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UK Pavilion flies the flag at Milan Expo Food Poverty gathering

Milan Expo opened in Italy’s second city this week to a background of student protests against capitalism. An ironic protest bearing in mind the UK Pavilion is flying the flag at Milan Expo to table the crisis in food poverty worldwide. 

The theme for the six month event for each country being represented amongst the 150 structures on the 2 km long site on the outskirts of Milan is how we can feed a world population of 7.3 billion and rising. It is calculated that there is a 2.5 billion and rising poverty gap and the crisis we face is we are currently at maximum food production and food isn’t getting to the nations with people who are starving.

We live increasingly in a selfish “us and them” culture and Milan Expo has been tasked by governments and world organisations to focus attention on this problem and suggest ways to alleviate it.

The UK Pavilion has been themed on the importance of the bee in food production and the severe threat it is under globally with reports of hive collapse and bees vanishing from the countryside worldwide. In China they now paint their crops with pollen using feathers and in the US hives are transported from coast to coast by truck to pollinate crops.

Bees are a vital cog in the food chain therefore and it seems big business is doing all it can to destroy them. The irony of GMO companies like Monsanto producing seeds which are disease and weedkiller resistant and the impact this has on the bee population cannot be overlooked.

It is claimed that systemic pesticides – which means chemicals absorbed by seeds before planting – are a major cause of hive collapse and bee genocide. Anti-GMO groups claim that the effect of these crop poisons are not felt by the bee population for several years but eventually the bees are either stillborn or are damaged genetically and can’t form their digestive systems adequately.

The UK Pavilion which received 20,000 visitors on its opening weekend sports a 25 ton metal honeycomb hive on its roof which is connected to a real hive back in the UK. As activity in the UK hive ebbs and flows the sounds are relayed to the Pavilion via a 100 channel sound system and LED coloured lights glow in unison with the 150,ooo piece aluminium hive.

It has been discovered that hive activity can predict a swarm in advance when part of the colony leaves the hive with the queen to establish a new hive. This can be calamitous for the bees if they are unsuccessful in finding a new home fast enough as the swarm and their queen die out in the open. Empty hives and dead bees are very bad news for honey producers and crop growers so this sort of advanced technology is invaluable.

Nottingham-based artist Wolfgang Buttress teamed up with designer and engineer Tristan Simmonds to create the pavilion, which is designed to resemble a giant beehive at the centre of a wildflower meadow.

Architectural practice BDP and construction and manufacturing firm Stage One were part of the team that helped build the project.

For a full report click here.

Simon Ludgate
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