Biodiversity is not just of sentimental concern. It is vital to the health of all people on the planet. We depend on the earth’s biodiversity for crop pollination, nutrient recycling, soil fertility and to absorb carbon dioxide from our atmosphere. But over the past several decades there has been a dramatic reduction in biodiversity. Over the course of evolution, species losses of such magnitude have only been recorded in times preceding mass extinctions of life on earth.
The factors responsible are at least partially understood with habitat loss and chemical pollution being two key culprits. In this year, the United Nations International Year of Biodiversity, we bring you an article reviewing current research on the impact of pesticides on biodiversity (pages 4-7). The results are clear. Pesticides are threatening birds, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates and plants, particularly those species which inhabit farmland. It is up to policy makers worldwide to lead the way, generating forward-thinking initiatives to not only halt, but to reverse this decline.
An article from PAN Uruguay illustrates the dangers of endosulfan (pages 12-14). Endosulfan pollution of a river running through sprayed agricultural land has resulted in mass fish kills. An investigation by local school children identified endosulfan as the culprit. The quality of the students’ investigation won them prizes in a national science competition and the Iberoamerica competition. The resultant media exposure drew attention to the problems caused by pesticide spraying faced by rural communities in Uruguay. The communities not only depend on the river as a source of food and for the livelihood of fisher people but also as a source of drinking water.
But we are pleased to report good news about endosulfan. The United States have finally agreed to ban this harmful persistent pesticide. Although endosulfan is already banned in over 60 countries, the inaction of the US has been a stumbling block to endosulfan being listed under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollution and Rotterdam Convention on Trade in Dangerous Chemicals, a key step in ensuring an international ban.
We also provide an update on the current status of endosulfan within these conventions (page 11).
News from North Korea rarely hits the western press. But in this issue we report on an initiative of CABI’s. CABI have been working with North Korean universities and research institutes for over a decade to develop an integrated pest management (IPM) programme (pages 8-11). We report on their work on cabbage IPM. Cabbage is a staple for most of the North Korean population who preserve it as kimchi to be eaten throughout the year. The programme has significantly increased cabbage yields improving food security for the North Korean people.