UN, EU call for global action to protect bees

On the occasion of World Bee Day celebrated on May 20th, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization and the European Union have called for global action to protect pollinators, and bees in particular, which are crucial for ensuring food security.

To underline the importance of the issue, and following a Slovenian proposal, the UN has named May 20 as World Bee Day, as it marked the birthday of Anton Jansa (1734-1773), a Slovenian pioneer in modern beekeeping.

Pollinators, such as bees, birds, bats, butterflies and beetles are responsible for most of the crops and food that we eat. However, the UN has warned that 40% of invertebrate pollinators—particularly bees and butterflies—risk global extinction.

The absence of an appropriate habitat for bees could lead to a continuous decline in pollination. Mono-cropping, pesticides and higher temperatures associated with climate change all pose problems for bee populations and, by extension, the quality of food we grow.

Declining pollination also poses an immediate threat to nutrition. If this trend continues, nutritious crops such as fruits, nuts, and many vegetable crops will be substituted increasingly by staple crops like rice, corn, and potatoes, eventually resulting in an imbalanced diet.

Importance of Pollinators:

Most of our staple food crops such as wheat, rice, sorghum, barley and maize do not require animals for their pollination. However, wild pollinators play a very important role in the production of other crops such as some pulses, sunflower seeds, cardamom, coffee, cashew nuts, oranges, mangoes and apples.

Pollinators also provide a key ecosystem service vital to the maintenance of both wild and agricultural plant communities.

Besides, the annual economic value of the crops pollinated by animals worldwide is estimated to be between $235 billion and $577 billion (in 2015).

Declines in the health and population of pollinators pose what could be a significant threat to the integrity of biodiversity, to global food webs, and to human health. At least 80% of our world’s crop species require pollination to set seed.

Recommended practices for farmers to create a good habitat for bees to ensure pollination include:

  • Leaving some areas under natural habitat.
  • Creating hedgerows.
  • Reducing or changing the usage of pesticides.
  • Leaving nesting sites.
  • Planting attractive crops around the field.

On a policy level, a more diverse agriculture and less dependency on toxic chemicals to facilitate an increase in pollination, leading to improved food quality and a surge in food quantity are encouraged.

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