As you probably remember, Buzz, the Cheerio mascot, kind of went missing last week. His disappearance is part of General Mills’ campaign to raise awareness about the dwindling population of bees. In addition to extracting Buzz from boxes, General Mills also has plans for a 3,300 acre bee habitat. The company claims that 30 percent of their ingredients are pollinated by bees and they’re hoping consumers will join them in attempting to combat the disappearing bee population. Unfortunately, they’ve made a pretty big mistake.
As part of the #bringbackthebees campaign, Cheerios pledged to give away 200 million wildflower seeds to anyone who signed up on their website.
A mere seven days after the campaign was announced, the General Mills blog shared that 1.5 BILLION wildflower seeds were due to be distributed in the U.S. and Canada. They could hardly bee-lieve it!
But there’s a problem: the wildflower seeds General Mills distributed aren’t universally friendly to the environment. The generic mix of seeds they sent out, which included forget-me-nots, poppies, daisies, lavender, hyssop, and about a dozen others, aren’t native to the entire country and their effects can do serious damage. In some states, there are strict rules regulating these particular plants. Forget-me-nots, for example, are considered invasive and banned in Connecticut; they’re also prohibited in Massachusetts and poppies are considered an “invasive exotic pest” in the southeast.
An ecologist told Grub Street that non-native plants can take up space and use up all of an area’s resources. Invasive species can spread disease and cause damage to other plants as well as humans. The National Wildlife Foundation warns that invasive species can out-compete native species for food, carry disease, change food webs, decrease biodiversity, and alter ecosystem conditions. So… not great.
Others are criticizing the campaign because it fails to take into consideration that not all bees are the same. What’s good for a honeybee isn’t necessarily good for a bumblebee. And, possibly most significantly, some consider the entire campaign hypocritical. A report provided by Food Democracy Now! found that the oats used in Cheerios contain traces of Roundup, an herbicide produced by Monsanto that contains glyphosate. And while the effects of glyphosate on human beings and certain animals are conflicting, the effects of insecticides on bee populations are plainly evident.
Bees are really good dancers and we need them to survive, but what we don’t need are ad campaigns that do more harm than good. If you’re among the folks who received a packet of wildflower seeds from Cheerios, make sure they belong in your yard. If you’re not sure, ask someone who might know!