Open your pantry. What do you see?
A third or more of the food before you likely depends on natural pollinators like bees. Without them, foods like apples, almonds, and squash wouldn’t exist. Neither would certain kinds of coffee, chocolate, or the majority of the world’s 100 top crop varieties.
That’s one reason why insects are so important, and why we should be concerned that they’re in decline. One recent review found that over 40 percent of insects are threatened with extinction. Meanwhile, beekeepers in the US and Europe have been reporting high rates of colony collapse for years.
Scientists have long known that pesticides are part of the problem. These chemicals are literally designed to kill insects and we spray a billion pounds of them across the US each year. Now researchers are learning that they may be having an even larger impact on the natural world than previously known.
When different pesticides mix together, as they often do on farms, they can amplify the effect of one another, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. In deadly combination, they can be even more damaging to bees. Previous research has found that these “synergies” can harm fish and other creatures, too.
What’s most troubling is that regulators in the US and elsewhere don’t take the dangers of these interactions fully into account — even though they’ve long been aware of them. The Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees pesticides in the US, effectively ignored a recommendation to determine which chemicals farmers most commonly mix together, and what risk those combinations pose to bees. Europe is making more progress, but its regulations still fall short, experts say.
Vox, 17 August 2021