Declining bee populations threaten global food security, nutrition — FAO

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The global decline in bee populations poses a serious threat to a wide variety of plants critical to human well-being and livelihoods, and countries should do more to safeguard them in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, FAO stressed Monday, as it marked UN World Bee Day.

It said the number of bees and other pollinators is declining in many parts of the world largely due to intensive farming practices, mono-cropping, excessive use of agricultural chemicals and higher temperatures associated with climate change, affecting not only crop yields but also nutrition. If the trend continues, FAO warns that crops such as fruits, nuts, and many vegetables will be increasingly substituted by staple crops like rice, corn, and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet.

“Bees are under great threat from the combined effects of climate change, intensive agriculture, pesticides use, biodiversity loss, and pollution,” said FAO’s Director-General Jos Graziano da Silva in a video message recorded for this year’s World Bee Day. “The absence of bees and other pollinators would wipe out coffee, apples, almonds, tomatoes, and cocoa, to name just a few of the crops that rely on pollination. Countries need to shift to more pollinator-friendly and sustainable food policies and systems.”

Graziano da Silva urged individals to make pollinator-friendly choices.

“Even growing flowers at home to feed bees contributes to this effort,” he added.

The World Bee Day ceremony at FAO headquarters in Rome saw the participation of Slovenia’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Aleksandra Pivec, president of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association Boštjan No, and vice-president of Apimondia Peter Kozmus.

Slovenia, together with FAO, Apimondia and the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, was instrumental in establishing the international observance through a UN General Assembly resolution in 2017.

Bees are among the hardest working creatures on the planet, their industry giving rise to the expression, ‘busy as a bee’. They ensure pollination and thus reproduction of many cultivated and wild plants — which is crucial for food production, human livelihoods and biodiversity.

Bees and other pollinators such as birds and bats, affect 35 per cent of the world’s crop production, increasing outputs of 87 of the leading food crops worldwide, plus many plant-derived medicines.

According to FAO, about two-thirds of the crop plants that feed the world rely on pollination by insects or other animals to produce good quality and a wide variety of healthy fruits and seeds for human consumption.

FAO carries out various activities to encourage pollinator-friendly practices in agricultural management, including the Global Action on Pollination Services for Sustainable Agriculture and the International Pollinators Initiative.

FAO’s recent State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture report also stresses that many species associated with biodiversity, including bees, are under severe threat, and calls on governments and the international community to do more to address the core drivers of biodiversity loss.

Another study, Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production, issued by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services with input from FAO experts, highlights a number of ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations to ensure food security and preserve biodiversity.

This year marks the second observance of World Bee Day, with Monday’s event in Rome seeking to raise awareness about the role of bees and pollinators in food and agriculture This event took place in parallel with an observance at the UN headquarters in New York.

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