General Mills’ Sweet Honeybee Commercial Stings

Perhaps you have seen the General Mills (GM) commercial being broadcast in Canada in which viewers see heartwarming segments of animals being saved from life-threatening situations as the song “Broken Wings” is played in the background. About one-third of the way through the commercial, the scenes switch to the plight of the honeybees, statements from General Mills expressing their concern regarding the decline of honeybee populations, and instructions for viewers to share the video, plant wildflowers to help bring back the bees, or learn more about the plights of the bees—all as Buzz the Bee, the HoneyNut Cheerios mascot, fades from the box.

This commercial truly tugs at your heartstrings. The marketers have done a great job of making people believe that General Mills genuinely cares about bringing back the bees (and not just Buzz).

Read more about why honeybees need to be protected

But there’s another side to this honey-coated cloud, and it’s GM’s history in doing quite the opposite of what’s suggested in the commercial; that is, its use of conventional ingredients that are grown with bee-killing chemicals and its vehement support of GMOs until it had to succumb to pressure from presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders and Vermont’s new legislation taking effect this month regarding mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

You may remember the defeat of three ballot initiatives in California, Washington and Oregon that attempted to label GMO foods. All three failed by being outspent more than 5 to 1 with false advertising campaigns led by chemical companies and big junk food companies. General Mills was one of the largest funders against the GMO labeling campaigns in those states. Soon General Mills felt the wrath of anti-GMO activists from a group called GMO Inside, who led consumers to leave over fifty thousand comments on its Cheerios Facebook page about the use of GMO ingredients in the cereal. Tens of thousands of consumers also wrote to General Mills and signed petitions, efforts that eventually resulted in the company removing GMO ingredients from original Cheerios in 2014 and labeling their boxes “Does Not Contain Genetically Engineered Ingredients.” However, that still left 11 other Cheerios varieties including their top seller, Honey Nut Cheerios, with GMO ingredients.

General Mills states on its website that all Cheerios varieties sold in Europe are made without GMO ingredients. The company’s stated reason for making all Cheerios’ varieties without GMOs in Europe is because the “agriculture and regulatory environments in Europe and the U.S. are quite different.” Yet are the health and welfare of people in Europe different from those in the United States and Canada? Doesn’t everyone deserve the right to know what they are eating?

So why would General Mills make a video in support of CCD awareness and at the same time not actually support saving the bees by sourcing organic ingredients that do not allow bee-killing chemicals to be used?

One person, who has been championing for mandatory labeling of foods that contain GMOs, is environmental activist Rachel Parent. The 17-year- old Canadian—who founded the organization Kids Right to Know and has appeared on TEDx Toronto, Lang and O’Leary Exchange, and has been recognized as one of the Seven Kids Saving the Planet Right Now by Eluxe Magazine—has stated that “1 in 3 bites of food that we eat is pollinated by bees. Without them, our food supply will be severely impacted. Unfortunately, over 50% of our bees are already gone.” Which brings us to the critical importance of bees.

Critical Importance of Bees

Approximately 25,000 different types of bee species are present in the world, with about 4,000 of them in the United States. All of them perform the critically important task of pollination, yet you may be most familiar with the honeybee and bumblebee. Although all bees are important, we are especially concerned about honeybees, because they are one of the world’s leading pollinators.

Bees are master pollinators. That is, they carry and transfer pollen from the male part of flowers to the female part of flowers. Many plants depend entirely on this activity to reproduce. A single honeybee can make contact with 50 to 1,000 flowers in one trip, which takes 30 minutes to four hours. The pollen the bees carry back to the colony nourishes the queen and the nurse bees and is necessary for the survival of the colony.

Every time you sit down to a meal, you should be thanking the humble bee. These incredible creatures pollinate 80 percent of our flowering crops, according to the US Department of Agriculture, which translates into one third of our food supply. The decline of bees affects our fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes but also the feed (e.g., alfalfa, soy, cotton, corn) for the beef and dairy industries as well. Without bees, our dinner menus would look quite different.

Bees are not the only pollinators. Bats, hummingbirds, pollen wasps, ants, certain flies, butterflies, moths, flower beetles, and even some reptiles, monkeys, rodents, and possums perform pollination. However, bees tend to visit one species of plant at a time, which results in better quality pollination since the plants of one species receive an even distribution of pollen from others in its species.

The frightening part is that the future of bees is uncertain.

