What Happens When Someone Kills Millions of Bees

Photo from kokogiak

Here's a good indicator of just how big of a company Florida-based citrus producer Ben Hill Griffin, Incorporated is:

You know the enormous football stadium on the University of Florida campus, the one where over 90,000 screaming fans regularly congregate to cheer on their Gators? While it's known throughout the collegiate sports world as "The Swamp," the actual legal moniker is "Ben Hill Griffin Stadium," named in honor of the citrus conglomerate patriarch, one of the school's biggest benefactors in their 160-year history.

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Here's another pair of stats indicating just how large a company it is: (1) When Griffin died back in 1990, his estate was worth an estimated $390 million; and (2) the corporation rakes in roughly $126 million a year.

One more piece of info, regarding the size of the land they grow their crops on: When they decided to spray the pesticide "Montana 2F" on their citrus trees, it was spread over enough land to lead to the deaths of millions and millions of bees. So many bees, in fact, that the rough estimate of the cost of the deaths is $390,000.

It's a big company, is the gist.

And it's a good thing they're that big, have had such great successes over the years, seeing as the pesticide cited above was found to be illegal by the Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Department. This finding means that the company owes a fine for ravaging an entire industry the way they did. While they'll surely take a bit of a hit after paying the fine, no doubt their war chests are overflowing to the point where "making things right" with the bee industry will only cause a slight dent in their 2013 bottom line.

Oh, except, the fine isn't really going to hurt them at all, seeing as they're being forced to pay a mere $1,500!

From the Miami New Times:

That laughable penalty has environmentalists and beekeepers fuming in Crystal River, where the state found that citrus giant Ben Hill Griffin Inc. broke pesticide laws twice this year yet has levied only one tiny fine.
"Every four days, they were spraying seven or eight different types of chemicals," Crystal River beekeeper Randall Foti tells the Palm Beach Post. "A $1,500 fine is not much of a deterrent."

Indeed it isn't. I could pay that and, folks, a bit of honesty here: there's not a whole lot of money in the occupation I've chosen.

If there's a silver lining in this news it's the fact that Florida's government detectives have officially linked the use of pesticides and the mass dying off of bees. Which is a point of view that took the EPA quite a while to come to before, finally, deciding to start doing something about it.

But that's a minuscule silver lining compared to the knowledge that the CEOs of large farming conglomerates are most likely in their war rooms right now, looking at this news story, crunching a few numbers, and simply writing that kind of annual expenditure into the budget. The math is simple: If the cost of crop loss due to the pests that the illegal pesticides get rid of is more than the cost of the penalty that will be levied if they're found guilty, well, then use the illegal pesticides. Logistically speaking, there's no reason to stop.

In other words, now that the link between pesticides and bee deaths has been officially made, it's time to start making the penalties fit the crime. The sum of the money lost by the bee industry (in this case, $390,000) is a good start. At the very least, it'll make companies think twice about utilizing unapproved chemicals on our food.

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About the Author

Rick Paulas has written plenty of things, some of them serious, many of them not, scattered over the vast expanses of the Internet. He lives in Los Angeles and is a White Sox fan.
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