Plan Bee from the Co-Op pairs film release with environmental strategy

Written by Nic Wistreich on . Posted in Documentary

vanishinbeeVanishing of the Bees released in October, backed with Co-Op commitments for change

The rise of socially focused documentaries since the success of Gore and Moore has been partly supported by UK doc distributor DogWoof - who released the Age of Stupid, Black Gold, Burma VJ and now Vanishing of the Bees. Partnering on these last two films with the UK's ethically focussed Co-Op group - the world's largest consumer-owned business - DogWoof is now moving beyond releasing films which campaign for change, to being involved in that change itself.

The honeybee is responsible for pollinating one third of our food. This contributes approximately £200 million per year to the UK economy. Honeybees are dying in their millions and no-one knows why.  In the UK around one third of all hives were lost in the winter of 2008.

Vanishing of the Bees explores the mysterious collapse of the bee population across the planet and its greater message about mankind’s relationship with the natural world. But the release is set not only to increase awareness and understanding of the issue, but as a means to address the problem itself.  Ahead of the October release of the film, the Co-Op has published a ten point 'Plan Bee', committing to activity ranging from researching colony collapse and banning certain pesticides in farming (the Co-Op is the UK's largest farmer) to giving 300,000 free wildflower seed mixes to members and training beekeepers (full list is below).

planbeeFollowing the success of Burma VJ which opened in cinemas on 17th July, Vanishing of the Bees is the second title to be released by The Co-operative and Dogwoof, whose partnership was announced at Cannes earlier this year to help socially conscious films reach mainstream cinema audiences. It follows a trend seen across the documentary sector where film releases are tied into wider campaigning platforms, such as Age of Stupid's Not Stupid campaign, backed by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and fishing decline documentary End of the Line which partnered with Waitrose as well as running a campaign which saw the likes of Pret a Manger and Gordon Ramsey take endangered fish of their menus.

Conflicting opinions and heated controversy abounds surrounding the cause behind the phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Is it a virus at the heart of this ecological disaster? Is it parasites or pesticides? WiFi or mobile signals? Or is it due to a symptom of changes in agricultural practice? The film explores the issue with the help of beekeepers, scientists and policymakers and attempts to unravel the numerous theories behind the mysterious cause of CCD and its devastating impact on the population of the honeybee.

The film celebrates the ancient relationship between humans and bees whilst highlighting mankind’s reliance on the honeybee as the cornerstone of modern agriculture. For thousands of years right through to the 'hive mind' of the internet, bees and their hexagonal hives have served as symbols of unity, industriousness and what it means to work for the greater good.

In keeping with this connection, the filmmakers aim to provide tangible solutions and inspire audiences to make 'the changes we want to see in our world for the good of mankind, honeybees and all life on Earth'. One of the main theories explored by the film indicates that pesticides may be a cause of the decline in bee numbers. Earlier this year The Co-operative Group became the first UK retailer to prohibit the use of a group of eight pesticides,on own-brand fresh and frozen produce as part of its “Plan Bee” campaign.

Paul Monaghan, Head of Social Goals at The Co-operative explained: “The Co-operative Group has been working with its suppliers since 2001 to reduce pesticide use and already has a market-leading Pesticide Policy, which prohibits the use of 106 pesticides. We believe that the recent losses in bee populations need definitive action and as a result are temporarily prohibiting the eight neonicotinoids pesticides until we have evidence that refutes their involvement in the decline.”

“Awareness raising and education are crucial factors in Plan Bee and that is why we are enthusiastically embracing Vanishing of the Bees which so graphically highlights the global decline in bee populations and the possible reasons behind the collapse”.

The ten-point Plan Bee..

1 - The Co-operative Food has temporarily prohibited the use of neonicotinoid-based pesticides on own-brand fresh produce. These are Acetamiprid, Clothianidin, Dinotefuran, Fipronil, Imidacloprid, Nitenpyram, Thiacloprid and Thiamethoxam.

2 - £150,000 has been made available to support research into the demise of the honeybee, with a particular focus on UK farming, pesticides and gene-diversity. The largest-ever private contribution to bee research in the UK. This includes research into native British Black Bees, which may be better suited to the British climate.

3 - Over three years, The Co-operative Farms will trial a new wildflower seed mix that will be planted alongside crops on its farms across the UK. The Co-operative Farms is the UK’s largest farmer with more than 25,000 hectares of land under management.

4 - Co-operative Farms will invite beekeepers to establish hives on all Co-operative Farms in the UK. To date, over 500 hives have been established on seven Co-operative Farms.

5 - The Co-operative will engage its three million members in a campaign to protect and nurture the bee population in the UK, with advice and tips featuring on its website.

6 - Over 3,000 Co-operative Members attended forty nationwide previews of Vanishing of the Bees in February 2009. In addition, The Co-operative has also produced two bespoke documentaries on the decline of the bee population in the UK.

7 - The Co-operative has partnered with RSPB’s “Homes for Wildlife” Team to empower members to garden in ways that are honeybee-friendly.

8 - Over 300,000 packets of wildflower seed mix have been made available to Co-operative members and the public free of charge.

9 - Bee boxes are being sourced and made available to Co-operative members at discounted prices – to date 700 bee boxes have been purchased as a result of Plan Bee.

10 - The Co-operative will support its members and colleagues to find out more about amateur beekeeping and will encourage links between local beekeepers and members. A pilot project is currently underway in Manchester to train new beekeepers and provide them with hives – by summer 2010, this project will lead to new beekeepers looking after another 3 million bees.