Thu, 17 May 2012
Back after a too-long absence!
I had hoped to be able to produce a recording every month, but somehow life got in the way.
Here's the first podcast for this year a talk recorded at Trill Farm, Dorset (south of England, a little left of centre, for those not familiar with our layout!) at the invitation of chef Daphne Lambert, whose restaurant at Penrhos on the Welsh border was the first in the UK to be awarded organic certification by the Soil Association.
More about Daphne here - http://mamaheaven.org/blog/2011/07/daphne-lambert-nutritionist-chef/#.T7T2b3iURpg
More about Trill Farm here - http://trillfarm.co.uk/
From Graham in Scotland:
The attached photos - taken from my bedroom window - of the Oilseed Rape field opposite my house in Scotland- explains at a glance the challenge my bees are faced with in trying to survive on this farm. It is a beautiful landscape - but an ecologically dying landscape which is poisonous to bees, butterflies and bumblebees. If I took a photo in any of the other three directions it would not be any different; oilseed rape (canola) is one of the major crops here in the Border country.
You might find these images useful for slideshows etc, I have high resolution versions available for printed media.
The images are also on FLICKR and you can link them to web-pages directly with the following links:
Almost all of the Oilseed Rape grown in Britain and Europe is treated with neonicotinoid pesticides at the time the seed is planted. Over the last decade the main neonicotinoid used on OSR has been Imidacloprid; we suspect that it is now being superceded by Clothianidin- which is more toxic to insects and far more persistent in soil and water.
The insecticide Imidacloprid is 'systemic' - it is coated onto the seeds before planting. When the seed sprouts, it absorbs the poison and distributes it to every part of the growing plant: sap, stem, leaves, flowers and fruit. The insecticide then poisons any insect which bites the plant to suck its sap. Unfortunately, the poison also emerges in the nectar and pollen, which is harvested and eaten by bees, bumblebees, butterflies - and many other species of insect. The poison - Imidacloprid - is 7,000 times more toxic to bees than DDT was - and a dose of just 3 to 5 parts per BILLION in the nectar and pollen causes bees to become disoriented, unable to forage or fly. Many beekeepers are convinced this is why 4 million colonies have died in America since 2006. Over a milion bee colonies died in France from 1994 - 1998. Millions more have died in Argentina, Germany, Italy, Australia. These neurotoxins are used on over 3 million acres of arable crops in the UK: wheat, barley, OSR, potatoes, tomatoes, fruits etc - this means that both WE and the bees are eating neurotoxic insecticides in every bite of food we consume.
Neonicotinoids applied as seed dressings kill most invertebrate life UNDER the ground as well as ABOVE. these poisons eradicate earthworms, beetles and insect larvae from the soil - which means there is no food for birds which probe the soil: lapwings, curlews, starlings etc. The result is that this beautiful scene is effectively an ecological desert; the fields are empty - no insects means no birds. Even the humble sparrow - which has declined by up to 80% in most areas of the UK. MUST have insect food to feed its young. Wall to wall neonics means no insects; no insects means no young sparrows, starlings, peewits, yellowhammers, partridges, corn buntings etc. etc.
In the USA, more than 240 million acres of crops are treated with Clothianidin at planting - effectively wiping all insect life from that vast area permanently. The poisons are also highly PERSISTENT - Clothianidin has a 'half life' in some soils of up to 19 years; which means that after 57 years - 1/8 of the original insecticide would still persist in the soil. Of course, if it is used year after year in the same field, the pesticide burden is gigantic.
I am very fortunate to be about to keep my first bees on a large organic farm (not mine, unfortunately! It is run by an aware farmer). I moved here because the previous area I lived in was surrounded by chemical farms, and I didn't want to keep bees in these conditions. I was a rural worker in the 60s and 70s and even then I was painfully aware that we were shooting ourselves in the foot with regard to the farming practices of the time. Oh how right was my premonition...