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Sustain / Food Facts

The plight of the honey bee

The global honey bee population is in dramatic decline. The effects of the demise of this tiny creature extend far beyond the shortage of a few jars of honey. It could have a devastating impact on global food security; since it has been estimated that honey bees are responsible for pollinating over 90 of our food crops worldwide.

Although some people regard bees as pests, Albert Einstein famously said: "If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man."

Honey BeeMany believe that the decline of the honey bee is an alarm bell alerting our attention to problems in our wider environment and the unsustainable nature of our food and farming systems. Climate change, intensive agricultural practices, such as monoculture (growing the same crop year after year), and using pesticides, are damaging wildlife and the environment, including bees. Meanwhile, too few systems are in place to help protect bees and control disease outbreaks. And all this with a growing global population.

The good news is that we have heard the alarm. Scientists, governments and many of Sustain's member organisations are highlighting the problem of the loss of honey bees, and the media is helping to alert the public. Some positive steps have been taken by both government and industry. And many of the solutions to the honey bee problem could help us to solve some of the other global problems that now face us.

But much more still needs to be done before we can be sure that the honey bees – and the environment they rely on – are safe for future generations. Follow the links on the menu to find out more and get involved.

Food Facts: A series of short reports on over a dozen different products, shows how people's shopping choices - as well as government policy - can protect the environment, enhance social justice and improve health.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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