Pollinators declining



According to a study, the decrease in the supply of healthy foods caused by the global loss of pollinators is already resulting in approximately 500,000 premature deaths annually.

Pollination is necessary for three quarters of crops, but many insect populations are rapidly declining. According to the findings of the study, fruit, vegetable, and nut production has decreased by 3 to 5 percent as a result of inadequate pollination. According to the scientists, pollinator decline now accounts for approximately 1 percent of all deaths.

The researchers took into account deaths from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some types of cancer, all of which can be reduced by eating healthier. The study is the first to quantify the negative effects that a lack of wild pollinators has on human health.

A computer model that tracks the global food trade and data from hundreds of farms around the world, as well as information on yields and health risks associated with diet, served as the foundation for the study.

“A critical missing piece in the biodiversity discussion has been a lack of direct linkages to human health,” said Dr Samuel Myers, at Harvard University’s TH Chan School of Public Health and senior author of the study. “This research establishes that loss of pollinators is already impacting health on a scale with other global health risk factors, such as prostate cancer or substance use disorders.”

“But there is a solution out there in pollinator-friendly practices,” Myers said. These include increasing flower abundance on farms, cutting pesticide use, especially neonicotinoids, and preserving or restoring nearby natural habitats. “When these have been studied, they pay for themselves economically through increased production.” Nonetheless, the researchers said “immense challenges remain” in restoring pollinator populations globally.

Using data from the global farm study, the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, evaluated dozens of pollinator-dependent crops. It found that about a quarter of the difference between high and low yields was caused by insufficient pollination.

The farm data was used to determine the drop in yield due to too few pollinators. “We estimated that the world is currently losing 4.7% of total production of fruit, 3.2% of vegetables, and 4.7% nuts,” the researchers said.

Then, they tracked how these losses would affect people’s diets worldwide using an economic model. Lastly, they estimated the number of early deaths by utilising well-known data on the health effects of reducing fruit, vegetable, legume, and nut consumption.

The study’s greatest impact was found in middle-income nations like China, India, Russia, and Indonesia, where unhealthy diets, smoking, and inactivity were already contributing to a high rate of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Even if food prices rose as a result of lower production, more people in wealthy nations could still afford to eat healthily, though those in poorer nations would still suffer.

The team’s previous research demonstrated that the majority of a nation’s health effects were caused by the loss of pollinators in that nation, not in other nations from which food was imported. In countries with low incomes, insufficient wild pollinators caused the greatest yield drops. Better wild pollination would benefit food production most, but people’s health would suffer less due to lower heart disease and stroke rates.

The scientists asserted that the estimation of the number of deaths is conservative due to the fact that the study did not take into account the effects of diets deficient in micronutrients like vitamin A and folate, as well as the health effects of farmers’ lost income.

The UK-based professor at the University of Sussex, Prof. David Goulson, who was not a member of the study team, stated: “Globally, we consume too much of the wind pollinated crops – wheat, rice, corn, barley – which are rich in carbs but relatively low in nutrients, leading to an epidemic of obesity and diabetes around the world. We do not eat enough fruit and veg, most of which requires insects for pollination – think apples, cherries, strawberries, squash, beans, tomatoes etc.”

According to Goulson, yields would also be reduced if other insects, like those that prey on crop pests, went extinct. Additionally, poor diet-related health, job loss, and disability would have a significant impact on health services and economies, adding: “The overall impacts of declining biodiversity on crop production are likely to be far larger than measured in this study.”

“The most concerning aspect of this study is that, since insect populations are continuing to decline, this lost crop yield is going to get worse into the future, while the human population is going to continue growing to at least 10 billion,” Goulson said. “The problems described here are likely to get much worse as the 21st century progresses.”

Myers stated: “We’re transforming every one of the natural systems on the planet and we keep experiencing these surprises. For example, our earlier work showed how rising carbon dioxide levels are making our food less nutritious. So this pollinator study is important, not only for its own sake, but as an indication that there’s risk in completely transforming our natural life support systems.”


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The declines in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their declines towards extinction.

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This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

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