Socially responsible investors will want to look at a nascent hive of activity
where governments and the private sector are lumbering to save the world food
supply threatened by mass crop displacement. The survivability of the tiny,
nuisance bee is one key to that monumental task.
Bee populations around
the world dropped by some 30 percent to 50% over the past seven years, suffering
Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Fruits and vegetation such as alfalfa feed for
dairy and beef cattle depend on bee pollination. Fewer bees mean higher consumer
prices and less inventory.
The US consumes 400 million pounds of honey
every year, but production fell below 150 million pounds in 2012, and prices
rose 14% in one year. The price for healthy worker beehives jumped from $75 to
over $150 per hive over the past few years.
No research yet pinpoints a
single cause of CCD, but the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) identifies four
possibilities: pathogens, parasites, management stress and environmental
A pathogen (infectious agent) load of viruses and bacteria are
suspect as a culprit in CCD. Environmental stress such as droughts and polluted
water sources are likely causes. Exposure to widespread use of pesticides in
lethal doses is a factor. At the end, the queen bee has only a few adults to
service her before the colony totally collapses, and the bees die or disappear.
Cellphone transmission waves are not believed to be a significant factor in
Developing nations heavily rely on bee pollination for their food
supply. India has nearly 10 million hives. The US has 2,400,000 hives and nearly
three million fewer bee colonies (down from five million to 2.4 million) today
than several decades ago.
Every third bite of food an American takes,
according to the USDA, is dependent on honeybee pollination. They add $15
billion in value through their pollination of US fruit crops, while CCD caused a
$75b. loss to agriculture worldwide over the past several years. One hundred
crop species provide 90% of our food worldwide, and 71 of them are pollinated by
Israel produces more than 2,500 tons of honey each year worth $12
million from 100,000 hives. One thousand five hundred tons of honey is imported
each year to cover demand shortfall in “the land of milk and honey.”
Inconsistent rainfall and rapid land development are eliminating natural
habitats of open fields of flowers, so the Jewish National Fund plants up to
100,000 nectar-producing saplings each year to enhance bee population
Investigator Ahmen Jabril, reporting for Thomson Reuters, links
CCD threats to national defense. Food shortages and high prices have spurred
riots and brought down governments before (think France, bread riots in Egypt
and Russia). The European Commission is likely to outlaw certain pesticides this
December because of the devastation to European honey production over the past
Shortages of bee byproducts are driving up the costs of
vitamins, medicines and cosmetics. Propolis, a sticky sealant bees make from sap
to seal their hives, is effective for antibiotic and antifungal use, against
immunostimulant effects and skin-burn treatments. Candle making, polishes, food
coatings and pharmaceuticals that depend on beeswax are also
Treatment for CCD is a $1 billion to $3b. global market. The
US Department of Defense is testing military technologies in CCD research. The
USDA, the Environment Protection Agency and the European Union are committing
However, Prof. Chancing (Alex) Lu, of the Harvard School of
Public Health, recently told me momentum has slowed since early 2012, with no
dramatic research findings, and the resignation at the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) of the person dedicated to this problem. “EU might be the first
political entity to take some meaningful action to mitigate the losses of
honeybees by restricting the use of neonicotinoids [a group of chemicals used as
insecticides],” he said.
Hebrew University’s Triwaks Bee Research Center,
founded in 1976, focuses on bee foraging behavior, secretions and mite control.
In 2009, Israeli professors identified Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IVAP) as a
possible leading cause of CCD. It was found in imported bees from Australia and
jelly from China. The work led to a commercial start-up company founded in
Monsanto Corporation acquired Israel’s Beeologics, based
in Rehovot and Miami, whose Remebee® is sold as an antiviral bee treatment
awaiting FDA and EPA approval as an intervention method in the fight against
IVAP. Some say the purchase is to study and improve the pesticides Monsanto
sells that allegedly cause CCD.
BeesFree, Inc. (BEES), based in Florida,
is “Saving hives. Saving Lives” with an all-natural approach. Its stock is
barely hanging on at 20 cents with almost no activity. BeesFree claims
carbohydrates, essential amino acids, lipids, essential oils, minerals and
antioxidants strengthen the bees, enabling them to withstand greater
environmental toxins and stress, promote brood rearing, control infestations and
helps prevent CCD.
The USDA recommends the public help by eliminating
pesticides, especially mid-day when bees forage for nectar and store pollen.
Home owners should plant pollinator plants such as red clover. In these lazy,
hazy hot summer days, don’t swat that pesky bee. Killing a bee is a danger to
the food ecosystem. Our problem, according to Drs. Seuss and Lu, is that “Our
old bee-watching man just isn’t bee-watching as hard as he can... The thing that
we need is a Bee-Watcher Watcher.”Dr. Harold Goldmeier is the managing
partner of Goldmeier Investments LLC and an instructor of business and social
policy at the American Jewish University, Aardvark Israel, in Tel Aviv.
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