While buzzing from plant to plant finding food for their colony, bees are also playing a vital role in the cycle of life for the entire planet. When picking up pollen from flowers and spreading it to other plants, bees help them reproduce.
Bees help pollinate food crops in particular, and are key in agricultural production. It is estimated that about one-third of the world’s food production is dependent on bees and the crops that depend on pollination for growth are an estimated five times more valuable than those that do not. Important crops like fruits, nuts, and many vegetables rely on bees to keep growing, which means we rely on bees to fill our plates with nutritious options.
Bees also provide substantial benefits to the economy. The beekeeping profession is a vital source of income throughout rural areas across many countries. Many crops that are important sources of income and jobs also depend on pollination. Small-scale farmers rely heavily on these products as a means of survival and their industries play a large role in the global economy as well.
In fact, one study estimates global food production that relies on pollination is worth up to
half a trillion dollars annually.
Although bees are important for providing food, encouraging economic growth, and maintaining biodiversity, they face a variety of threats. Overall extinction rates are between 100 and 1,000 times higher due to human impacts.
Honey bees are facing colony losses at alarmingly high rates, averaging reductions of
A network of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (or MEAs) already exists to promote sustainable agriculture, protect vulnerable ecosystems, and regulate substances which can be devastating to bees and other animals.
The UN Convention On Biological Diversity (CBD), with near-universal membership, is a prime example of countries and MEAs working together to protect pollinators. For instance in 2018, together with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), CBD prepared and adopted a 2018-2030 Plan of Action for the International Pollinator Initiative, which includes steps like promoting traditional knowledge of hive management and parasites, implementing pollinator-friendly farm practices like floral diversity, and restoring pollinator habitats.
Other MEAs work in tandem on specific threats, like harmful pesticides. In 2017, for instance, the Rotterdam Convention added Carbofuran, an insecticide with harmful impacts on bees, to its list of chemicals subject to “prior informed consent,” meaning countries can make more informed decisions on any future imports.
These MEAs interact in complex and far-reaching ways. The best way to get the “bee’s-eye view” is through the InforMEA portal – the official UN database on MEAs. Here you can find the full range of international legal measures on a specific subject like bees – from MEAs regulating pesticides, to multilateral decisions and plans to protect pollinators, to national plans, reports, legislation, and court cases on how these measures are implemented.