Save the Bees
by Ashley on November 20, 2015 - 9:55am
Scientists are in the process of genetically modifying Canadian honeybees to be more resistant to their winter weather. Emily Chan from CTV News discusses this in her article Scientists hope to develop made-for-Canada honeybees. The goal is to have a diagnostics centre where the genomes of bees sent in by beekeepers would be analyzed and given a report on their potential, answering questions about their health including disease resistance and durability in the cold. Therefore, farmers can breed specific bees in order to pass down better traits to future generations.
Canadian honeybees produce 75 million pounds of honey…now that’s a lot of honey! They do not only benefit beekeepers, but many other farmers and their crops as well through pollination, contributing $4.6 billion to the Canadian economy.
This research is occurring because honeybee populations have been on the decline. In the winter of 2006-2007, some beekeepers lost more than a quarter of their colonies. Many factors play a role including starvation, disease, weak colonies, poorly-performing queens, and winter weather. Traditionally, there were attempts to implement foreign bees, but they are unfit for Canadian diseases and winters, and bringing in new species risks new diseases and competition to native honeybees.
The main concern here that is unmentioned-or indirectly mentioned-is climate change. Climate change is a global problem that contains aspects that we are uncertain about. We don’t know everything about climate change, therefore we cannot predict the outcome. In the IPCC WG2 they mention that all parts of food security may be affected by climate change. This can alter size and type of crops, or introduce pests and diseases.
The IPCC WG2 also states that species of all kinds-terrestrial, freshwater, and marine-shift their patterns, geographical ranges, seasonal activities, and abundances in response to climate change. As the environment changes, populations of bees will change. If bee colonies continue to decline, crop yields will also decline as many farmers depend on bees to pollinate their crops. A rapid decline in crops will not only damage the agro-economy but the whole society, leaving many hungry as food security will wither away.
These scientists are trying to fight this problem and implement change even though people usually look for certainty before taking action. Embracing uncertainty will provide ample time as none will be wasted worrying about the unknown. This could possibly mean they find the answer to their question sooner than expected. The scientists may not know everything, but at least they are trying to counteract this problem, and save the bees.