A third of our food, including some of our most delicious produce such as apples, tomatoes and coffee, along with most of the flowering plants on earth, depend on honeybees, wild bees and other insects for pollination.
The situation, however, doesn't look good for either bees or our food. Toxic pesticides used on crops and flowers are contaminating pollen and nectar sought by bees, with adverse effects on their health. The cause? A destructive, chemical-intensive agricultural system promoted by several multinational companies. These corporations not only threaten our bees, but also put our food security and diversity at risk.
To expose this broken farming system, Greenpeace released scientific reports, videos and took action against the bee-killing companies. We tested the pollen collected by worker bees and found that more than two-thirds was contaminated with up to 17 different toxic chemicals.
We also showed how our gardens, balconies and public parks could be turning into a toxic Eden. We tested flowers and plants bought at gardening centres, supermarkets and DIY-stores from across Europe, exposing that the samples contained bee-killing pesticides, including those of the neonicotinoid group, subject of an EU-wide ban. Gardeners and bee-friends came together to oppose this threat to bees and took action. Across Europe, people asked questions at gardening centres demanding bee-friendly organic flowers.
Greenpeace also released an apocalyptic fictional short film featuring futuristic 'Robobees' who will pollinate crops once all natural pollinators become extinct. The short film highlights the irony in how chemical companies could someday profit from the bee colony collapse, while they have in fact contributed to its collapse in the first place.
Is this the future we want for agriculture?
To voice our concerns, we attended the Syngenta and Bayer annual general meetings. When they denied that their chemical products contribute to the decline of bees, we exposed their lies and showed how they aggressively lobby politicians to protect their profits.
Fortunately, the battle is not yet lost for the bees; change is still possible. A solution and a way out of the current industrial agricultural crisis does exist; it's called ecological farming. Ecological farming works with the diversity of nature to produce healthy food for all, and at the same time protects the planet and bees. Ecological farming practices are feasible on a large-scale and are being implemented successfully by innovative farmers across Europe.
Across Europe, citizens continue to speak up for the bees. Around 1,000 Greenpeace volunteers organized activities in 110 cities to inform and mobilize people on the importance of bees for our food security. Activities took place at colourful street markets and concerts, and protests were held at gardening centres from Hamburg to Rome and from Sofia to Malaga, and beyond.
These activities are part of the growing international movement of gardeners, consumers, farmers, experts and beekeepers raising their voices to defend our bees and promote ecological farming. Politicians in Europe cannot ignore these voices. They must seek an immediate ban all bee-harming pesticides, and implement action plans to save the bees in the long term.
Like the Greenbees activists, we must also act now to protect our food and allow our bee friends to prosper again in a chemical-free and ecologically farmed world.
We must act together to protect the food we grow, harvest, and put on our tables, but to do this we cannot allow the buzzing bees to fall silent. Act now and sign the petition.
Matthias Wüthrich is an Ecological Farming campaigner and European bees project leader at Greenpeace Switzerland.