Insect extinctions caused by pesticides will 'affect the way the planet functions', NZ scientist warns

A Kiwi scientist is calling on New Zealand to crack down on pesticide use or risk losing the insects that keep us all alive.

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Without action to stop the extinctions, the consequences will be felt by everyone, scientists say. Source: 1 NEWS

Professor Jason Tylianakis, from the University of Canterbury's Bio-Protection Centre, is the co-author of a new 'roadmap' for insect conservation and recovery, penned by dozens of scientists from around the world.

The report says the threats facing the world's insects like pesticides and overdevelopment have been known for years, yet governments have been slow to respond.

Insects pollinate around three-quarters of the world's food crops. Prof Tylianakis says they're vitally important for human survival.

"Insects provide billions of dollars of pest control, decomposition of waste, so nothing happens in natural or production ecosystems that doesn't rely on insects," he told 1 NEWS.

"When we see these global losses of insect biodiversity, it's going to affect the way the planet functions."

Some countries, like Germany, are taking action, and Mr Tylianakis says similar legislative changes need to happen here.

"I think the first thing we need to do is have a strategy. Germany just invested €100 million into insect conservation," he says.

"They've realised that this is a massive problem, and their economy isn't even as dependent as ours is on natural products and ecosystem services.

"We need to take a thorough look at how we use pesticide, including those that have been banned in other countries. We use hundreds of thousands of tonnes of pesticide each year."

Hawke's Bay organic chicken producers Bostock Brothers use a GPS technology system to plant and weed maize feed for their chickens, and says they get a higher than average yield without using pesticides.

"Consumers want to know that the animals they're eating aren't being fed with stuff that's coated with chemicals and pesticides," managing director Ben Bostock told 1 NEWS.

"I think that there's always actually a solution rather than reaching into a spray cabinet to get to the latest spray. There's always another alternative."

The Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for regulating the use of pesticides in New Zealand, and says it approves chemicals on a case by case basis, and assesses whether the benefits of a given pesticide outweigh the risks.

The Department of Conservation is due to renew its current Biodiversity Strategy, which is nearly 20 years old and due to expire this year. 

Protecting native insects is expected to be a key part of the plan, which is to be launched in the next few months.