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Prof’s lesson on food and the birds and the bees

February 27, 2016

Food supplies under threat from extinction of animals that carry out pollination.


KUALA LUMPUR: An international body of experts has warned of the danger to world food supplies because pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, birds and other animals, face the threat of extinction.

The government’s science adviser, Prof Zakri Abdul Hamid, said there was a global threat of extinction of 16.5 per cent of vertebrate pollinators and 30 per cent of island species of pollinators.

“A growing number of pollinator species worldwide is being driven towards extinction by diverse pressures, many of them human-made, threatening the livelihood of millions, and hundreds of billions dollars worth of food supplies.

“Pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds and other animals pollinate crops including fruit, vegetables seeds, nuts and olis. Many of these are important dietary sources of vitamins and minerals, without which the risks of malnutrition might be expected to increase.

“Several crops also represent an important source of income in developing countries such as the production of coffee and cocoa,” he said at a press conference on a two-year global study conducted by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Prof Zakri is the founding chairman of the group, which carried out a two-year global study assessment.

The assessment, the first by the group, was conducted since 2014 by 77 world experts.

Zakri said the study assessment also found that maintaining or creating greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban landscape would be one of the options to preserve the species.

“Decreasing exposure of pollinators to pesticides by reducing their usage, seeking alternative forms of pest control and adopting a range of specific application practices, including technologies to reduce pesticide drift can also be done.”

Meanwhile, Zakri, who is Science Adviser to the Prime Minister, said Malaysia was one of the countries which was pro-active in protecting pollinator species in efforts to balance development with environmental conservation.

“This country is one of the nations which still has more than 50 per cent of the land surface as jungle. Compared to other countries, we (Malaysia) have a good record,” he said.

He added that Malaysia’s seriousness in protecting and conserving bio-diversity, including pollinators in the country was also seen in the National Policy on Biological Diversity which was reviewed as a guide to biodiversity management in the next 10 years, beginning 2016, launched by Prime Minister Najib Razak, in conjunction with the fourth IPBES plenary session last Monday.

The policy emphasised the need for continued conservation, sustainable utilisation and the sharing of benefits from biodiversity in a fair and equitable manner.

IPBES was founded four years ago with 124 members from United Nations member states to form a crucial intersection between international scientific understanding and public policy making.



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