Analysis: Greece's Beekeepers

Manila Bulletin, April 26, 2013 | Go to article overview

Analysis: Greece's Beekeepers


Athens, Greece - The rosemary season has ended, but sage is in full bloom.

In the fragrant hills of the Peloponnese in southern Greece, after a few sharp turns along a path, Nikos Reppas' old car arrives at bee heaven: a field full of violet hyacinths, close to the prehistoric ruins of Mycenae.

Since antiquity, when according to Greek mythology the god of love Eros dipped his arrows into honey before shooting them, the golden liquid has been flowing in abundance in this country, free of genetic modification and gleaned from vast, uncultivated lands.

And whereas other countries are struggling with high bee mortality, that's one global crisis that has yet to touch debt-plagued Greece.

"Colony collapse disorder is a problem in the United States and some European countries like Germany and Spain... We don't have this problem in Greece yet," says Paschalis Harizanis, professor at the Agricultural University of Athens.

The reason is that Greek beekeepers are still able to keep their activities at a safe distance from commercial farming, and therefore away from pesticides.

"Greek honey owes its unique aroma and taste to the fact that the better part of Greece is home to forests and wild ecosystems with only 29.32 percent of the land allocated to farming," says the federation of Greek beekeepers' associations (OMSE).

But this could change.

In March, Greece voted in Brussels against a ban on pesticides considered harmful to bees and apiculture.

The Commission wants the insecticides banned for use on four major crops -- maize (corn), rape seed, sunflowers and cotton -- in a bid to prevent a disastrous collapse in the bee population. Experts have isolated three compounds causing concern -- clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, known as neonicotinoids -- which are present in insecticides produced by pharmaceutical giants Bayer, Syngenta and Cruiser OSR.

But, with 13 votes in favour and nine against, the ban was not adopted, while a new vote could be scheduled before the summer. …

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