Saturday, September 29, 2012

Protecting Ecosystems Proves Beneficial for the Society

We all know that ecosystems are extremely important to the general well-being and integrity of the human race as they provide people with whatever they need  to live: food, clean air and fresh water. Apart from that, ecosystems can also be considered as some fine sources of the outdoor recreation opportunities.
The PEER Research on EcoSystem Services initiative brings closer the idea of how various EU policies can contribute to the increase of the benefits provided by ecosystems and  supports the inclusion of the ecosystem services approach into the European policy measures which affect the use or the condition of natural resources.
The outcomes of this research initiative were presented in September in Brussles to the international board of experts, helping DG Environment of the European Commission to introduce the EU Biodiversity Strategy to 2020.
That plan includes, among others, giving the incentive to the Common Agricultural Policy and restoring wetlands, thereby improving water quality. Moreover, as bees and bumblebees are so important being the main pollinators, high resolution data of forests were used to map the ecosystems in which bees and bumblebees build nests and localize the flowers. The information of that kind is crucial to persuade farmers to protect these areas as they increase their agricultural output. The mapping and evaluating the possible ecosystem services are essential, yet not sufficient enough to obtain the ecosystem service targets of the EU Biodiversity Strategy.
The rational and cost-efficient management of ecosystems should be also focused on those EU policies which influence ecosystems (both, directly and indirectly) i.e. the policies created to cause social and economic changes  (referring to agriculture, international trade, nature conservation and land use).

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Experts Reluctant to Blame Pesticides for the Honeybee Decline

It seems that general conviction on pesticides being responsible for the gradual annihilation of honeybees has to be revised as the UK scientists deny there’s the immediate connection between pesticides and the bees colony collapse.
Now, a more thorough research has to be conducted to predict the impact of the popular agricultural insecticides ( often referred to as neonicotinoids) on honeybee population.
The scientists from the University of Exeter and Food and Environment Agency point out that there are several inconsistencies in the report published in Science, April 2012 which predicted that neonicotinoids could be the main reason for the honeybee colony collapse. The neonicotinoids are commonly used in agriculture as insecticides. Unfortunately, honeybees ingest residues of the pesticides while gathering nectar and pollen from treated plants. The April report has been widely cited by scientists and politicians who claimed the impact of these pesticides on honeybees is detrimental. As a result, French government has decided to put a ban on the use of thiametoxam, the active neonicotinoid included in Cruiser OSR, the pesticide produced by Syngenta, the Swiss company.
Yet, the new research underestimates the findings of the previous one, arguing that the calculations in April report were wrong as they failed to reflect the rate at which honeybee colonies recover from losing its individuals. The previous research indicated that bees died more often having drunk nectar laced with neonicotinoid pesticide, which is thiamethoxam. Now, the recent research published in September proved that the calculation may have used an inappropriately low birth rate.
It seems that neonicotinoids do affect honeybees, but there is no infallible proof that it puts bees colony at the risk of a collapse. Still, there is an urge to introduce a proper plan that would protect bees from the exposure to chemicals used by humans to boost their crops. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reading Food Labels Keeps You Thinner

It’s now become a fact! Shoppers, women in particular, who care to read food labels are slimmer than those who don’t bother about it.
At least these are the findings of the study, published recently by Steven T. Yen, the professor working at the University of Tennessee, in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Professor Yen discovered that women reading food labels weighed about 9 pounds less than those who don’t. According to Yen, reading labels helps the shoppers to improve their diet by making more informed decisions in food purchases.
The research was carried out on the basis of data provided by the annual “National Health Interview Survey”, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey included more than 25.000 observations on eating – related habits. The study, published in the “Agricultural Economics” journal checked if there is any relationship between the obesity and the nutritional label. The results proved that reading labels was the significant factor in cutting down on obesity, particularly among women.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Wild Pollinators Boost Farm Productivity

Perhaps not many people are aware of the fact that as much as 84% of crops across the whole Europe depend on insect pollination. Although the managed honeybees pollinate certain crops, the wild honeybees, together with wasps and flies do the same job for much broader spectrum of plants, being considered as the most important pollinators.
That is why the grave decline in the number of both honeybees and wild bees that was reported in Europe over  the last years came as a threat to the agriculture and environment , bringing forth the focus on pollination services provided by the combination of honeybees and wild bees. It looks like wild bees can improve, or at least, support farm productivity helping the agriculture to sustain the desired level of crops. Additionally, wild bees are a cost – efficient way to go as they don’t need to be rented commercially provided there is sufficient high quality pollinator habitat available.
To raise the awareness among the farmers concerning the importance of wild pollinators, the EC FP7 project STEP (Status and Trends of European Pollinators) has published a farmers’ factsheet translated in 15 European languages. That is supposed to encourage farmers to take the advantage of wild insects pollination services and, as a result, cut down on relying totally on honeybees as the sole species responsible for crop production.