How ironic is this? Bees produce the world’s most natural, healthy source of sweetness: honey. But here in the Red River Valley, bee populations have been “declared dead” by many beekeepers. (Source)
At the same time, the Red River Valley is also among the world’s largest producers of an unhealthy source of sweetness: white, refined, nutrition-free sugar processed from sugar beets.
The irony is that current policies seem to have traded the production of safe natural honey in favor of producing artificially refined sugar – the latter of which contributes to the nation’s obesity epidemic and a host of ancillary diseases– which in turn costs the public billions of dollars in health care bills.
Keep in mind that bees are also responsible for producing one-third of the nation’s food supply because of their contribution to the pollination of the millions of healthy fruits and vegetables we eat every day.
Beekeepers on the North Dakota side of the Red River have given up and moved their hives to the western areas of the state. In the meantime, Red River Valley beet farmers are making liberal use of a pesticide that has been pinpointed as a major cause of CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder.
Sold under the brand name of Poncho, this substance is known generically as clothianidin, which is produced by the German company, Bayer. It is also ironic that clothianidin is banned in Germany because of its well-understood negative impact on bees and the environment.
However, the EPA here in the United States continues to give clothiandin the green light – and to further the outrage, a recently leaked memo shows that EPA officials know that clothianidin is not safe. (Source)
The use of clothianidin and other neonicotinoids “is most worrisome,” said Jim Frazier, a professor of entomology at Penn State University. In a March 21 Associated Press story, Frazier told reporters that because this class of chemicals treat millions of acres of corn and other genetically modified plants throughout the U.S., it builds up over time in the soil, plants and trees. Frazier said clothianidin is “toxic to bees.”
Here in the Red River Valley, sugar beet farmers use clothianidin to kill mostly root maggot, which attacks sugar beet roots. The chemical is applied to beet seeds before they are drilled into the soil. It’s great for growing sugar beets which will be chemically processed to produce unhealthy white sugar – but the science is clearly showing that it’s having a devastating effect on bees. (Source)
According to the USDA, bees (and other insects) directly contributed at least $40 billion to the U.S. economy, thanks to their natural ability to pollinate the crops we grow for food.(Source) On the other hand, the product of white refined sugar costs U.S. consumers at least $2 billion per year because of trade protections for sugar enacted by Congress.
Although sugar beets have not been directly subsidized for a number of years, higher prices for sugar are passed on to consumers and candy makers who cannot buy sugar on the free market – all this to protect the profits of a small number of beet farmers, and companies like Crystal Sugar, which has been in the news the past year for locking out its workers and hiring “scabs” to save money on labor.
So what we have developed in the Red River Valley is a nutty lose-lose situation. Wealth-generating, food producing bees are being driven out in exchange for growing nutrition-free sugar which feeds no one, and which costs tax payers billions of dollars a year to boot.