Massive pesticide use in agriculture is killing off the very bees needed to maintain the crops. GMOs are believed to play a massive role in the demise of bees. Many genetically modified seeds are reliant on the use of the herbicide Roundup that has been linked to pollinator decline. GMO crops not only require large amounts of chemicals to be used but they also have these toxic chemicals engineered inside the seed. Additionally there are GMO seeds that act as "terminator seeds." These genetically modified plants produce modified or sterile flower pollen, which cannot adequately nourish the bees that feed on them, so they can become malnourished and die.

GMOs were brought to us by chemical companies that promised these crops would lead to reduced chemical usage but many studies have shown just the opposite. According to Chuck Benbrook, “GMOs have added more than four pounds of herbicides to US farm fields for every pound of insecticide they've taken away.”

The threat to the honeybee population is commonly referred to as colony collapse disorder, a phenomenon that experts believe may be caused by a variety of factors, including as we mentioned, pesticide use specifically neonicitinoids, roundup-ready genetically engineered crops, terminator seeds, the invasive varroa mite, stress, habitat disruption, and poor nutrition.

Read more about colony collapse disorder

Honeybee populations have been declining in the United States for decades. In 1947, the number of managed honeybee colonies was 6 million; today it is just 2.5 million. During recent winters in Europe, losses to the bee population have been as high as 53 percent. According to the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, “bee overwintering mortality has increased in Canada and the United States since 2006. Overwintering mortality or loss is a term for colonies that did not survive the winter, which includes colonies that are too weak to survive or died during the early spring. In Canada, national bee overwintering losses of colonies increased from a historical average of 10-15 percent to 35 percent in 2007 and 2008. This was followed by somewhat lower overwintering losses from 2009 and 2010 to 2013 and 2014, which ranged from 15 to 29 percent. Many factors can affect overwintering loss. In 2014, beekeepers identified the main possible causes as: weather, poor queens, weak colonies in the fall, parasites and pesticides.”

Here, Rachel Parent points out the relationship between bee colony collapse, GMOs, and the hypocrisy of the General Mills’ commercial: “Although it’s so important for corporations to talk about the issue of bee colony collapse and inform consumers, does the message have meaning if it’s packed with hypocrisy?

Cheerios, as an example, spent a great deal of money on their “Bring Back the Bees” campaign, but in fact, by using Genetically Modified ingredients in their cereals, they are contributing to bee colony collapse.”

Additionally the company is giving away free wildflower seed packets that are not organic. It’s unclear if these free seeds are untreated and even safe for pollinators. Once again it’s a “greenwashing” stunt that makes little to no impact, that General Mills is famous for carrying out.

Help Save Our Bees

General Mills’ was pressured into taking on the plight of the honeybee by shareholders. While we appreciate the pressure they felt to take action, we see this marketing stunt for what it truly is.

However, consumers can pluck the message from the commercial and take real action to help save our bees.

Here are 5 things you can do right now to save honeybees:

1. Plant pollinator-friendly flowers. Many flowering plants provide forage for pollinators. You can even select pollinator-friendly plants by the season.

2. Create nesting sites.
Wild bees need safe habitats. In nature, they find them in the ground, in old beetle tunnels or cracks in wood and in other tiny corners.

3. Avoid using pesticides in your own backyard, especially systemic insecticides such as neonicotinoids. It’s important to make sure that pollinator-friendly plants you purchase have not been treated with neonicotinoids. If you’re unsure you can ask your local nursery manager to assist you.

4. Support organic.
 Choosing organic food isn’t just healthier for you than eating food grown with toxic, synthetic agrochemicals –it’s healthier for pollinators and the environment. By choosing organic foods, you help protect pollinators, other wildlife and entire ecosystems.

5. Get involved and engage your community!
 Support local beekeepers in your area by buying their honey. You can also keep bees in your own backyard. You can even take it one step further by calling on your local officials to ban toxic pesticides on city property.

Many call the plight of honeybees the canary in the coal mine warning us that there is massive deception and destruction in our food supply.

READ MORE: Food Then and Now: How Nutrition Has Changed >>

Environmental Protection Agency. Colony collapse disorder
Global Research. Death of the bees
Green Peace. Bees in decline The importance of honeybees
Nature. Global crisis: honeybee population on the decline
One Green Planet. Why bees are important to our planet
US Department of Agriculture. USDA Provides $8 Million to Help Boost Declining Honey Bee Population
Vermont Right To Know GMOs.

By Andrea Donsky and Zuri Star| July 19, 2016
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Andrea Donsky and Zuri Star

Andrea Donsky and Zuri Star

Andrea Donsky is Founder & Chief Passionista at See her full bio here

Zuri Star is a writer and contributor to Naturally Savvy focused on social media activism. See her full bio here



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