Buzz Kill

By: | Published: February 29, 2016 12:23 AM

Pesticides, climate change, etc, are killing key pollinators, putting farm output worth billions at risk

The buzz may literally go out for many fruit-growers worldwide, with a UN-backed report stating that bees and other pollinators are facing increasing risks to their survival—and this threatens global food output valued at anywhere between $235 billion and $577 billion. Increasing use of pesticides, loss of habitat to urbanisation and climate change, according to the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), are the chief survival threats for around 20,000 species of bees, birds, butterflies and bats that are key to industrial-scale pollination in different regions of the world. In Europe, for instance, 9% of the bee and butterfly species, including many key pollinator species, are already on the verge of extinction.

Fertilisation in crops such as apple, almond, blueberry and coffee is entirely pollinator-dependent. With many livelihoods tied to these crops—coffee-picking in Brazil, almond-shelling in California, etc—the extinction of key pollinators, or even a fall in numbers, could spell economic disaster, the IPBES, which conducted the study across 124 nations, has warned; more so since farming dependent on these pollinators has grown by nearly 300% in the last 50 years. While the effect of genetic modification on such pollinators has not been studied, this could be a way to reduce reliance on pesticides, and thereby help conserve the pollinators.

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