Culture

Popping the Bee-Pocalypse Myth

(Relukf/Dreamstime)

The Christmas season has always been an important time for Hollywood’s box-office numbers — 2015 being no exception, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens expected to shatter the record $208 million opening set by last summer’s Jurassic World.

But with most of the money from ticket sales going back to the studios, movie theaters now make most of their profits from concessions sales — reviving the old joke that a movie theater owner is essentially the proprietor of a popcorn stand. But that could all change if environmental zealots have their way.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) recently launched a campaign against Pop Secret: threatening a boycott, calling its product “dirty,” and claiming the popcorn giant was contributing to massive bee-population declines through the use of insecticides on the corn crop.

Harrowing stuff, but the environmentalists’ dirty little secret is that bees are actually doing fine.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, honeybee colonies in the United States, Canada, and Europe have been stable or growing for over two decades. In fact, honeybee populations are up by 80 percent worldwide since 1961. Even the Washington Post recently declared it’s time to “Call off the bee-pocalypse.”

RELATED: Bee-pocalypse Now? Nope

That’s inconvenient for an activist organization like CFS, which stands to profit handsomely off the “bee-pocalypse” myth by suggesting honeybees will soon be extinct and scapegoating a class of insecticides known as neonicotinoids. Multiple, highly respected field studies consistently show that exposure to neonic-treated crops has little to no adverse effect on honeybees at the colony level.

Activists understand that if they’re forced to drop this lucrative alarmist charade, they’ll lose their most effective tool for advancing greater regulations on the food and farming industries. Oh, and claiming bees are going extinct brings in plenty of donations as well.

Pop Secret must not have realized bee numbers are stable and growing. Otherwise it would never have agreed to reduce neonic usage by 50 percent in 2016 and 75 percent in 2017, in line with the restrictions announced by sister company and fellow target Pop Weaver. But that’s not enough for CFS. The group has sent bullying letters to other popcorn companies, misrepresenting what’s going on with bees and setting deadlines for responding to their demands.

#share#Popcorn companies would do well to learn from other companies that tried to satisfy the seemingly endless list of anti-technology activists’ demands. Burrito restaurant Chipotle announced this year that it would remove genetically modified ingredients (GMO) from its food, only to be roundly mocked for joining a “global propaganda campaign,” as the Washington Post’s editors put it.

General Mills debuted a non-genetically engineered version of its favorite cereal Cheerios, only to be told they weren’t doing enough. Reacting to the General Mills move, one activist asked the company: “But why stop there? Why not support [genetically engineered] labeling on all General Mills products?” Another activist group said “the fight isn’t over,” and urged the company to expand the ban to other cereals.

CFS doesn’t care about damaged crops, lower yields, or higher prices for food. But consumers should.

While General Mills’s move proved inexpensive for the company (to make Cheerios GMO-free, General Mills needed only to implement two inexpensive changes: switch to non-genetically modified cornstarch and sugar), the changes being demanded of popcorn companies would result in a major hike in popcorn costs as well as having an impact on crop quality and yield.

Neonics are incredibly useful to corn growers. One analysis of 1,500 field studies found that using it yielded increases on eight major crops (including corn) ranging from 3.6 percent to 71.3 percent. Without neonics, farmers will face damaged crops and a lower yield. This is already happening in Europe, where a politically motivated ban on neonics resulted in massive losses for European farmers.

Of course, the CFS doesn’t care about damaged crops, lower yields, or higher prices for food. But consumers should. And they should also support companies that tune out activists who play up the kinds of fantasies whose rightful place is on the big screen.

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