Watch out – Buzz, the iconic mascot for General Mills’ Honey Nut Cheerios, is going to be missing in action for a few weeks!
General Mills has launched a “Save the Bees” campaign in an attempt to bring awareness to the loss of the all-important pollinators. Buzz is taking a hike from all cereal boxes for 6 weeks, and the company is handing out free wildflower packets for consumers to plant as bee food.
The companies website recites a bunch of facts about bee colonies collapsing and the need for increased pollinator-friendly habitats. The website states: “Bees and other pollinators need wildflower pollen and nectar to stay happy and healthy. Planting wildflowers native to your own region may be a fun, simple way to help bees, but it’s also recommended by conservationists as the best way to support pollinators.”
The campaign sure seems innocent enough – something is causing a decline in overall bee population and General Mills wants to help them by raising awareness and spreading bee-friendly wildflowers all over the countryside. Heck, even one of Monsanto’s goals to improve bee health is to improve natural places where bees can get plenty of food.
But there are a couple problems here…
First, the campaign’s messaging is incredibly misleading. Honeybee populations are not crashing down around us… at least, not in any way that we need to be overly concerned about. In fact, the numbers of colonies are rebounding. As Real Agriculture explains, honeybees kept and managed by beekeepers naturally decrease and increase over the course of the winter. Just as for humans, bees find it difficult to survive in the winter with the colder temperatures and a lack of food. But beekeepers know how to handle these populations changes and manage their hives.
While it is harder to keep track of native bee species populations (the “wild” bees), General Mills’ campaign fails to even address one of the biggest threats to bees – the varroa mite. As I explained in my article about bees, this parasitic mite causes big problems for honeybees and are the most likely explanation for the higher levels of Colony Collapse Disorder that were seen a few years ago.
But the biggest concern I have with General Mills’ campaign is the organizations they’ve decided to team up with to save the bees. Each of the facts on the campaign’s website includes citations and those citations link back to either Greenpeace or the Natural Resources Defense Council, two very extreme activist organizations that care more about fighting modern agriculture than protecting the environment.
In fact, clicking the link provided to Greenpeace’s website brings up an article by the organization that blames the alleged rise in bee deaths on a specific class of pesticides, called neonics, and (of course!) genetically modified crops. The drive against neonics has been largely based on rhetoric and not any actual science. In fact, while some places around the world have banned the pesticides, they have not seen any difference in pollinator health. In some places where neonics have never been used, they still experienced Colony Collapse Disorder.
Of course, there is absolutely no proof that the use of genetically modified plants has done anything to harm or impact bee populations. Nor does it make any sense to suggest is has. But General Mills just loves to harp on how bad GMOs are, so no doubt Greenpeace’s position played right into their hands.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with planting bee-friendly plants and supporting pollinator health. I’m just not sure that General Mills really gives two licks about caring for Buzz’s family members. How about donating to bee research and scientific endeavors that will actually make a difference? I know, not as consumer-friendly and likely to go viral.
So, what does this mean? It means that General Mills campaign is nothing more than a marketing gimmick. Yeah, sure, they care about bees and want to give you free wildflowers. At the same time, they’re going to ignore the real problems facing bees and will team up with some pretty heinous organizations to make you think they’re super awesome….go buy more Cheerios!!
No thanks, General Mills – keep your wildflower packets and your propaganda.