Week 6 Discussion Forum: Abstract and Conclusion

Food environment related to the Decline in Bee Populations as a Public Health Issue
Would Approaching the Food Environment Related to the Decline in Bee Populations as a Public Health Issue Decrease Rates of Chronic Disease for Americans?
A Registered Dietitian’s Perspective
December 6, 2020

This paper investigates the scientific, economic, societal and ethical need of approaching the decline in bee populations as a public health issue from a registered dietitian’s perspective. Bees provide essential pollination services to crops that have been linked with decreased chronic diseases. Their decline in population could lead to shortages of produce and a continued increase in unhealthy food environments in America.
The Pubmed and Florida International University data bases were used to find academic articles that fit specific criteria. The search terms used included decline in bee populations, biodiversity, agriculture, micronutrients, chronic disease and public health. The population focus was Americans because these individuals are at an increased risk of chronic disease and higher healthcare costs due to unhealthy food environments.
The scientific and economical perspective suggest that production and availability of fruits and vegetables is essential for agricultural revenue as well as decreasing medical costs for chronic diseases. The cultural and ethical perspectives suggest that the standard American diet is the driving force of the decline in bee populations. Demand for processed foods and animal products has supported the expansion of monocultured crops as well as market and political control by large agricultural industry. These agricultural practices provide nutritionally inadequate diets for both bees and humans and work to derail environmental policy. The profession of dietetics has recognized its role in preventing chronic disease and supporting environmental stewardship – a fundamental component in protecting the pollinators responsible for producing the foods that fight chronic disease.

Therefore, a preventative approach to the decline in bee populations would have environmental, medical and economic advantages. Protecting bee populations through education, research and compressive policy change promotes biodiversity, continued profitability of nutrient dense produce and decreases medical costs.

Complex economic and cultural shifts have led to changes in food environments for both bees and Americans. The consequences of these shifts include environmental destruction, a decline in bee populations, potential decrease of disease fighting crops and the creation of an agriculture oligarchy. The solution to such an interrelated and far reaching problem will require cross collaboration between policy makers and several fields of science to create legislative changes and prevention programs.
Future policy reform that views this issue through a preventive lens must be more compressive than past proposals. New legislation will need to include language that allocates funding for several programs such as independent research, beekeeper and dietitian education programs, monitoring bee populations and protection of habitat. It will also need to address the modification of farming practices, “revolving door” policies and banning of noenicitinoids.
Primary prevention programs that focus on interventions that are beneficial for both bees and humans would improve colony survival and decrease rates of chronic illness. This is possible by the promotion of diets that support biodiverse habitats. Recommending an increase in plant foods such as fruits vegetables, nuts and seeds provides nutritionally adequate diets for bees and humans. This also deceases the expansion for monocultures which provide nutrient poor diets and promotes disease in both species.
Investment in intensive farming is defended by large agriculture businesses and governmental agencies because it allows for higher yields of crops per acre. They argue that this decreases the need for expansion and can help to provide food for a growing population. However, reports published on the USDA website and in PubMed show that corn and soy farmers plan on continued farmland development and that these crops are a major contributing factor to chronic illness (USDA, 2020; Siegel, 2016). The farther farming moves from biodiversity the farther it becomes from the fundamental principles of nature that evolved to balance and protect life. The health of bee colonies is an example of humans’ interconnectedness and dependence on their environment.
The evidence supports that continuing trends will lead to devastating and far reaching effects on the economy, food security and health outcomes. This has the potential to overwhelm routine community capabilities of producing sufficient food and treating chronic disease – qualifying this environmental injustice as a public health issue. Taking a preventative approach to the decline in bee populations would allow for both bee colonies and a larger sector of the American population to benefit from policy interventions and primary prevention programs backed by evidence-based science. Thus, the decline in bee populations should be approached as a public health issue to ensure agriculture profitability and continued supply of disease preventive foods to Americans.

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