Bees, Butterflies May Go Way of the Dinosaur
United Nations report says world crops are at risk
By Neal Colgrass, Newser Staff
Posted Feb 27, 2016 1:25 PM CST
A hummingbird flies at the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

(Newser) – Don't care much about birds and bees going extinct? OK, but you may have to forgo popular foods (like blueberries, apples, and coffee) that depend on creatures that pollinate plants, the Christian Science Monitor reports. According to a UN scientific report approved by 124 nations, the coming extinction of pollinators such as butterflies and bees could undermine hundreds of billions in world food crops. "We are in a period of decline and there are going to be increasing consequences," says lead report author Simon Potts. With one in six vertebrate pollinators (like hummingbirds) and two in five invertebrate pollinators (like bees) going extinct, the report says, $235 billion to $577 billion in world food crops are at risk. Some 35% of world crop production depends on pollinators, the New York Times reports.

What's behind the extinctions? Experts point to climate change, pesticides that harm or kill pollinators, and farmers that fill every acre without patches for cover crops and wildflowers that feed pollinators. On the bright side, experts say, that makes some fixes easy: Stop using harmful pesticides and start planting things for pollinators (in England, the government pays farmers to plant wildflowers in hedgerows). "There are relatively simple, relatively inexpensive mechanisms for turning the trend around for native pollinators," a report co-author tells the AP. One unknown for pollinators is the effect of genetically modified crops, which can be resistant to pesticides or insects. "That’s a very clear knowledge gap," says Potts. "We’re brutally honest with the science." (Bees, meanwhile, are surprisingly lethal for humans.)