by Sam Levin
My recent feature, "What's Poisoning the Bees," investigated the role of pesticides in the dramatic losses of honeybees in the United States. The declining health of bees not only poses a threat to the livelihood of commercial beekeepers across the country, but could also have a significant impact on our food system. That's because bees are critical pollinators that are responsible for roughly one-third of all food we eat — almonds, apples, blueberries, alfalfa that dairy cows depend on, and much more. Tonight, a number of experts on bees and pesticides are coming together at UC Berkeley to discuss the threats facing bees and what this means for our food supply. For those interested in pollinators and pesticides, the conversation today will be a good opportunity to hear from experts in the field, including several featured in my story.
The Berkeley Food Institute and Pesticide Action Network (which is headquartered in Oakland) are sponsoring the event, titled, "What's the buzz about?: A conversation about bee declines, impacts on our food system & what you can do about it." The panel discussion is kicking off National Pollinator Week and will include Susan Kegley, principal scientist with the Berkeley-based Pesticide Research Institute (and the beekeeper featured on our June 4 cover) and Claire Kremen, faculty co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute and a UC Berkeley professor of environmental science, policy, and management.
The talk will also feature Todd Woody, senior editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart and Gene Brandi, a beekeeper and vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation.
As my feature noted, discussions of bee health are often dominated by agrochemical companies that manufacture harmful pesticides and have a financial incentive to deflect blame off of their own products. That was the case with a recent congressional subcommittee hearing on pollinator health that failed to include any independent scientists or commercial beekeepers — and had little discussion of pesticides. Tonight's event then offers a chance to hear the perspective of researchers and beekeeping experts without ties to pesticide manufacturers.
The event runs from 6-7:30 p.m. at 141 Giannini Hall at UC Berkeley's campus (RSVP details here). The talk — co-sponsored by Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety, and TakePart — will also be streamed live online here. Viewers can submit questions via Twitter during the event, with hashtag #BeeChat. The groups coordinating the event will also be hosting Twitter chats (hashtag #pollinatorchat) throughout the week on pollinators and pesticides.
For more on the topic, check out our cover story, "What's Poisoning the Bees."