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Minister urges law to protect insects

February 17, 2019

Environment Minister Svenja Schulze says concerns over insect extinction have prompted demands for better safeguards. New research suggests 40 percent of insect species could be wiped out over the next few decades.

Two stag beetles
Image: picture-alliance/Arco Images/W. Rolfes

Plummeting numbers of insect species, partly as a result of widespread pesticide use, has prompted Germany's Environment Minister Svenja Schulze to call for a new law to protect bugs.

The newspaper Bild am Sonntag cited the Social Democrat (SPD) minister as saying that better legal protection for insects would also protect humanity's future.

"We humans need insects," Schulze said. "They deserve protection from their own law. This not only to protect stag beetles and earth bumblebees, but above all ourselves."

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Schulze called for Agriculture Ministry funds to be diverted to tackle the issue: "Agriculture receives billions in state resources. I want to use these for solutions that ensure the survival of insects and farmers."

Far-reaching changes

The planned Insect Protection Act will likely contain binding requirements for changes to rules governing nature conservation, water resources, and plant protection, while further restricting the use of fertilizers, the German dpa news agency reported.

The law forms part of the Environment Ministry's Insect Protection Action Plan, which is due to be presented to the cabinet in April.

According to Bild, the wider plan earmarks some €100 million ($113 million) annually to protect insects, including €25 million for insect research.

Other measures include stricter regulation of pesticide use, including the complete banning of the controversial crop protector Glyphosate by 2023, new night-time lighting restrictions, as insects are disorientated by light, and limits on the use of new land for housing or road projects by 2050.

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Moroccan farmers insuring themselves

Concerns about threats to the biodiversity of insects, especially pollinators, has been highlighted by scientists for years. Food security could be at risk, studies have shown.

More insects face extinction

Last week, a new Australian study published in the journal Biological Conservation, indicated that 40 percent of the world's insect species — including butterflies and moths, bees and wasps, beetles and dragonflies — are in decline, and could become extinct over the next few decades.

Several factors were cited including pesticide use, pollution, habitat loss, and wider climate change.

Similar research carried out in protected areas of Germany found that insect abundance had declined by three-quarters over less than three decades.

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Gaining a head start on the proposed insect law, the southern German state of Bavaria has committed to reducing the use of pesticides, enhancing organic farming, and to expand the number of blossoming meadows to encourage pollination.

A Save the Bees petition, backed by several environmental groups, has already been signed by about 1.75 million people.

mm/jm (AFP, dpa)

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