Where are all the honeybees going?

I have been an advocate for supporting local honey bee producers since my parents moved my sister and me to Georgia in 1999. There is this pedestrian honey stand in Clarkesville, Georgia off of highway 197, the route that goes to my childhood home. It is one of those that uses the honor system for buying honey — put five dollars in the wooden box and take a jar from the stand. The taste was exquisite, store bought stuff paling in comparison.

One time I even remember a field trip in elementary school — I think back to third grade — where we walked to the beekeeper’s house who tended that same stand. The beekeepers were no more than a mile from my school which is why we walked there. They enlightened us kids to how honeybees operate in a day-to-day beehive, where they collect pollen for honey, and that our food that ends up on the table is thanks to honeybees. They pollenate the flowers that produce our fruits, vegetables, and animal feed for livestock, meaning honeybees are the ultimate liaison between our food supply and health.

Since about 2014, honeybee populations have been slowly declining. Furthermore, honeybees have been shown to avoid GMO, or genetically modified organism, plant flowers compared to naturally occurring and heirloom plant flowers. GMO plants exist in our food supply in various forms. Some of these common forms in the United States are wheat, corn, soy, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, apples, bananas, potatoes, and others. These GMO crop seeds are subsidized by the U.S. government, replacing non-GMO, heirloom seeds with lab-created scams. This started back in the 1970’s with farmers in the Midwest. Monsanto, a leading GMO producer, with the U.S. government coerced farmers to use their seed since it was cheaper on the market, otherwise the government would not loan much needed financial support to the farmer. The result was a majority of farmers succumbing to government subsidy due to financial strain. Monsanto later achieved government financial support in 2014, signed under the guise of the Obama Administration.

Local farming and agriculture is a practice that continues to stand against time, however, GMO crops and global imports hinder the food supply. For instance, bananas, a global GMO food crop, have been bred to be disease resistant and all one species. This species called Gros Michel is currently under a blight attack (Panama Disease) across the whole globe, threatening to wipe out the entire banana supply from the United States. Additionally, most garlic and honey products in the U.S. are imported from China. Chinese garlic is meant to be used as green garlic, but en route as an import to the U.S., it ages enough to be sold as bulb garlic in grocery stores. Honey labeled as wildflower, clover, or orange blossom may be made with rice syrup, pollen, and food additives not needed to be labeled if it originally came from China. Unless marked otherwise, money buying these products support international markets and not our local economy, and come with even more risk than buying local food.

Unintentionally supporting this mass international economy is the conscious of many individuals who shop at large grocery store chains (like Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Publix, Costco, etc.) or who live in food desert areas with small food marts, where affordable and nutritious food is scarce. In a paradoxical way, many of us give more of our income to this international food system rather than supporting their local agricultural practices. In this way, local can be defined no more than 150 miles from the source. Local indefinitely rules out major imports, but supporting local food impacts those growers and circumvents the third party seller. The United States’ food supply is complex and has more than a third party seller in between the farmer and customer. There is also storage for agriculture, ripening and other processes for some, transportation methods, and auctioning that contribute to the price of agricultural products. That spinach you are having in your salad most likely either came from a farm in California or China if you didn’t grow it yourself. Those chickens or eggs? Georgia or a Midwest state. North Carolina produces most of the pork products for the States. California tends to be the green house periannual producer in this country, producing up to 80% of all food products are grown in the State for intranational and international trade. To put this into perspective, take that same theoretical spinach salad — now take away everything but the dressing. Not really your same lunch anymore, right?

I know it seems I lost track, but bare with me. All of this is a unified circuit with honeybee pollination, the economy, and agriculture production. Bees have a symbiotic relationship with the farmers. Impeding this gossamer bond are GMO food crops, outsourced and imported crops, and mass grocery chain stores. Local farmers are struggling to preserve their archaic lifestyle while flocks gather to shop at Wal-Mart grocery to buy lab-ripened bananas and tomatoes with genetically altered DNA. Buying from local producers eliminates the need for such third party supermarkets that ultimately fill international wallets, and put that money back into the pockets of who earned it. Furthermore, local farmers don’t have a need to produce GMO food crops, meaning honeybee populations would increase with the presence of non-GMO flowers and GMO crops would no longer be “deemed necessary” for supporting agricultural production. Increased local agricultural support is required to ameliorate food deserts and food lacking communities, and is more than enough to feed any rural to urban population within 150 miles.

We all need to understand our ancient agricultural methods and to support grassroots partners invested in keeping these traditions alive. Do some research, find where you can go to a local farmer’s market or family owned farm to purchase produce and honey from the source. Farmers use their own finances to transport goods from the farm to the next location, so most are willing to offer discounts for purchases from their location. If you don’t want to support an international economy and GMO food supply, then make effort and support your local agriculture to save the bees!

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