Agribusiness Drives Severe Decline of Essential Insects

Four million tonnes of poison a year, most produced by four agribusiness giants, are killing essential insects everywhere. One-third of species face extinction.

Insects are in decline across the world because of industrial farming and heavy pesticide use which are threatening food production, according to the 2020 Insect Atlas, released on June 9 by Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung and Friends of the Earth Europe.

Insects keep the planet’s ecological system running, and ensure our food supply — 75% of our most important crops depend on pollination by insects. Insects also improve soil quality and reduce plant pests by decomposing manure and dead plant matter.

The Insect Atlas shows that insect species and pollinators are in severe decline because of pesticide-dependent industrial farming.

  • 41% of insect species are in decline, and one-third of all insect species are threatened with extinction.
  • Pollinators, which contribute directly to around one-third of global food production, are under threat: at least one in ten bee and butterfly species in Europe is threatened with extinction.
  • Pesticide use has risen 500% since 1950, with over 4 million tonnes sprayed on fields worldwide every year. Two-thirds of pesticides are made by BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and Corteva.
  • The explosion in factory farming has led to insect-dense areas of land in Argentina and Brazil being cleared for pesticide-heavy soybean plantations. Worldwide, they now cover 123 million hectares – an area 3.5 times the size of Germany.

The evidence is clear: pesticide use is wiping out insect populations and ecosystems around the world, and threatening food production. A handful of corporations control the bulk of pesticide supply, and if left unchecked will continue to use their immense political influence to lock in a system of industrial farming which will continue to wipe out nature and destroy rural communities.

Mute Schimpf
Food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe

    The Insect Atlas calls for sustainable models of farming which prevent insect collapse and guarantee food production and good livelihoods for farmers and farmworkers. 

    • Reducing the use of synthetic pesticides by 80% in agriculture by 2030, with a just transition for farmers.
    • Radically reforming the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to remove harmful untargeted direct payments, setting aside at least 50% of the CAP budget for environmental, nature and climate objectives and supporting farmers in the transition to agroecology.
    • Phasing out farming methods which increase pesticide use, such as growing genetically modified plants.
    • Taking urgent actions to achieve the targets suggested in the European Farm to Fork and Biodiversity strategies to increase organic farming, as well as cutting pesticide and fertilizer use by 2030.
    • Reducing the production and consumption of factor-farmed meat and other animal products and supporting plant-based options.
    • Cutting the overall EU demand for agrocommodities in order to reduce global deforestation.

    Friends of the Earth Europe and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung call for a new law to cut pesticide use by 80% by 2030, as well as other measures to prepare the way towards fairer and greener food systems.

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