MEXICO CITY – Bee populations continue to decrease throughout the world while discussions on the causes of this decline rage on: some blame climate change, while others point to the use of herbicides and pesticides.
Although many scientists have warned about the dangers of the use of glyphosate and neonicotinoids in industrial agriculture, farmers interviewed by EFE denied any connection with the dying bees.
Fabian Papalotzi, a beekeeper and grower of genetically modified soybeans in the Mexican state of Campeche, told EFE that he believed the main cause of bee deaths was climate change.
Jazzer Neftali, a beekeeper from the indigenous community of Ich Ek, in the same state, concurred with his colleague, saying that bee populations started declining two years ago because of droughts.
“A strong drought started two years ago, which has affected us. Many people think it is because of genetically modified soybeans, but no, I think that climate change has affected us most,” he said.
Papalotzi recalled how beekeepers were alarmed by the small hive beetle, a beekeeping pest, yet they soon discovered how to contain it.
According to Papalotzi, the same thing is now happening with glyphosate and neonicotinoids, as precautionary measures could be taken to prevent hives from being affected by the use of these chemicals.
The director general of Mexico’s National Food, Fishing and Aquaculture Salubrity, Safety and Quality Service, Hugo Fragoso, also claimed that herbicides and pesticides are not the cause of bee deaths.
Fragoso said that his agency and Mexico’s agriculture department had commissioned a study about the issue to researchers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), whose results will be released in October.
The official said that the study found “very low concentrations” of pesticides in a sample of beehives and “in no case was glyphosate found.”
As for neonicotinoids, Fragoso said that they were found in only one hive.
However, Ricardo Angiano, one of the lead researchers involved in the UNAM study, told EFE that although herbicides like glyphosate were not found to directly affect the bees, they did affect their environment.
“They prevent the blooming of native plants, because herbicides are used to kill everything except the crop that was planted. What happens is that by clearing the fields of native plants and flowers, bees find it harder to find food,” the scientist said.