Could pollinator decline
lead to worldwide famine?
By Sabiha Malik
Founder of The World Bee Project
Bees and other pollinators have been around for millions of years, providing us with food and nutrition and vibrantly maintaining biodiversity in ecosystems across our planet. We all know about honeybees, but we also have over 20,000 species of wild bees, as well as species of butterflies, moths, flies, wasps, beetles. Some animals, such as bats, several species of monkey, rodents, lemur, tree squirrels, olingo and kinkajou, and birds such as hummingbirds, sunbirds, honeycreepers, and some parrot species, also pollinate. All contribute to the production of the micronutrient rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and oils we depend on for our survival.
Pollination in decline
The diversity of food we have available is primarily thanks to pollinators. 75% of the crops grown for our consumption depend partly on these other ‘wild’ pollinators for ongoing yield and quality. Still, it is incredibly alarming that in so many regions of the world, the pollination ‘services’ nature so willingly provides for free are showing declining trends.
To feed an ever-growing world population, intensive agricultural practices, monoculture farming, and pesticides have led to large-scale losses, fragmentation, and degradation of pollinator habitats in the last six decades. Bee species have become less resistant due to the long-distance transmission of pests and diseases. Furthermore, extreme weather changes and climate events are disturbing pollination by desynchronising the pollination needs of flowering plants with the changing behaviours of diverse populations of pollinators.
Avoid toxic pesticides
The increasing use of toxic pesticides and fertilisers has had a terrible effect, regardless of the damage they are known to cause to soil, plant, food, and human health. Mighty agrichemical giants stride the pesticide/fertiliser market, and other giants control the raw materials of our global food system.
Scientists have clear evidence that toxic cocktails of pesticides are poisoning and degrading the soil, damaging the production of vitamin-rich crops such as fruits and vegetables, and leading to increasingly unbalanced diets, malnutrition, and health problems. Thanks to the efforts of the European Union, the most toxic pesticides are banned in Europe. Unfortunately, not so in the United Kingdom, and not so in most countries in the world.
It is not merely a matter of saying pollinators work miracles. To improve bee and pollinator health, numbers, and diversity, we need to farm ecologically. To do so is also crucial for our health and nutrition, food security, and protecting the incomes of hundreds of millions of smallholder farming families worldwide. As we cannot persuade the agrochemical giants to do better, all we can do is support ecological practices that support wild pollinators; This is a way of protecting nature.
Protecting nature is an environmental, economic, social, and ethical issue. It is also about the moral choices we make. It is about ethics. In every country in the world, the most vulnerable groups of people are hit hardest by the degradation of nature due to decisions they play no part in. But all is never lost; there is always a bit of time. We believe we can all get together and design agile processes with a greater capacity for change than the market factors affecting life on earth; This is what the World Bee Project strives to do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sabiha Malik founded The World Bee Project CIC in 2014 to utilise AI and novel technologies to initiate a global perspective, addressing pollinator and biodiversity decline, food insecurity, climate change and threats to human wellbeing as a single interactive, interconnected challenge confronting humanity. Sabiha believes that bees lie at the heart of the relationships that bind the natural and human worlds, and in safeguarding bees lies the means to safeguard life itself.