23 June 2010

Loss of bees could be 'a blow to UK economy'

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If bees and other pollinators were to disappear completely, the cost to the UK economy could be up to £440m per year, scientists have warned.

This amounts to about 13% of the country's income from farming.

In a bid to save the declining insects, up to £10m has been invested in nine projects that will explore threats to pollinators.

The Insect Pollinators Initiative will look at different aspects of the insects' decline.

The initiative brings together specialists from a number of UK universities, as well as from the Food & Environment Research Agency and the Natural Environment Research Council's (Nerc) Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

It is funded by several public and charity organisations, led by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Honeybees, hoverflies, wasps, bumblebees, moths and butterflies play a vital role in feeding people through the pollination of crops.

Speaking at a news briefing at the Science Media Centre, Professor Andrew Watkinson, director of the Living with Environmental Change programme, said that the new initiative "allowed us to bring in new skills in gene sequencing and epidemiological modelling with the expertise that already exists in the pollinator research community".

Some projects will look at factors affecting the health and survival of pollinators in general. Others will focus on specific species and diseases.

(BBC News)

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