Mexico’s Alianza Maya fights to protect bees

CANCUN, MEX.- Leydi Pech, a beekeeper in the Mexican state of Campeche, held out a handful of dead bees and said, «People are killing them by fumigating the air with toxic chemicals that are illegal in other countries.»

«Here, they are still using genetically modified (GM) crops, especially soybeans,» she said.

Pech told EFE that in 2018 more than 326 bee colonies died, mainly in the states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo, where 42,000 hectares (about 104,000 acres) have been planted with GM crops, according to a report from Mexico’s agriculture department.

Deforestation wipes out 60,000 hectares (148,000 acres) of forest each year in the Yucatan Peninsula (divided among the states of Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo), which results in changes in the local climate and new pests.

Pech said that she and her fellow beekeepers in Hopelchen, Campeche, used to export their honey to Germany, but after they found GM material in the product, they turned to the judiciary.

Their effort forced the Mexican Supreme Court to ban GM soy crops, but people continue to break the law.

The situation led to the creation of the Mayan Alliance for Bees in the Yucatan Peninsula with the aim of reducing the use of pesticides, which harm bees; preventing deforestation, which reduces the space for beekeeping; and developing strategies that benefit beekeeping and sustainable agriculture in the area.

On the positive side of the ledger, the over 10 million hectares (24.7 million acres) of jungle and more than 168,000 hectares (415,000 acres) of cropland provide plenty of pollen and nectar out of which the bees produce honey, which is 100 percent organic and commands premium prices on the world market.

In Calakmul, Campeche, the Union of Ecological Beekeeping Societies, formed by the producers of nine communal farms in a protected reserve, managed to keep their apiaries intact and sell their honey with an added value.

The president of the group, Anastasio Oliveros, told EFE that caring for the bees is fundamental and one of the strategies is to feed the insects their own honey, not syrups made from water and sugar.

The group also refuses to use pesticides and fertilizers, or any product that could harm the health of the bees or contaminate the pollen used and the honey produced, thus delivering a high-quality product.
The honey extracted from the hives is sent to a processing, distribution and packaging plant, where it is packaged in sanitized containers.

In 2017, Mexico was the world’s seventh largest honey producer with 57,000 tons, mainly from Campeche and Yucatan.

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