Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mysterious Death of Honeybees Magnifies Fragility of Interdependence

A lot of honeybees are dying in America and nobody knows why. Some researchers speculate that AIDS-like immune suppression is at fault. Whether consumers will notice a price difference in the condiment aisle is one issue, but the real problem is the broader impact on agriculture: Bees provide natural, local biotech through pollination. Many crops depend on it.

Interdependence is the essence of globalization. This seems to apply as much between countries as across species lines. According to the New York Times, "imported honey from China and Argentina has depressed honey prices and put more pressure on beekeepers to take to the road in search of pollination contracts." Trucking bee colonies around the country could stress out the hives and make them more vulnerable to infection.

Though pollination is partially commercialized, this crisis raises the larger question of how we account for the irreplaceable economic services of our environment, which are often priceless and free.

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