Pollination loss removes healthy foods from global diets, increases chronic diseases causing excess deaths

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Studies show that poor pollination results in a 3-5% loss in fruit, vegetable and nut production, a loss in healthy food consumption, and associated diseases (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain cancer) cause an estimated 427,000 excess deaths per year. Led by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. This is the first study to quantify the impact of inadequate wild (animal) pollinators on human health.

“A key missing piece in the biodiversity debate is the lack of a direct link to human health. Together with global health risk factors, they are already establishing a significant impact on health.Samuel Myers, Principal Research Scientist, Planetary Health, Department of Environmental Health, and senior author of the study.

This study will be completed on December 14, 2022 Environmental health perspective.

Increasing human pressure on natural systems is causing horrific loss of biodiversity, a topic currently at the COP 15 United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Montreal. This includes a 1-2% annual decline in insect populations, with some warning of an imminent “insect apocalypse” in the coming decades. Important among insect species are pollinators, which increase yields in three-quarters of crop varieties and are essential for the cultivation of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts. Land-use change, harmful pesticide use and ongoing climate change are threatening wild pollinators and jeopardizing human food supplies.

The researchers used a model framework containing empirical evidence from a network of hundreds of experimental farms in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Crop losses were due to poor pollination. We then used a global risk disease model to estimate the possible health effects of changes in pollination on dietary risk and country-specific mortality. In addition, the case study subject calculated the loss of economic value due to loss of pollination in the three countries.

The results show that lost food production is concentrated in low-income countries, while middle- and high-income countries with high incidences of non-communicable diseases bear a greater health burden. The geographic distribution was somewhat unusual in that the health impacts of global environmental change were generally concentrated among the poorest in regions such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Here, middle-income countries with large populations (China, India, Indonesia, Russia) suffered the most.

The analysis also showed that low-income countries lost significant agricultural income due to poor pollination and low yields, losing 10-30% of total agricultural value.

“The results may seem surprising, but they reflect the complex dynamics of the factors behind food systems and populations around the world. Only through this kind of interdisciplinary modeling can the scale and We can better resolve impacts,” co said. – Author Timothy Sulther, Senior Scientist, International Food Policy Institute.

Strategies to protect wild pollinators are not only an environmental issue, but also a health and economic issue. “This study shows that too little is done to help pollinators. Not only is it harmful to nature, but it is also harmful to human health.

For more information:
Pollinator Deficiency, Food Consumption, and Impacts on Human Health: A Modeling Study, Environmental health perspective (2022). DOI: 10.1289/EHP10947

Courtesy of Harvard TH Chang School of Public Health

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