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Buying Organic Will At Least Help Save Some Bugs, According to Experts

According to a new study, pesticides and intensive agriculture are causing large-scale insect deaths.

by Bettina Makalintal
Feb 14 2019, 7:00pm

If you didn’t start your week with the Guardian’s extremely depressing insect article: Hello, the insects are dying. Before you write that off with a casual “haha there might be fewer mosquitos to sting me” zinger, you should know that mosquito populations are actually increasing—but other insects are dying at levels that could threaten the entire planet, according to recent research in Biological Conservation.

Almost half of all insect species are facing population decline, the researchers found, with a third of all insect species now endangered. Insects’ extinction rate is eight times faster than that of larger animals. As researcher Francisco Sánchez-Bayo told the Guardian, “In 10 years you will have a quarter less, in 50 years only half left, and in 100 years you will have none.” Since the ecosystem needs insects for both food and pollination, declining populations will hurt humans as much as it hurts the rest of the animal kingdom food chain.

You might think that we’re fucked, and for many reasons, that would be a reasonable assessment. But according to a follow up by the Guardian, there are ways to improve the insect situation... slightly. The plight of insect communities has been linked, mostly, to pesticide use and intensive agricultural practices. For that reason, conservation experts told the Guardian that buying organic food could slow the decline of insect populations, since organic farming doesn’t include chemical pesticides such as neonicotinoids, which have been shown to harm bees.

That conclusion isn’t exactly new-news, and some food purveyors already list protecting insects as one motivation for eating organic. Previous research has concluded that organic farms have not only more insects, but more species of insects, than conventional farms, and that research might explain why, in early 2018, the European Union banned neonicotinoids.

But there are new statistics regarding insect decline, and they continue to be pretty damn frightening. Sure, it sucks that Whole Foods’ prices might be going up—but maybe that bunch of organic kale is worth the extra buck or two, after all.