News about bee populations declining has been persistent year after year. “What if bees went extinct?” is now officially a question on the minds of many.
Bees are the main pollinators for food crops and are responsible for about $30 billion in crops harvested annually. Without them, it will be incredibly hard if not impossible to feed the growing human population, reported BBC News.
As of right now, we are still losing many bee colonies each year. The main possible reasons for the decline include changing climate conditions and the use of toxic pesticides on food crops, many created by Monsanto and Bayer.
Some of the losses are due to a combination of selective ignorance and money-driven decisions that disregard the consequences.
Biotechnology giants, for example, Bayer and Syngenta, have known for years that their neonicotinoid insecticides have been seriously harming the honeybees, yet hid the studies confirming the damage and did nothing to stop it.
And when a local South Carolina government decided to spay a toxic chemical during the Zika virus scare, they did not consider what it would do to honeybees. The results were devastating as millions of bees dropped dead overnight.
While we’re learning more and more each day about the highly concerning bee situation, not as much attention has been drawn toward the decline of other insect populations in recent years.
A new study from Germany may change all that, and it’s not good news for people concerned about the state of the environment and the natural world.
Study Shows: Global Decline in Insect Population
The study looked at overall flying insect populations and found something shocking — a decline of more than 75% in the total population over the last 27 years.
This decline happened in protected wild areas that are supposed to be untouched by humanity, yet they have also suffered from civilization. The flying insects are responsible for keeping ecosystems and food webs functioning, and losing them has negative effects on all of us.
The study measured flying insects biomass using traps in 63 nature protection areas. The results showed a 76% seasonal decline of flying insects, and a 82% decline in the mid-summer. Study researchers found that the decline was similar regardless of the type of habitat, weather fluctuations, or land use.
Knowing that climate change is a known factor of insect decline, they took into consideration climate conditions: air temperature, precipitation, cloud coverage, air moisture, wind speed, and other variables. Yet, they found that climate change is an unlikely factor to explain such a major flying insect decline.
The study also focused on land use factors and habitat changes as potential reasons for insect decline, but found none of them to be a reason likely enough for such a major change. What they did not incorporate were agricultural influences.
And in the conclusion of the study, researchers hypothesize that agricultural influences such as pesticides and increased use of fertilizer usage may be to blame.
As environmental activist and author George Monbiot pointed out, science is too focused on finding new ways to kill insects, and provides no funds on figuring out how to save them. It is studies like this one from Germany, conducted by naturalists that shed the light on the dark truth we have been avoiding.
Huge numbers of beneficial insects are dying because of human involvement, and pesticides are the most likely factor.
Pesticides Are Not The Way to Feed The World
The alleged reason for higher pesticide use by bio-giants like Monsanto is “feeding the world.”
Yet, study after study shows that this is a myth (read the UN report here). A study in Nature Plants also concluded that the opposite is true: if farmers used less pesticides, they would have higher crop yields.
A study in Arthropod-Plant Interactions has also shown that neonicotinoid pesticides, or seeds coated with substances that ward off and kill bugs (and even birds in some cases) cause yield declines, because they harm the pollinators the crops need (neonicotinoids are one of the worst pesticides for bees)
Why are they still in use? As we see from Syngenta and Bayer’s comments about their products, the most common reason is money.
“Farmers and governments have been comprehensively conned by the global pesticide industry,” wrote Monbiot in his opinion piece on insects dying.
What We Can Do to Save the Bees (and Other Insects)
As of 2011, the global pesticide industry market was valued at $35.7 billion and is expected to grow to $65.3 billion by the end of 2017. There is a lot of money to be made and biotech companies and their investors are winning.
To do so, they are spreading the myth that we need pesticides to grow our food. According to Monbiot what we actually need are:
- A global treaty to regulate pesticide manufacturing and usage (and to take control back from manufacturers).
- An environmental assessment of the farming and fishing industries.
- Land protection rules and regulations to restore the ecosystems.
- Reduction in farm lands while retaining the amounts of food we produce. To do so, we need to greatly reduce our use of livestock.
- No longer using land that is great for growing food to grow maize for car fuel (a big problem in the U.S.)
As most people realize at this point, the problem of pesticides and insect loss is a huge one. And as we see in places like China, where people are actually being forced to hand-pollinate their crops in some rural areas, time is of the essence, and this is one fight we can’t afford to lose.
We can start by voting with our dollars, and making organic food the standard again instead of the exception to the rule, as we once did so long ago.