Vanishing of the Bees & How it Relates to Autism

I went to see Vanishing of the Bees last week with my teenage daughter. She came as a favor to her “composting- buy at the local farmers’ market- mother”, but walked away educated and engaged. Ever since, she happily takes out the food scraps for composting. http://www.vanishingbees.com/trailer/

According to the movie, approximately one-third of the food produced in the world is dependent on honeybees for pollination and increased crop yields. Bees are an essential part of modern agriculture and their economic contribution is valued over $15 billion. We were amazed to learn that a third of the bee population disappears every year- just vanishes without a trace. This rapid loss of the adult bee population is known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) and has been happening since the mid-1990. Bees are an indicator of environmental quality and their decline points to a broader environmental degradation that will threaten not only the quality but the variety of our food.

Research in France* had demonstrated an interaction between the use of systemic pesticides on crops and a weakening of the bee’s immune system, such that they become susceptible to pathogens and diseases. These interactions on the insects’ central nervous system are cumulative and the cause and effect does not have a direct immediate correlation. Multiple interacting causes are at a play. Therefore the government has been slow to act.

As the movie discussed the symptoms of CCD, I was struck by the similarities to autism. Like CCD, autism is a complex pervasive developmental disorder characterized by severe deficits in social interaction and communication. Research suggests that autism is influenced by an immune response of the central nervous system; however there is no immediate cause and effect relationship in autism. While the rate of autism in the population is much less than that of the bees, 1 in 70 boys, the prevalence rate is increasing 10-17% annually. Is the rise of autism an indicator of human environmental degradation? Are we slowly falling victim to weakened immune systems?

Another threat to U.S. bees is cheap imported tainted honey. The scene that was most impactful to my daughter was when they showed honey from China, diluted with milk or high fructose corn syrup, “beeing” used in food manufacturing. If the honey in Honey & Wheat Bread really isn’t honey what about the other ingredients not on the label?

We don’t need to wait for government action. We can make a difference today! One in every three bites of food is dependent on honey bees for pollination. What can you do? First and most importantly, take the time to understand the issues. For more information about systemic pesticides and what you can do go to: Boulder County Beekeepers and http://www.panna.org.

Second, vote for your health with your wallet. Buy local and when possible, organic; plant a garden; learn to cook; compost. Support companies that use high quality ingredients you can trust, such as Hail Merry. Remember that one determined person can make a difference and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.

* http://www.bouldercountybeekeepers.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Widespread-Immune-Deficiency-Disease-in-Wildlife.pdf).