Monsanto's commitment is to move dialogue into action by building a multi-stakeholder coalition to address declining honey bee health. The coalition will include the typical actors involved in honey bee health as well as new stakeholders, including agriculture commodity groups, industry groups, government agencies, environmental NGOs, and agriculture companies. Monsanto will address four honey bee health issues: 1) poor nutrition and declining habitat; 2) pathogens and pests; 3) pesticide impacts; and 4) economic empowerment of bee keepers.
Poor nutrition and declining habitat: Monsanto will develop a US Bee Forage Corridor. The corridor will provide natural nutrition sources for honey bees during pollination and will provide bee recuperation 'rest stops' between pollination intervals. Over the next five years, the commitment will increase pollinator friendly plantings by 2,000 acres in western US, 10,000 acres in the Midwest, and 2,000 acres in Appalachia/North East. Monsanto will partner with Project Apis M, National Corn Growers Association, National Soybean Association, American Alfalfa Association, Coal County Bee Works Project, and World Wildlife Fund to identify, restore and manage foraging habitats.
Pathogens and pests: Chemical treatments used by beekeepers today are no longer effective because pests have developed resistance to them. Monsanto commits $3 million of R&D investment to identify biological solutions, including RNA-based technology, to these pathogens over the next 5 years.
Pesticides impacts & best practices: Monsanto will identify the most critical needs for pesticide impact research and fund that research. In addition, Monsanto will unite the national grower groups to promote best practices and pesticide stewardship reducing impacts on bee health. In the first two years, this commitment will educate 50,000 growers in the US on best management practices. This program will reduce annual honey bee losses by 30 percent.
Economic empowerment for beekeepers: Beekeeping is a difficult livelihood to sustain. Beekeepers undervalue their services, meaning lower incomes. In recent decades, women have found beekeeping an attractive occupation because of its flexibility; however its challenges make it difficult in the long term. Monsanto will target women in economically disadvantaged rural areas, providing them with beekeeping training, supplies, and business skills. By 2015, the cooperative will have five women trained as beekeepers, 100 hives in operation and 5,000 pounds of honey production. By 2017, the cooperative will have twenty women trained as beekeepers, 400 hives in operation and 20,000 pounds of honey production.
Honey bee nutrition & habitat:
October 2013 - January 2014: Verify the key geographies. Identify, and specify opportunities within geographies. Begin outreach to land owners (conservation easements/purchase/agreements with farmers).
Ongoing: Restore honey bee foraging habitat
Ongoing: Monitor use of habitat and increase in bees
Through 2014: Continue acquisition process
October 2018: A total of 14,000 acres achieved
Pathogen & Pests
January 2014: Declare Monsanto R&D Pipeline to encourage investment
June 2015: Announce Honey Bee Health Innovation Prize to encourage creativity and indentify additional areas of investment.
Ongoing: Advancement of R&D projects
Through 2016 and beyond: Potential commercial product introductions
Pesticide Impacts & Best Practices
October 2013 - January 2015: Develop grower training & outreach program in partnership with commodity groups and beekeeping industry groups
January 2014 - December 2015: 500 training sessions to train 50,000 growers in the US on best management practices through commodity group structured meeting program and on-line options.
April 2016: Monitor results
On-going: Adjust outreach as needed to reduce annual honey bee losses
October 2013 - October 2014 Partner with Washington University on economic impact study.
January 2014 - June 2014: Partner with Coal County Bee Works Project to begin design of Women's Bee Cooperative
June 2014 - December 2015: Five (5) women identified as first coop members trained, 100 hives established and 5,000 pounds of honey produced
January 2016 - December 2017: Twenty (20) women established as coop members and fully functioning with 400 hives and 20,000 pounds of honey production
Approximately one out of every three bites of food we take comes from foods that depend on pollinators. Honey bees play an essential role in ensuring crop yields; a critical need for global food security. A significant decline in the honey bee population is posing a threat to agricultural sustainability and food security, as well as to ecosystem health and biodiversity. Fifty-four percent of global agriculture depends on insect pollinators; including most fruits, vegetables, and nuts. In the United States, beekeepers have seen an average winter loss of 32 percent of honey bee colonies every year since 2006 as a result of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), a phenomenon in which bees disappear abruptly from an otherwise healthy colony. The low survival rate of honey bee colonies is leading to a collapse of the overall honey bee population. Historically, approximately six million colonies existed in the United States; today approximately 2.5 million hives exist.
Additionally, as a result of a growing world population and demand for food, pollination demands are increasing. For example, almonds in California now require over 60 percent of all managed U.S. honey bee colonies. The situation in the United States has grown so serious that one extreme weather event or unusually high winter bee loss could cause a pollination disaster. This could result in the failure of a number of crops that depend on pollination for reproduction.
In 2011, Monsanto Company purchased Beeologics, an Israel-based R&D company to focus on discoveries related to bee health. It was through this purchase that Monsanto realized the need to address the collapse of the honey bee needed a multi-pronged approach including coalition-building, the adoption of new practices, and the creation of new, biologically sound products.
Monsanto Company sits in a very unique position within agriculture and seeks to bring sound science to this complicated problem, as well as to act as a bridge between two divided, yet intertwined communities essential to agriculture and the food supply: large-acre row crops farmers and commercial beekeepers. Through their recent Honey Bee Health Summit, Monsanto has taken an active role in this issue by bringing together all stakeholders to address the challenges facing honey bees.