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Almonds, bees, and colony collapse - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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October 14th, 2007


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11:23 pm - Almonds, bees, and colony collapse
Here's a fascinating article on almond farming's relation to bee colony collapse disorder. The most shocking part of the article is here:
In describing the pollination of California almonds it's hard not to slip into superlatives: 80 percent of world almond production takes place in California, and almonds have become the country's most valuable horticultural export. In 2004, more than a billion dollars worth of California almonds were sent into the global marketplace, double the revenues from the state's wine exports. The California Almond Board has pledged to make almonds "the healthiest specialty crop in the world," pouring research money into studies that bolster enthusiastic nutritional claims about heart health and cancer prevention. But the work of pollinating this vast string of orchards - 600,000 acres between Red Bluff (Tehama County) and Bakersfield, a job that must take place over 22 days - is more than the local bees can handle. It requires importation of more than half of the all the honey bees in the United States.

Every February more than one million beehives - that's some 40 billion bees, most of them driven cross-country on the back of semi trucks - are unloaded in the cool hours of darkness between the endless rows of almond trees.
Half of all bees in the US, + (as it later describes) bees imported specifically for this purpose. The info here fits with the other reliable information I've read, and places that answer solidly in a mixture of short-sightedness, greed, economic desperation, and ultimately disease. Yet more evidence of the destructive nation of unregulated capitalism. This nation desperately needs an EPA, an FDA, and a Department of Agriculture with broad enforcement powers, strict rules, and large amounts of funding.
Current Mood: indescribableindescribable

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[User Picture]
From:rialian
Date:October 15th, 2007 06:38 am (UTC)
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This nation desperately needs an EPA, and FDA, and a Department of Agriculture with broad enforcement powers, strict rules, and large amounts of funding.

===Erm...they alreay have a lot of that....but unfortunately, you have the foxes garding the henhouse as perhaps the biggest problem. Take a look at the revolving doors in all those organizations..it is quite an education in how NOT to do things.
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 15th, 2007 06:40 am (UTC)
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What they also have is very lax rules and next to no funding for inspections.
[User Picture]
From:rialian
Date:October 15th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
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===To some degree that is a problem. Part of the problem is more in the application of the rules they have. Small producers get targeted with more enforcement than the larger producers...which is one of the things you will find with how the NAIS is being applied, and in rather a lot of the other regulations. The larger the company, the less eyes on them...which is one of the reasosn for the increase in food-borne illnesses. (Do a quick check on the the last few outbreaks, and you will find it is from large-scale companies.)
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:October 15th, 2007 07:55 am (UTC)
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Do a quick check on the the last few outbreaks, and you will find it is from large-scale companies

*nods* I know. I have also read repeatedly that the problem is that the FDA now relies upon self-policing (an foolish idea if there ever was one) by large food producers because the FDA lacks the personnel and funds to do their own checks. If that's true (and it certainly seems to be from everything I've read) then if you fund them, give them more personnel, and give them the authority to stick a large company with major fines for serious violations, then most of that problem will be solved. The damn Republicans have stripped money and personnel for the EPA, the FDA and the DofA since they got in power in 1980, and it's gotten considerably worse since 2001, which is of course why (among many other problems) there are so many more e coli outbreaks now than there were a decade ago. More often than Repubicans and libertarians are ever willing to admit, throwing money at a problem can solve it.
[User Picture]
From:mindstalk
Date:October 15th, 2007 01:09 pm (UTC)
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Actually, my friend suggested the most shocking bit was that for all the talk of crisis, 2006 was the biggest almond crop yet and 2007 is set to be bigger.
[User Picture]
From:darkoshi
Date:October 16th, 2007 12:40 am (UTC)
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This article was very interesting to read. I remember a news story I once heard about a truck which was transporting bee hives having overturned, and the bees getting out, and having to be killed. I did not realize there was such a thing as a pollination industry, and that it was so common for beehives to be transported like that.

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