The Crop Protection Association And
Their View Of Pollinators

The Crop Protection Association produced a brochure about pollinators called “Pollinators And Agriculture”.

To view the brochure, copy and paste this URL into a new window:

So who are The Crop Protection Association?

Basically, this body represents manufacturers of pesticides (i.e. pesticide companies).

Why have they produced the report about Pollinators?

In the introduction the report says:

“Pollination is often presented as a crucial service in decline, but are we facing a pollination crisis?

To contribute towards awareness of pollinator decline and the extent of the problem, this report describes the relationship between pollinators and agriculture, explores threats to pollinator species, and pays special attention to the honey bee in recognition of its importance to pollination and the beekeeping industry”.

The brochure makes for interesting reading, but I thought I would pull out a few points (although I could have mentioned more).

On page 13 they state:

“European agricultural landscapes have historically enlarged those habitats suitable for pollinators.

Before the agricultural revolutions large parts of Europe were covered with forest – a habitat offering fewer food sources for pollinator species.

The growth of agriculture in Europe has provided a patchwork of ‘cultural’ (diverse and multifunctional) habitats, offering a variety of sources of pollen, and including open spaces such as meadows and field boundaries where wild flowers and other non-crop vegetation thrive.

Cultural landscapes also offer plentiful options for nesting and breeding space. The modern day prevalence and distribution of pollinators has been very much shaped by human behaviour.”

Well if the Crop Protection Association mean to imply that modern, industrial agricultural practices with high chemical use and hectares upon hectares of monoculture, are beneficial habitats for pollinators (not to mention a whole host of other insects and invertebrates) well I’m afraid I don’t agree!

And I’d disagree with their statement: including open spaces such as meadows and field boundaries where wild flowers and other non-crop vegetation thrive”. Seems to me meadows have decreased very significantly, and the few wildflower strips have too much potential to be contaminated with pesticides such as neonicotinoids, to be of any real benefit to pollinators.

When they say: ”The modern day prevalence and distribution of pollinators has been very much shaped by human behaviour” –however, I’d agree with them. Certainly I think human behaviour has shaped distribution of pollinators, and with regard to modern farming, its main contribution to biodiversity of all kinds in my view is DECLINE.

International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science Technology and Development report “Agriculture at a Crossroads” provides the following conclusion about industrial agriculture (Page 10):

(find here -opens new window).

“On the other hand, the advancement of industrial models in agriculture has promoted the simplification of agroecosystems, with reductions in the number of and variability within species.

Increased specialization at the field, farm, and landscape levels produces monocultures that potentially increase environmental risks because they reduce biodiversity, ecosystem functions and ecological resilience, and they may be highly vulnerable to climate change.

These systems have both benefited and endangered human health and the environment in many industrial countries.

While industrial production systems yield large volumes of agricultural commodities with relatively small amounts of labor, they are often costly in terms of human health (Wesseling et al., 1997; Antle et al., 1998; Cole et al., 2002), have additional negative environmental impacts, and are frequently inefficient in terms of energy use.

Runoff and seepage of synthetic fertilizers and concentrated sources of livestock waste damage aquifers, rivers, lakes, and even oceans—with costly effects on drinking water quality, fish habitat, safety of aquatic food, and recreational amenities (FAO, 1996a; WWAP, 2003; FAO, 2006b; CA, 2007).

This is occurring particularly rapidly in some emerging industrialized countries. However, in countries with increasing industrial production one may also observe more effective food regulation and safety protocols, providing enhanced health protection against foodborne illness.

Commercial pesticides often affect non-target organisms and their habitats, and especially when used without strict attention to recommended usage and safety protocols, can negatively affect the health of farm workers (WWAP, 2003).

The global atmospheric transport of agricultural pollutants, including pesticides, the breakdown products of other agrichemicals, and greenhouse gases, means that environmental costs are also borne by populations far removed from sites of production (Commoner, 1990; UNEP, 2005).”

There are many sources that would provide clarity as to the types of agriculture that can exist in harmony with nature, versus those that are detrimental to biodiversity and the environment, for example:

Independent Science News:
(Quoting Chappell MJ and LaValle LA (2011) Food security and biodiversity: can we have both? Agriculture and Human Values 28: 3-26)

“While industrialised agriculture is often considered the biggest single global contributor to extinction, biodiversity of every kind is enhanced on farms that avoid industrial methods compared with farms that do not”.

On page 34 pf their brochure about pollinators, The Crop Protection Association makes interesting statements regarding the usefulness of agricultural landscapes to butterflies.

“The pollinators that can be regularly seen in gardens, parks and during walks in the countryside belong to species that thrive in the present agricultural environment. Several attractive butterflies belong to these common species.”

So are butterflies thriving in agricultural landscapes? Well, statistics suggest that specific agriculture related butterflies are declining on farmland in the UK, and have been doing so since 2003 (source Butterfly Conservation report:

The State of the UK’s Butterflies – page 3 (Update: please note, the link to this report is no longer functional - please contact the charity directly if you wish to obtain a copy):

The Butterfly Conservation Brochure 2007 report (also online) stated:

“Monitoring data show that agri-environment schemes have failed to halt the general decline of butterflies on farmland in England: there had been a significant decline (30% over the last 10 years) in mean abundance of 40 butterfly species assessed.”

Butterflies of a range of habitats are in decline. I suspect use of persistent (slow to biodegrade) pesticides like neonicotinoids, are not helping - but I wouldn't expect The Crop Protection Association to mention that, given that they represent pesticide companies, would you?

Neonicotinoids may be used in the countryside, parks, golf courses, gardens or on public land, depending on the regulations in your country. See my other blog about patents for pesticides.

So why have The Crop Protection Association written such a report about pollinators?

Well why do you think?!