hive as a source of food. Colony collapse Disorder was first coined as a phenomenon in 2006 when an unprecedented number of colony losses occurred. It began in the East Coast and soon was found in the West Coast. Now, more than half of the nation’s fifty states have been affected and are being affected at an increasing scale. In 2009, the general honeybee loss rate due to Colony Collapse Disorder was 29 percent, while in 2010, the loss rate was 34 percent. Colony Collapse Disorder has been reported internationally as well. There is no doubt that Colony Collapse Disorder is an emergency that our world is currently facing.

No single cause for Colony Collapse Disorder has yet been identified. Actually, researchers and scientists believe the Disorder to be a result of several causes. A very recent study has shown that a combination of a fungus and a virus has led to the death of afflicted bees. The various hypothesized causes of Colony Collapse Disorder primarily include pesticides, parasites, and environmental and nutritional stresses. Through a simple surface analysis, it is clear to see that these causes are linked to an industry goal of profit maximization through exploitative and utilitarian methods that increase profit at the lowest possible cost. This is the root problem that must be addressed when trying to mitigate Colony Collapse Disorder.

So far, the Federal government has tackled the Disorder in an Action Plan developed by the USDA, which focuses on research, prevention, and awareness. The Government has also incorporated the importance of pollinator protection in the 2008 Farm Bill, which classifies it as “high priority research” and calls for grants and research to improve the health of honeybees. Although both of these actions try to address the crisis of Colony Collapse Disorder, their demands are more idealistic and rhetorical than anything else. To be more effective and efficient, federal and local governments should call for good honeybee health through natural, local, and organic methods. This solution goes against the negative impacts of conventional beekeeping and thus creates a strong foundation for fighting against honeybee commoditization, which is leading to Colony Collapse Disorder.

Both federal and local governments must implement drastic legal solutions in order to address the underlying theme that is present within each hypothesized cause of Colony Collapse Disorder. In particular, the federal government should encourage organic and local farming by reallocating its farming subsidies and local governments should simultaneously work towards creatively incentivizing local, organic farming through its laws. From 1995 to 2009, the top ten percent of farm program recipients were given 74 percent of all farm subsidies for each year.  According to Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation, this funding has in effect allowed for large farms to buy out small farms and thus further consolidate the agriculture industry. If more money were given towards conservation programs and local and organic farming, causes such as pesticides—which are minimized in organic farming, and environmental and nutritional stresses—which are fueled by migratory beekeeping and monocropping practices, would diminish.

Local incentives can have a profound impact towards the mitigation of Colony Collapse Disorder by encouraging organic local farming through tax rebates and mandates that available food is from each given state. It is important for local governments to take such aggressive action in opposition to Colony Collapse Disorder because it would be more difficult to implement these incentives at a federal level as each state has different resources and abilities.  When combined with the reallocation of federal government subsidies, a new way of beekeeping that remains local and organic and hence minimizes the causes of Colony Collapse Disorder can be achieved.

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