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By Joan Faus
The drastic decline in the number of swarms in the US has fueled the debate about what a world would be like without bees. Experts and producers recall that one in three foods in the country has its origin in the pollination of crops by a specific species of bee. Aware of this trend and above all that, if not contained, it can be economically devastating, the White House has decided to take action on the matter.
President Barack Obama signed a memorandum days ago to promote an action plan to reverse the pressing decline through research, prevention and protection initiatives. The White House has proposed to allocate around 36 million euros to that goal in the 2015 budget.
"The problem is serious and requires immediate attention to guarantee the sustainability of our food production system, avoid an additional economic impact on the agricultural sector and protect the health of the environment," warns the document signed by Obama.
Statistics attest to the seriousness of the phenomenon, which is not new, but it has been accentuated in recent years. The number of honey bee colonies, the most common, has been falling steadily over the past 60 years in the US, from 6 million in 1947 to 2.5 today. Historically, the average reduction of commercial colonies was between 10% and 15% each winter, but in 2012 it was 30.5% and in 2013 it was 23.2%, according to data from the White House, which, despite to the recent improvement, he fears a point of no return will be reached.
Experts attribute the decline to an amalgam of factors, including a reduction in available food, infections, exposure to certain pesticides or the loss of genetic diversity. "It poses a threat to economic stability in pollination and beekeeping operations, which could have profound implications for agriculture and food," warn from the Administration.
Pollinators - keys to the production of seeds and fruits - have an impact of 24 million dollars (17.6 million euros) on the US economy, of which more than half correspond to bees.
By transporting pollen, they enable the production of at least 90 cash crops in North America. Globally, they contribute 35% of food production.
Of the 2.5 million bees in the United States, about a million pollinate almond crops in California each year, which account for 80% of world production, according to the American Federation of Beekeepers. As a result, the decline is hitting the accounts of the sector directly: beekeepers have lost around ten million hives, individually valued at about $ 200 (147 euros) .Ecoportal.net