In Fermenting Revolution I wrote about “beerodiversity,” using beer to explain the importance of biodiversity in nature. Which do you prefer: a monocrop of industrial light lagers made with corn, or a handful of local breweries each producing a dozen different styles, releasing special brews during different seasons and experimenting with locally available, fresh ingredients?
(That’s a rhetorical question.)
It turns out, surprise, surprise, the same lesson can be learned using bees as an example. Just like BudMillerCoors blandified the historically diverse creature of beer into one pale fizzy ghost of its former self, so has industrial agriculture come to rely on a single pollinator for the majority of food crops. The Western Honeybee is the monocrop of the bee world.
The problem with monocrops is that a lack of diversity carries massive risks. A single disease can wipe out a species in one swell foop. When that happens – as it is right now with honeybees – the whole system can collapse, which in this case means food crops are at risk because they rely on these bees for pollination. The Irish potato blight is an extreme example of the dire consequences of a monocrop failure. According to one study, a third of global food production requires pollination from animals such as bees, birds and bats.
Just a few of the food crops that require insect pollination:
- green peppers
- black pepper
- and … omigod … COFFEE!
This website has a list of insect-pollinated food crops. And check out John Blatchford’s articles, who commented on my post earlier today. He’s written a lot about bees and their interaction with industrial agriculture.