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Competing Approaches to Bee Conservation and Food Security in Canada
The Canadian food system relies heavily on managed pollination services from honeybees. Statistics Canada estimates that up to $5 billion of revenue is added yearly to the agricultural sector by honeybee pollination alone. The rising prices for colony rentals reflect that the reliance on this type of system is growing, despite the increasing losses reported by beekeepers each year. The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturalists reports average colony losses at 30% in 2018, the largest since 2009. The demands have been met by more intensive management of honeybees. Nevertheless, the increasing difficulty facing beekeepers raises concerns about the sustainability of the Canadian food system. The issue is often framed as an impending food security and honeybee crisis. Honeybees are portrayed as the main vehicles for providing these services and the main concern for tackling food-security issues. Significant efforts have been made to investigate technological solutions for tackling all honeybee sicknesses. However, this bypasses any examination of how our food system could be better organized, targeting the symptoms rather than the larger overarching problem. A counter-discourse is now emerging recognizing the role of non-managed pollinators in securing food production. The need to conserve and rehabilitate habitats for all pollinator life is now gaining recognition as a strong alternative to the over- simplified honeybee dependent food system. Movements in North America such as Bee City Canada and U.S.A demonstrate that food security pertains not only to healthy managed honeybees, but to the safeguarding of broader ecosystem services capacity, locally.