Almonds

How Almond Farming is Taking a Toll on the Environment

Almonds can make for a great snack to boost your protein intake or as a substitute for dairy, but the production of the nut may do more harm than good. 

You may recall from a few years ago, almond farms gained the attention of environmentalists and activists as California struggled through a drought that lasted from 2011 to 2019 and affected many families. The high water content required to grow the crop was scrutinized, as people began to question the ethics of taking up so much water. 

Though the drought is over, California almond farms are taking their toll on the earth in a different way; through the honeybee population. A recent feature from the Guardian took a deep dive into these issues and shed light on the situation. 

With the massive presence of almond farms, farmers rely on commercial honeybee hives that are brought in to keep the crops pollinated consistently. 

Beekeepers in the area have reported a decline in the honeybee population in recent years, and research has been able to tie that with almond farming as a result of multiple factors. 

First, pesticides used on the almonds have been shown to be harmful to the pollinators. A study from Ohio State University examined the impacts of insecticides and fungicides used in almond production, finding that using combinations of different pesticides can result in survival rates decreasing by 60% or more.

In addition to pesticides, the massive amount of production means a lot of work for the bees to get everything pollinated.

Hives are roused early in January, well before bees would normally begin their pollination, and set to work to accommodate the inflated agricultural demand, according to the Guardian. Artificial pollens are added to the diets of the bees to substitute their natural, further contributing to exhaustion and compromised health among bee populations. 

Over the 2018-2019 winter, 37.7% of managed bee populations were lost, according to a survey by the Bee Informed Partnership, the highest annual loss recorded by the partnership since the survey began in 2006.

Putting bees in danger could potentially have catastrophic implications that reach far beyond the production of almonds, as their role as pollinators is crucial to our ecosystem, 

The problem with this isn’t inherent to almonds; the problem, really, lies in a system of commercialized agriculture which prioritizes growth and profits over the wellbeing of the ecosystem, and the almond production is a prime example of that. 

Consider limiting your consumption of almonds and switching to a more sustainable snack, and consider switching to a different milk alternative. Better yet, if you don’t need to avoid dairy, look to see if you can get milk from a local farm! Locally sourced animal products are often a more sustainable option than mass-produced plant options.