A report reviewed by Phoebe Weston in The Independent” suggests that western appetites for foods, such as avocados, coffee and citrus fruits, are threatening global food security.
The cited study analysed 40 years of data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the cultivation of field crops between 1961 and 2016. They found that global diversity of crops has declined, as soyabean, canola and palm take up more land than ever – crops that only provide nutrition for pollinators during a narrow window of time, whilst they are in bloom. As well as this, farmers are growing more crops that require pollination, such as fruits, nuts and oil seeds, because there is an increasing demand for them and they have a higher market value.
The report suggests that countries that diversity their crops are going to benefit more than those which expand with only a limited range of crops. Countries listed as most unstable in this respect are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia, where expansion of soybean farms has driven deforestation and the loss of meadows. Soy production has risen by about 30% per decade globally. These crops are an unstable source of food for insects, which are in decline globally.
A similar effect is occurring in Malaysia and Indonesia due to the clearance of forests to grow palm and market palm oil across the world. These mono-culture crops are creating unstable agricultural environments, as well as the loss of many forest-dwelling creatures and pollinating insects, such as bees.
Europe has a different problem in that farmland is getting smaller, to be replaced by urban development, and to favour the growing of pollinating-dependent crops. This is happening in the UK, Denmark, Germany, France, Austria and Finland.
Although it is mainly poorer regions which are most at risk, the consequencies of crop failure would be felt world-wide.
In recognition of the problems mentioned above, a seven-mile long bee corridor is being developed in London. Wildflower meadows will be put in place in 22 of Brent Council’s parks in north London. The seeds will be sown across parks in the Brent Council area including Barham Park, Gladstone Park and Tiverton. This initiative has been praised by Jeremy Corbyn (report from BBC).