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article imageVanishing Bees May Mean Still Higher Food Prices

By Bob Ewing     Jul 11, 2008 in Food
If the attempts to find out why the honey bees have disappear fail it is possible that rising food prices will climb higher still.
The phenomenon that has become best know as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) first captured public interest in 2006 when beekeepers reported losing 30 to 90 per cent of their bee hives.
What actually happened and has continued to happen is not yet known although there are a number of efforts to determine the cause.
The failure to do so and to provide a remedy may well mean that food which is already rising in price will become more expensive still.
"No bees, no crops," North Carolina grower Robert Edwards told a House Agriculture subcommittee. Edwards said he had to cut his cucumber acreage in half because of the lack of bees available to rent.
Honey bee pollination plays a major role in our food production system with approximately three-quarters of flowering plants rely on birds, bees and other pollinators to help them reproduce and pollination is responsible for $15 billion annually in crop value in the U.S.
This year beekeepers have lost 36 per cent of their managed colonies; in 2007, it was 31 per cent.
"If there are no bees, there is no way for our nation's farmers to continue to grow the high quality, nutritious foods our country relies on," said Democratic Representative Dennis Cardoza of California.
Cardoza, chairman of the horticulture and organic agriculture panel, said "this is a crisis we cannot afford to ignore."
The World bank has stated that food prices have gone up 83 per cent in three years.
"Every one of those berries owes its existence to the crazy, neurotic dancing of a honey bee from flower to flower," Edward Flanagan, who raises blueberries in Milbridge, Maine said. Flanagan is considering raising prices tenfold.
There have been several explanations offered, these include pesticides; a new parasite or pathogen; and the combination of immune-suppressing stresses such as poor nutrition, limited or contaminated water and the need to move bees long distances for pollination.
Both ice cream maker Haagen-Dazs and natural personal care products company Burt's Bees have pledged money for research and begun efforts to help save the bees.
Approximately, 40 per cent of Haagen-Dazs' 73 flavours, including banana split and chocolate peanut butter, are affected because ingredients such as almonds, cherries and strawberries rely on honey bees for pollination.
Haagen-Dazs effort is the development of a new limited-time flavour, vanilla honey bee, and will the company will use some of the proceeds for research on the disorder.
Burt's Bees has introduced Colony Collapse Disorder Lip Balm to "soften your lips while saving honeybees."
More about Honey bees, Food, Pollination