Rodents? Food insecurity? They’re more related than you think

Reading some of the news reports that have lately been coming out of New York City, you would be forgiven for thinking that there is a rat apocalypse going on. Data suggests that the sightings of rodents in the Big Apple have been more frequent than they have been in a decade. In fact, sightings increased by 70% in the first year of the pandemic! If these figures shock you, here is another one; in each of the first four months of 2022, the number of sightings was the highest recorded since at least 2010, the first year that online reports are available.

Unfortunately, this increase in the number of rodent sightings is not limited to NYC, and the damage that they cause is not as trivial as we may think. “After all, how much damage can a bunch of rodents cause?”, you may wonder.  Well, the answer is a LOT! Rodents cause damage worth more than $20 billion to homes, businesses, and agriculture every year. What makes the impact even worse is that these rodents breed at a rapid pace, crippling agricultural yield, causing diseases and illnesses to humans, causing structural damage, and creating electrical hazards in buildings, among other acts of chaos.

Impact on Agriculture and Food Safety

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Did you know that rodents don’t spare any crops when it comes to feeding and causing general mayhem? Almost all crops around the world can be damaged by rodents, including cereal grains, vegetables, cotton, sugarcane, potatoes, and many others. Since rodents are omnivorous, they don’t give animal products a pass either. They are capable of consuming on average 30 grams of food each day, so 50 rats in a facility could polish off 23 pounds of food a week.

Contrary to what we may think, it isn’t just during harvesting and storage that the produce would be at the mercy of rodents. Damage can occur regardless of the life cycle stage of the plant and regardless of the season. It even happens under snow cover.

Rodents prefer foods rich in proteins and vitamins and feed mainly on the embryo inside a seed, therefore impacting the seed’s nutritional value and germination capability. This in turn makes the seeds not viable for farming. Livestock feed is also susceptible, thus impacting farmers’ ability to meet market demand for animal products.

According to [ISFQN] (International Food Safety and Quality Network), 22 percent of the world’s food supply is believed to be contaminated by rodents. Food processing plants, for example, offer the ideal habitat for rodents, providing food and water sources and hiding places that rodents need to thrive.

Contamination can come from shedding hair and fecal droppings (yuck!). Did you know that rats can shed more than half a million body hairs and a mouse can produce up to 18,000 fecal droppings over its lifetime? The amount of damage caused by rodents is also magnified further due to their ability to multiply – just one pair of rats can multiply to more than 1,200 in one year. That’s a lot!

The health and safety of animals and people can also be affected as rodents transmit around 50 diseases, including hantavirus, salmonella, and leptospirosis. Though the severity of the diseases may vary, one thing is for certain, they can bring work at farms to a screeching halt for days or even months. This can in turn, set off a chain reaction in the global food supply chain by the farmers not being able to meet the commitments of suppliers and then consumers. You can only imagine the amount of pressure it puts on the viability of farms, especially small businesses and subsistence farmers, thus helping worsen the global food supply shortage.

Rodent Invasions

As if native species of rodents weren’t creating enough trouble, there are invasive species expanding across the globe such as the Nutria rodent in California. The prevalence of invasive species in your farm area is aided by factors like climate change. Due to global warming, states like California are warming up and the higher temperatures and absence of natural predators helps invasive rodent species spread and thrive.

These invasive rodents consume plants, algae and other organisms that absorb carbon dioxide, and they harm the native area’s soil and food supply which is vital to the State’s economy and Food supply. For example, a study by the Center for Invasive Species Research found that California alone loses more than $3 billion a year because of invasive species.  Eradicating these pests would add to the indirect costs of farming, along with the loss due to contamination, equipment loss and closure of farms due to infectious spread caused by rodents.

For an agricultural state like California, with an almost $50 billion agricultural industry that accounts for over 13 percent of national agricultural value, the economic impacts can be devastating. Invasive species can affect the yield of lucrative crops like raisins which are the main export of California. It is estimated that if a farmer grows 80 tons of seedless grapes for raisins, an invasive species can affect 20-30 percent of that dried fruit.

Food Security - why this matters more than ever

By 2050, the world must feed two billion more people, an increase of a quarter from today’s global population. This will require a 56 percent increase in food production from 2010 levels, and food loss and wastages will prevent us from reaching this goal. As we mentioned, rodents already destroy 22% of the world’s food supply annually. While there are many factors that contribute to food insecurity beyond pests, making considerable strides to reduce the number of rodents and therefore the number of rodent infestations will drastically impact our ability to feed our global population. 

It is important to find and deploy means of rodent control all along the various stages and locations of the agricultural industry. This is not just to prevent billions of dollars of damage but also in many cases to protect the livelihoods of farmers and others who work in the many industries that are at risk. There are many options for an effective rodent control strategy (link). 

EcoBloc is a sustainable chemical-free solution that prevents rodents from getting within 15 ft of your facility. We protect the food supply chain at every stage. If you are interested in an eco-friendly proactive rodent exclusion solution, reach out to us today. 

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