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article imageUN study says many bees, butterflies, pollinators face extinction

By Marcus Hondro     Feb 26, 2016 in Science
A new study from the United Nations paints a gloomy scenario for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. The report says many species of pollinators are facing extinction and the human food supply is at risk as a result.
Pollinator extinction
Simon Potts, the director for the Centre for Agri-Environmental Research at the University of Reading in the U.K., is the lead author of the new study and says the destruction of these creatures is coming if drastic steps are not soon taken. He also noted humans will suffer as a result.
"We're in a period of decline," he said. "And there are going to be increasing consequences." The report cites products such as chocolate, coffee, fruits and vegetables as among those that will be endangered by the extinction of invertebrate pollinators.
Potts and his research team note that there are some 20,000 pollinators and that fully two out of every five of them are now in danger of extinction, including bees and butterflies. The chief culprits are climate change and the use of pesticides, such as those manufactured by Monsanto.
Monarch butterfly decline
An example of a pollinator in danger is the Monarch butterfly, which once numbered 1 billion in North America. Many blame Monsanto's Round-up Ready product for killing milkweed, principal food source of Monarchs; the destruction of milkweed has lead to Monarch numbers dwindling down to 65 million in North America.
Monarch numbers are also on the decline elsewhere but government agencies, environmental groups and private citizens are banding together to try and restore their numbers.
This study comes on the heels of a UN report highlighting the benefits of pollinators to the human food chain. Barbara Gemmill-Herren of the UN is an author of the report and says humans should be helping pollinators create more habitats and to grow in number.
"Our research shows that improving pollinator density and diversity – in other words, making sure that more and more different types of bees and insects are coming to your plants – has direct impact on crop yields," she said in the report.
"And that’s good for the environment and for food security."
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