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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Seedless Mandarins and Honey Bees

The issue of Seedless Mandarins and Honey Bees has not gone away. Although the ruling proposed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture may appear benign on the surface, it is a dangerous precedent-setting text that will affect the rights of individuals and the health of honey bees.

In recent years, some citrus growers established groves of seedless mandarins in areas that historically welcomed honey bees. The growers were hoping to generate greater financial gains with this fruit than with seed carrying varieties. Unfortunately, they did not do their homework and did not take the precautions that are necessary to ensure that the fruit remain seedless (in a nutshell: the precautionary measures amount to preventing cross-pollination of the flowers of these trees by compatible pollen sources, or to selecting varieties that do not set seeds). Consequently, the fruit that is produced by these „seedless‰ mandarin growers may contain seeds, and they did not make the larger financial gains they were hoping for.

To compensate for their blunder and to avoid the costs of netting their trees, the seedless mandarin growers have asked the state legislature to ban the presence of honey bees in areas that extend for two miles around their orchards.

A Seedless Mandarin Grower-Beekeeper co-existence workgroup was organized but failed to arrive at a compromise between these parties.

As a result, and as mandated by AB771, the Agricultural Secretary issued a ruling in this matter.

The proposed regulation
Although the proposed ruling no longer requires the mandatory removal of bee colonies from the areas that surround seedless mandarin orchards, it could give legitimacy to the request of the citrus growers, and may still be changed under the pressure of the citrus growers after this period of public comment.

What is at stake
If the attempt by the seedless mandarin growers to ban honey bees from large areas of land is allowed to stand in any way, shape or form, it could limit the individual rights of those who live or work around their groves. The burden to generate greater financial gains for the citrus growers would in effect be placed on others who are unfortunate to be around them.

The implementation of such a rule would undoubtedly affect the health of pollinators because large expanses of land that are critically important to the nutrition of honey bees during their period of spring development would no longer be accessible to honey bees. Ultimately, our food crops and our entire environment would be negatively impacted.

The most dangerous part of this ruling is that it could set a precedent. Indeed, though the proposed rule only applies to seedless mandarins and to four counties, the text is written at the state government level. Considering all the potential seedless crops that are presently being developed in research facilities and considering the spread of genetically engineered crops that are incompatible with organic farming practices, the risk of further decreasing bee habitats and of affecting the rights of people throughout the entire state is alarming and should not be overlooked.

Act now
All, beekeepers or not, should be concerned and should voice their opposition.

Please call, write or email your comments immediately to the address below and make a point of asking for the complete dismissal of the seedless mandarin growers‚ request (the period for comments ends on April 13):

Steve Lyle, Office of Public Affairs, Department of Food and Agriculture, 1220 N Street, Room 400, Sacramento, CA 95814, (916)654-0462, FAX (916) 651-7417,

Email: LegislativeOffice

In his absence, you may contact Carla Sanchez, Legislative Office at (916) 654-0321 or Email:

Questions regarding the substance of the proposed regulation should be directed to Carla Sanchez.

Serge Labesque