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Insect pollination worth EUR 153 billion a year

Pollination services provided by insects, mainly bees, are worth EUR 153 billion a year, according to new EU-funded research. This figure is equivalent to almost a tenth of the total value of world agricultural food production. Scientists warn that without these pollination se...
Insect pollination worth EUR 153 billion a year
Pollination services provided by insects, mainly bees, are worth EUR 153 billion a year, according to new EU-funded research. This figure is equivalent to almost a tenth of the total value of world agricultural food production. Scientists warn that without these pollination services, the supply of fruits, vegetables and stimulants such as coffee and cocoa would no longer meet the current demand.

Pollinators, particularly bees, are in decline around the world; in some agricultural areas, farmers already have to import bees to ensure their crops are pollinated. Some 84% of crop species grown in Europe rely on insect pollination, as do 70% of the main crops used for human consumption worldwide. However, the economic impact on a global scale of a total loss of pollination services remains unclear.

In this study, French and German researchers analysed the dependence on insect pollination of 100 crops grown around the world for human consumption. From this, they calculated the impact of a total loss of pollination services on production levels. Their results are published in the journal Ecological Economics.

The researchers estimated that insect pollination has a value of around €153 billion per year, a figure representing 9.5% of the value of total world agricultural food production.

The scientists note that the total loss of insect pollinators would not jeopardise the global food supply, but the production of certain categories would suffer. Specifically, the production of three crop categories (fruits, vegetables and stimulants) would fall well below current consumption levels.

Regions that are already net importers of these crops could face particular problems. For example, the consumption of fruit in the EU outstrips production by 20%.

The researchers underline the fact that their calculations only cover crops produced explicitly for human consumption; they did not take into account the production of crops for consumption by grazing animals, the cultivation of crops for biofuels, the production of seeds for ornamental flowers and the pollination of wild plants. Therefore, the total value of insect pollination services to the global economy is likely to be far higher than €153 billion.

EU support for the research came from the EU-funded ALARM ('Assessing large scale risks for biodiversity with tested methods') project, which is financed through the 'Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems' Thematic area of the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

Source: Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ); Ecological Economics

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