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Guy Smagghe, honorary doctor by the UPM

"24% of European bees may disappear in 5 years"

Belgian entomologist Guy Smagghe, honorary doctor by the Polytechnic University of Madrid and expert in sustainable insect pest control, warns that "24% of European wild bees could disappear within 5 years." According to the researcher, the pollination of bees in agriculture makes it possible to generate "153,000 million Euro per year, which is 9.5% of the world's agricultural production."

Smagghe pointed out that the populations of 46% of European bumblebee species "are falling, and that half of them are under the threat of extinction. Without pollination, the supply of fruits, vegetables and stimulants, such as coffee and cocoa, would not manage to meet the current demand," since 70% of the crops depend on it. "We need sustainable agriculture to feed a population that will reach 9,000 million people in ten years," said this scientist, for whom "insects can contribute to food production."

Its system for the biological control of pests, currently used by "95% of tomato growers in Almeria," has been developed jointly with the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM), with which it has been collaborating for 25 years, stresses Smagghe.

In this control system, "we use natural enemies (beneficial insects that control harmful ones), as well as safe chemicals and biological strategies," including the use of parasitic wasps that lay their eggs on the caterpillars that attack the tomatoes. Another technique is to "silence" some genes using the interfering RNA (RNAi) technique. "This is not genetic manipulation, but preventing the production of a protein without which the insect cannot survive."

For the scientist, the renaturation of the Manzanares River as it passes through Madrid "is a clear example of how to stimulate biodiversity within the city", promoting the development of green spaces. On the banks of the river, "flower species that are good for the bees have been planted. This, together with the water supply, will help improve the quality of urban life," he says.

Ahead of the climate summit that Madrid will host in December, Smagghe is asking for measures "to defend the biodiversity of bees and their pollination service, which are crucial for the planet."



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