The buzz around the plight of the honey bees has prompted Monsanto and other stakeholders to form a new advisory council to address bee health, the company announced.
The Honey Bee Advisory Council, which industry experts, was announced at the three-day Honey Bee Health Summit at Monsanto’s Chesterfield Village Research Center this week. The summit was hosted by the $13.5 billion agriculture company and by Project Apis m (PAm), for a crowd of about 100.
“Healthy honey bees are essential for productive agriculture and the environment,” Jerry Hayes, who runs Monsanto’s bee industry efforts, said in a statement.
Since 2006, colonies of honey bees have been dying off in what’s been known as Colony Collapse Disorder.
An estimated 10 million bee hives, valued at $200 each, have been lost since 2006 — adding up to a total replacement cost of $2 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Overall, the number of bee colonies has dropped to 2.5 million in 2012, from 6 million in 1947. Colony losses this past winter were 31 percent, compared with 22 percent in 2011-12, according to USDA data.
Monsanto and PAm have been working together in California for the last year (in a three-year program) to encourage farmers to plant forage, the food supply for honey bees that is made up of nectar and pollen from flowering plants. Company officials said “year-one” results yielded 450 acres of forage, 130 percent of the goal.
For its part, Monsanto has been investing in bee health in the past several years. In 2011,Monsanto acquired Beeologics, a startup founded in 2007 to develop biological tools for disease control for bees, for $113 million. “If beekeepers let mite pressure get out of control, it becomes an uphill battle and they usually lose,” said Hayes, who is the Beeologics commercial lead.