Ecosystem service questions: Whose pollen? Whose pollinators?

As the world becomes more human dominated and people enclose an increasing number of ecological commons we can probably expect conflicts over ecosystem services to become more common. In California there is currently a new conflict over pollination.  From Associated Press: Tangerine growers tell beekeepers to buzz off.

Is it trespassing when bees do what bees do in California’s tangerine groves?

Mega-grower Paramount Citrus has already sent letters to beekeepers near the company’s Kern County clementine groves threatening legal action and promising to seek “compensation for any and all damages caused to its crops, as well as punitive damages” if seeds develop. Company officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The new regulations would affect Kern, Tulare, Fresno and Madera counties in the southern San Joaquin Valley, where many orange growers converted to easy-to-peel tangerines. The fruit’s California acreage was expanded from 24,000 in 2005 to 31,392 in 2008 to compete with imports from Spain and the Middle East.

Tangerines and other normally seedless mandarins do not need bees to move pollen from the male to female parts of the flower in the process known as pollination. But if bees cross-pollinate the crop with the pollen of other fruit, mandarins develop undesireable seeds.

Almond trees on the west side of the valley, on the other hand, need lots of bees to pollinate. For the February pollination season, almond growers hire beekeepers from around the country to bring tens of thousands of hives to California, home to 70 percent of the world’s supply.

As almond blossoms drop in late March, citrus growers say, beekeepers relocate hives to make orange blossom honey before heading to the Midwest for spring clover season.

Some growers, who by law must ban spraying for citrus mites and other pests when bees are present, say the bees are an increasing burden.

“We’ve coexisted with them, but we don’t need them,” said Joel Nelson, executive director of California Citrus Mutual, a trade association. “Now we’re trying to adapt to changing consumer demands, and we’re hamstrung.”

I wonder if this means that allergy sufferers will be able to sue people who plant pollen producing plants?

via Agricultural biodiversity weblog

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