A hot topic in the news recently has been Honey Nut Cheerios and their new box, the one with the missing bee. The purpose: to bring awareness to the decline in bee colonies worldwide. How are they bringing awareness? Well besides the missing bee on their box, you can sign up to have a packet of bee-friendly wild flowers mailed to your door step from a local company here on Prince Edward Island (PEI), Vessey’s Seeds, to do your part in helping out the bee population.
What’s the big deal, that seems innocent enough right? Well…not so fast. Here is what the world responded with:
- Vessey’s seeds was funded by Monsanto which is basically seen as the agricultural equivalent to Shredder from TMNT. Read: hella evil.
- The wild flowers are not considered native to all parts of the world like they are here in PEI and may even be invasive, or in some cases, banned species.
- General Mills uses glyphosate, a pesticide responsible for contributing to the declining bee population.
- The bee population is not actually declining so this campaign is pointless.
So what are the facts:
- Vessey’s has reassured us they are in no way the Shredder of the seed world, they are a local, family run PEI company and Monsanto has no hands in their pockets.
- Although the wild flowers are not considered native to all parts, they are also not considered invasive. As Vessey’s recently told CBC in a news article “in most locations the seed mixture species will be non-native but not considered invasive. To be invasive, a species has to be non-native and have the tendency to spread and threaten the environmental, economic or social health of an area.” Additionally, there were issues with specific types of seeds that were even banned in some states in the US. Vessey’s response “The forget-me-not that is invasive is the perennial type…The Forget-Me-Not that is included in our mix is the annual.”
- Glyphosate is a herbicide not a pesticide. Which as indicated by their type, one kills herbs (i.e. weeds) and the other kills pests.
- As for the bee population. The jury is still out. Reports from various sources give various reviews. Canada appears to generally be maintaining their populations with the exception of the east coast, the US seems to be experiencing a decline.
As a general commentary from someone who has taken both graduate and masters courses in food security and sustainability (that’s me!), our demands on the food supply continue to increase. We (Canada) rely heavily on imports from other countries and need their supplies to remain stable as well, globally we are being faced with challenges such as colder springs, droughts, and fires, which all have significant impact on crops and therefore, food supply. Bees are affected by all of the environmental changes as well and since they are pollinators and we rely heavily on their involvement in almost all fruit, veggie, and oil crops. That is a lot of food and a lot of ingredients in other foods.
I don’t think Cheerios has poor intentions with their campaign, they are trying to bring awareness to our food system. While there is typically a plot somewhere for financial gain with any large corporate campaign, I am not so sure they are trying to be the buzz kill to our food supply and ecosystem (see what I did there!) If you are interested in helping out in your own way, you can actually just go to a local greenhouse and ask for some flowers and plant them at home. You can also check out to see if there are initiatives going on in your community that can enable you to help out with your local food supply like community/rooftop gardens, veggie boxes, or farmers markets.
I have an amazing bestie doing her part to help out the bees, and more importantly, creating a symbol in our community that we all have to do our part. To bee honey-st, we could all pitch in and do a little extra. Okay I’m done.