NPR: Bee declines questioned, global food supply not threatened

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The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis.

First, the world’s biggest crops, the ones that billions of people still depend on for most of their calories, don’t rely on insects or other pollinators. These crops include corn, wheat, soybeans and rice.

That still leaves a lot of other crops, though, and many of them are growing in popularity. Berries, vegetables, fruits and nuts tend to benefit most from pollinators. . . .

According to [Marcelo Aizen, a researcher at Universidad Nacional del Comahue in Argentina], the surging popularity of these nutritious crops could run headlong into the roadblock of vanishing pollinators. With fewer bees or butterflies available, yields could fall, making these valuable foods even more expensive.

The degree of probable damage, however, is largely a matter of speculation. According to Jaboury Ghazoul, an ecologist at ETH Zurich, a leading university in Switzerland, “in most farming systems, production is limited by other, far more important factors” — such as pests and diseases, weather, and access to fertilizer.

Some crops, meanwhile, like almonds and greenhouse-grown tomatoes, rely on pollination by highly managed colonies of bees that are multiplied in captivity and hauled by the truckload to farms where they are needed. This can be expensive, but those pollinators — unlike wild species — are not likely to disappear.

And yet another wrinkle: The places where pollinators have declined most precipitously are the places where crops don’t actually need them — like the Midwestern corn and soybean belt. In much of the rest of the world, there’s scant evidence that pollinators are even in trouble, which has led Ghazoul to question whether there really is a “pollination crisis” for agriculture. In an email to The Salt, Ghazoul wrote that “there is an urgent need for conservation, for many reasons, but I do not believe that a clear scientific case has been made for pollinators on the basis of their contribution to food production.”

Read full, original post: Is Nutritious Food In Peril, Along With Pollinators?

  • First Officer

    They’re screaming all the bees are dying yet there’s so much honey at the store. The other day it was even on sale. How could this be?