Reading Time: 2 minutes M&S claims the program will 'encourage natural habitats and pollinators', but critics warn it will damage wild bee species Credit: Adobe. Do not use without permission
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Marks and Spencer has come under fire after it unveiled a program to introduce 30 million bees onto UK farms to produce honey and ‘boost pollination’.

The backlash comes over claims the plans could put pressure on species of wild bees. In turn, this could have adverse effects on the nation’s biodiversity.

Marks and Spencer plans

The major supermarket’s plan is to collaborate with British farmers by launching the bees across 28 farms over the next five years. The national Farming with Nature scheme will see the beehives installed this summer.

The program will ‘improve produce quality’ and help farmers ‘become more resilient’ in terms of the environment, the company stated.

It also said it will ‘help protect the future of these all-important pollinators and the planet’.

Additionally, it will be part of one of the supermarket’s largest multimedia campaigns, Fresh Market Update. This is in order to assure customers of its ‘highest welfare standards’.

Backlash over bees

Whilst Marks and Spencer claims the program will ‘help’ the environment, The Guardian painted a different picture. The news outlet claimed the scheme in fact backfires.

Moreover, it claimed the plans could in fact cause detrimental effects on ecosystems and in particular, wild bees.

It came after a host of environmental experts voiced their fears for the wider bee population, many species of which are already in decline.

Steven Falk is a wild bee expert. He called on the supermarket to rethink the program, tweeting: “Did you know what wild pollinators do two-thirds of the UK’s crop pollination?

‘Did you know that saturating the landscape with honey bees harms them?”

‘Beewashing’

Another branded it ‘environmentally damaging’, whilst others called it ‘beewashing’. The term is a play on greenwashing, which is when companies create a false impression about being environmentally friendly.

A spokesperson for Marks and Spencer said: “Our work with honeybees is just one element of our farming plan. Our comprehensive five-year Farming With Nature program supports pollinator biodiversity…

“We are committed to sustainable farming that safeguards wild pollinators, including bumblebees and solitary bees, so we have placed our honeybee hives in very carefully selected areas, in small groups and more than two miles apart to avoid over-populating a particular area.

“None of our honeybees are imported. We’re discussing how to develop the project with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and we’re also in conversation with BugLife – we’re hoping to work closely together with them to nurture all British pollinators.”

Why vegans don’t eat honey

Many vegans avoid honey. This is because it’s made by bees. Additionally, it is their only food source. Moreover, a decline in bee populations spells disaster for the environment. This is widely agreed among scholars and experts.

Additionally, bees are often abused in the mass production of honey. Their wings are cut off, hives smoked out, and wings and legs can be torn off.

The supermarket unveiled a ‘Bee Blog‘ to document the project.

This article was updated on 18/04/21 to include a statement from Marks and Spencer

Emily is a News and Features Writer for Plant Based News. She has previously worked as a journalist in Devon, UK, reporting on local issues from politics to the environment.