Friday, 19 February 2016

Trigger warning: good news story! Bee colonies are thriving - Bee-mageddon averted

Welcome back, li'l feller - and thanks for all the honey!
I used to consume sugar by the Tate & Lyle bagful. Not ideal behaviour for someone with Type II diabetes, but, when it comes to treating my body as a temple, I've always done a truly shoddy job. But last year - through necessity rather than choice - I decided to Mend My Ways. What started out as a temporary sort-of-paleo diet nine months ago has now become permanent, mainly thanks to the fact that what remains of my pancreas has indicated a distinct unwillingness to accommodate any backsliding towards former eating patterns. Which is Tate & Lyle's loss and Rowse Honey's gain, because, apart from a daily sprinkling of powdered D-ribose as a nutritional supplement, 90% of my extra sugar intake is in the form of honey squeezed onto Highland oatcakes or porridge. But, hang on - wasn't the world's bee population supposed to have been wiped out by Colony Collapse Disorder by now? Where's all this yummy honey coming from?

You must remember. From around 2006/7 on, the media were simply chock full of dire predictions of mass hunger - a third of all our food is dependent on pollination, and that's Mr Bee's day-job: honey-making is something he does at home to make ends meet. Now, the world's bee population did plummet as hives collapsed. What was the cause of it? Well, duh! CLIMATE CHANGE! What else would it be, stoopid? Anyhow, the situation was so bad in the United States, which has a pollinated food industry worth an annual $15Bn, that the government issued a 64-page paper last year, entitled:  National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. A classic, "We're from the government and we're here to help" initiative, because the problem had essentially already been solved - by the free market rather than  the government, you'll be astonished to hear. There are now many more beehives in the US than there were in 2006, when the problem was first documented.

If you want to know how the free market solved a very real problem, read Christopher Ingraham's article, "Call off the bee-pocalypse: U.S. honeybee colonies hit a 20-year high" from the Washington Post, 23rd July 2015. The answer turned out to be delightfully simple. The only downside was that the ongoing solution was expensive for beekeepers, so the cost of honey has pretty much doubled between 2007 and now. But at least pollination is back in full swing, which is handy, given that a third of the world's food depends on it. Phew! 

No doubt a BBC nature documentary celebrating this triumph of the free market will be airing any day now. Or maybe they're waiting until there's definitive proof that the original problem was due to insecticides produced by Big Business, which is the story ecomaniacs are switching to now that the attempt to blame Climate Change/Global Warming seems to have failed. Me? I bet it was Tory Cuts.

In case any Health Food Fascist or Supplements Storm-trooper is tempted to point out that honey isn't a risk-free sugar substitute, and that it's full of sugar - I know, I know. But I don't use much of it, and when I want to feel smug and holy, I substitute agave nectar, which tastes surprisingly good, but is expensive. Satisfied? Thought not.

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