Bees must be protected for the future of our food

First World Bee Day to be observed on 20 May 2018

19 May 2018, Ljubljana - On the eve of the first World Bee Day, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has urged countries and individuals to do more to protect bees and other pollinators or risk a sharp drop in food diversity.

Bees are under great threat from the combined effects of climate change, intensive agriculture, pesticides, biodiversity loss and pollution.

In Slovenia for the official ceremony to mark World Bee Day, FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva said countries need to shift to more pollinator-friendly and sustainable food policies and systems.

"We cannot continue to focus on increasing production and productivity based on the widespread use of pesticides and chemicals that are threatening crops and pollinators," Graziano da Silva said.

"We must now turn our words into actions and perform specific activities to conserve bees and other pollinators, thus taking care of their survival and, consequently, our own survival," Slovenia's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Dejan Židan said.

More than 75 percent of the world's food crops rely to some extent on pollination for yield and quality. The absence of bees and other pollinators would wipe out coffee, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa, to name just a few of the crops that rely on pollination.
"Each one of us has an individual responsibility towards protecting bees and we should all make pollinator-friendly choices. Even growing flowers at home to feed bees contributes to this effort," Graziano da Silva said.

Pollinators, such as bees, wild bees, birds, bats, butterflies and beetles fly, hop and crawl over flowers to help plants fertilize. Pollinator numbers and diversity have declined in the past decades, and evidence indicates that the decline is primarily a consequence of human activities including climate change which can disrupt flowering seasons.

Sustainable agriculture practices, and in particular agroecology, can help protect bees by reducing exposure to pesticides and helping to diversify the agricultural landscape.

"Through agroecology, FAO seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment. Innovations are needed and they must be based on the co-creation of knowledge, combining science with local knowledge and experiences, as a social process," Graziano da Silva said.

With the World Health Organization, FAO has also developed the International Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management. This provides a framework on best practices that can help decrease the exposure of pollinators to pesticide.

The official ceremony for the first World Bee Day will be held tomorrow in the Slovenian village of Breznica, 50 kilometres north-west of the capital, under the patronage of Slovenia's President Borut Pahor. Breznica is the birth place in 1734 of Anton Janša, an apiarist and a pioneer of modern apiculture. His birthday, May 20, was chosen to be marked annually as World Bee Day.

Slovenia, with FAO, was instrumental in establishing the international day through a UN General Assembly resolution adopted unanimously last year, with support from Apimondia, or the International Federation of Beekeepers' Associations as well as Slovenia's Beekeepers' Association and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food.      

Photo: Jošt Gantar/
A beekeeper in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana. The first World Bee Day, on 20 May 2018, highlights that bees are vital to sustainable and healthy food systems.