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Deforestation for consumer goods increases the transmission of malaria
As the world sinks into corona panic, other widespread and perhaps far more dangerous diseases are forgotten. Malaria is one of these diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 228 million people contracted it in 2018. 405,000 people died from a malaria infection. A current study now shows how our daily consumption behavior promotes the constant spread of malaria.
In a study, researchers from the University of Sydney and the University of São Paulo showed that the international export of consumer goods such as coffee, soybeans, cocoa, palm oil, beef, cotton and wood products drives the spread of malaria. The reason for this is that global deforestation is being promoted for these products, which creates more favorable conditions for mosquito-spreading mosquitoes. The results were recently presented in the renowned journal "Nature Communications".
What does this mean for consumers?
"We have to pay more attention to our consumption and procurement and avoid buying from sources that are connected with deforestation," emphasizes study author Professor Manfred Lenzen. In addition, more sustainable agriculture in developing countries must urgently be promoted.
Consumption as a driving force in the spread of malaria
Earlier studies have shown that deforestation and rainforest disturbances can increase malaria transmission by creating conditions in which mosquitoes thrive. Deforestation creates warmer habitats with fewer predators, which allows mosquitoes to spread better.
The current study is the first work to link global demand for certain goods with an increase in malaria risk in humans. "This study is the first to assess the role of global consumption in increasing deforestation and thus the risk of malaria," emphasizes Dr. Arunima Malik from the study team. Unsustainable consumption is a driving force in the spread of malaria.
Hit several mosquitoes with a swatter
"Moving away from deforestation has advantages beyond those associated with malaria," explains Professor Lenzen. It would also help limit biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
What is bought here hurts at the other end of the world
The researchers examined the connection between the increasing risk of malaria in developing countries and products that are in demand from distant consumers. "We achieved this by first connecting the malaria incidence to deforestation, then to the production of primary raw materials, which we then connected to the global supply chain networks and ultimately to global consumer demand," explains Dr. Malik.
"This work goes beyond simple incidence mapping and correlations as it reveals a global supply chain network that connects malaria that occurs in certain locations due to deforestation with globally dispersed consumption," said Malik.
Control of malaria through supply chain regulation
Conversely, the study results could be used to develop demand-driven approaches to contain malaria by focusing on regulating the global supply chains affected by malaria.
Initiatives such as product labeling and certification and supply chain dialogue and green procurement standards have been proven to be successful in addressing global trade-related issues such as deforestation, species threats and child labor. Legal mechanisms in this area could also be a good measure to fight malaria.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to implement such measures across the board. In Brazil, for example, the agricultural industry has criticized environmental legislation, which obliges landowners to maintain part of their land with native vegetation. (vb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Leonardo Suveges Moreira Chaves, Jacob Fry, Arunima Malik, and others: Global consumption and international trade in deforestation-associated commodities could influence malaria risk; in: Nature Communications, 2020, nature.com
- University of Sydney: Is your coffee contributing to malaria risk? (published: 09.03.2020), eurekalert.org
- WHO: Malaria (accessed: March 9, 2020), who.int