Europe and the US have lost 45% of their bees.
Given that 80% of Switzerland’s crops and wild plants rely on bee pollination, there is growing concern about the continued decline of Europe’s bee populations. Greenpeace and the European Alliance to Save Bees and Agriculture maintain that excessive use of highly toxic pesticides is largely responsible. The chemical companies, notably Bayer and Syngenta, beg to differ.
Switzerland has 20,000 beekeepers with 170,000 hives, many in urban areas where declines have been less serious, even non-existent. This, they say, is because town or suburban hives are not affected by industrial pesticides. “I have had no problems but my bees roam nearby gardens, not farms, ” said one amateur beekeeper in Lausanne. It’s a different story in the countryside.
Last December, based on the European Food Safety Authority’s ruling that neonicotinoid pesticides, or neonics, pose huge risks to bees, the European Commission imposed a two-year ban on three products. Switzerland has proposed similar restrictions. Germany’s Bayer and Basel-based Syngenta have lobbied against the move, arguing that the EU’s research has shown no real evidence. Instead, factors such as loss of habitat, diseases, viruses and nutrition have caused the declines. Their PR operations say they are working with farmers to reverse the loss of bees on a sustainable basis, a claim Greenpeace considers dubious. The reality is that governments need to come up with the science to clearly explain what is causing our bee populations to die, and what needs to be done.