By Jerry Hayes
Honey Bee Health Lead
Today marks the start of National Pollinator Week, an international celebration of the valuable service provided to us by bees, birds, bats and beetles. We depend on these pollinators for about one-third of the food we eat, including fruit, vegetables and nuts, so they’re well-deserving of our attention and support.
The honey bee in particular needs our help, with a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder reducing bee numbers, and health of bee populations declining overall in recent years. Monsanto and others have made important strides over the past year in helping to identify causes of these issues and researching potential solutions.
Last June, Monsanto hosted the Honey Bee Health Summit at our St. Louis campus. This symposium, co-hosted by Project Apis m. (PAm)and the Honey Bee Advisory Council (HBAC), brought together leading beekeeping and agriculture industry experts with a goal of better understanding and addressing the complex challenges facing beekeepers.
The event succeeded in helping us map out a clear path forward (learn more here), but also in establishing ongoing dialogues between experts who hadn’t always been collaborating previously. Many of these partners had not worked together before, and some were initially hesitant to work with Monsanto based on what they had heard about the company.
But ultimately, an important coalition came together to focus on this pressing issue. Over the course of three days, summit participants networked with others in the industry, heard presentations by leading bee researchers, and explored avenues for collaboration.
One year later, the collaboration has helped to drive significant progress in bee research. Through our common interests, abilities and goals, we have championed new field trials and analysis, and new efforts to address the issues facing bees. We’ve also pushed for a redirection of research focus – shifting much of our attention to the varroa mite, which most honey bee researchers believe is the primary factor in the decline of honey bees’ health.
This work has also led to Monsanto’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action on honey bee health.In support of CGI, Monsanto is lending support to four areas of focus: improving honey bee nutrition; providing research investment in new technology for varroa mite and virus control; researching the impact of pesticides and best management practices among growers and beekeepers; and supporting the economic empowerment of beekeepers.
We still have our work cut out for us in addressing the issues impacting honey bees. But we’ve come a long way in a relatively short amount of time, and we’ve established the important collaborations that will be needed to drive toward solutions. I believe we are well on our way to finding them.