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Loss of Pollinators Threatens World's Food Supply: Report
A growing number of birds, bats, and insects that pollinate plants face extinction, putting the world's food supply at risk, according to a new report released Friday by a United Nations-linked group.
Plants that rely on pollination account for 35 percent of global crop production volume, have a value of up to $577 billion a year and create millions of jobs, The New York Times reported.
About 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators, such as birds and bats, face possible extinction. The threat to insects is not as clear, but at least nine percent of bee and butterfly species are at risk.
The problem is due to factors such as climate change, pesticides, intensive agricultural practices that eliminate wildflowers and covers crops that provide food for pollinators, and parasites and pathogens that are attacking bees, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services said.
The group includes the United States and 123 other countries and was created through the United Nations in 2012, according to The Times.
The report, based on an analysis of current studies and data, did not offer conclusive opinions on two controversial topics: the suspected link between neonicotinoid pesticides and declining bee populations, and the effects of genetically modified crops on insects.
The report is a milestone that makes "a practical and effective contribution to finding solutions to pollinators challenges," Laurie Adams, executive director of the Pollinator Partnership, a group that contributed to the report, told The Times.
The document is meant to provide governments, policy makers and organizations with the latest information on the issue and options for dealing with it, the report authors said.
"The messages here are clear. If you want to protect pollinators, this is the suite of options you should consider -- or, could consider," said group vice chair Sir Robert Watson, director of strategic development, Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia, U.K., The Times reported.