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Colombia short on political will to protect pollinators

University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.
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University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

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University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

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Griffith University, Nathan, Australia.

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National University of Colombia, Bogotá, Colombia.

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Wildlife Conservation Society, Cali, Colombia.

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University of Melbourne, Parkville, Australia.

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Colombia faces substantial challenges associated with high deforestation rates and rapid sociopolitical transition in the wake of the 2016 peace agreement. We urge the government to avoid solutions that could be at odds with its international commitment to safeguard pollinators (see go.nature.com/2uzxyc1).

For example, Colombia plans to reintroduce large-scale application of glyphosate to destroy illegal coca fields — despite the damage that the herbicide causes to honeybees (E. V. S. Motta et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 115, 10305–10310; 2018) and a previous nationwide ban on its use. This trade-off is unacceptable. Alternative measures must be taken to combat illicit coca production, such as those laid out in the Colombian Pollination Initiative (see go.nature.com/2uuycrc).

Over one-third of Colombia’s beehives collapsed in 2014–17 owing to excessive use of agrochemicals. Proposed legislation for pesticide-free zones is pending in its Congress. However, deforestation will continue to destroy pollinator habitat — even though Colombia’s 2019 Development Plan aims to cut the rate of deforestation by 2022 to 30% of that in 2018. The amount of rainforest lost each year by 2022 will still exceed that in 2017 (see D. Armenteras and T. Defler Nature 569, 487; 2019).

Policies that create sustainable livelihoods without harming pollinating insects stand to strengthen Colombia’s economy and so can help to counter illicit activities such as coca production.

Nature 573, 196 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02680-8

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