An important and timely report just released by The Organic Center shows that organic farming practices are effective in maintaining the health and population of important crop pollinators, predominantly bees, which have been declining at an alarming rate in the past decade and threatening global food security.
Titled "The Role of Organic in Supporting Pollinator Health," the report reviewed 71 studies detailing current threats to our pollinators and the impact of organic practices. It found that organic methods not only reduce risks to bees, but actively support the growth and health of populations of bees and other pollinators. The paper outlines pollinator-friendly techniques used by organic farmers that can also be incorporated into conventional farming systems.
"Our paper takes an in-depth look at the challenges faced by honey bees and other pollinators, and we look at organic as a model for supporting pollinator populations," said Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs for The Organic Center. "We hope this report acts as a tool to educate policymakers, growers and consumers. Bee-friendly practices being used by organic farmers can be adopted by all producers to foster healthy pollinators."
Seventy-five percent of all crops grown for food rely on pollinators, mostly honey bees, for a successful harvest. But over the past decade, the bee population has plummeted. Since 2006, beekeepers have lost over a third of their bee hives. More than $16 billion worth of crops in the United States alone benefit from pollination every year. Without pollination from honey bees, many favorite fruits and vegetables such as apples, berries, carrots and onions would not be on our grocery shelves.
The Center's report notes that no one factor has been consistently singled out as the cause of the disproportionate bee declines. Instead, a number of factors – including exposure to toxic pesticides, parasite and pathogen infections, poor nutrition and loss of habitat – likely interact together, resulting in lethal consequences for bees. Large-scale chemically intensive agricultural production has been implicated as a major source of the threats to pollinators.