Researchers warn of food industry “crisis” unless urgent action taken to halt decline in pollinator populations
The UK is facing a food security “catastrophe” unless urgent action is taken to protect declining populations of wild pollinators, such as bees.
That is the stark warning contained in a new study from researchers at the University of Reading this week, which concludes that across the EU there are 13.4 million too few honeybee colonies to properly pollinate crops. It also warns that the UK has one of the worst shortfalls of bee population in the EU, with the country currently boasting only a quarter of the honeybees it needs to pollinate crops.
Professor Simon Potts, one of the co-authors of the report, which is published this week in the journalPLOS One, warned that the continent faces “a catastrophe in future years unless we act now”.
“Wild pollinators need greater protection,” he said in a statement. “They are the unsung heroes of the countryside, providing a critical link in the food chain for humans and doing work for free that would otherwise cost British farmers £1.8bn to replace.”
He added that the problem was being exacerbated by damage to habitats, farming methods, and increased demand for energy crops that are used to create biofuels and are reliant on pollinators.
“There is a growing disconnection between agricultural and environmental policies across Europe,” he said. “Farmers are encouraged to grow oil crops, yet there is not enough joined-up thinking about how to help the insects that will pollinate them. We need a proper strategy across Europe to conserve wild bees and pollinators through habitat protection, agricultural policy and farming methods – or we risk big financial losses to the farming sector and a potential food security crisis.”
The EU recently imposed a two year ban on a number of pesticides that had been blamed in some quarters for declining bee populations, facing down opposition from the UK government, which had called for any ban to be delayed until further research on the impact of the pesticides had been undertaken.
However, the latest report will be seized upon by environmental campaigners as further evidence that a more ambitious policy is needed in the UK to reverse the recent decline in bee numbers.