By Selena Hill ( | First Posted: Sep 02, 2013 09:39 PM EDT

A farmer sprays pesticide containing monocrotophos on vegetable leaves at Mohanpur village, about 45 km (28 miles) west of Agartala, the capital of India's northeastern state of Tripura July 25, 2013. Nearly a decade ago, the Indian government ruled out a ban on the production and use of monocrotophos, the highly toxic pesticide that killed 23 children this month in a village school providing free lunches under a government-sponsored programme. Despite being labelled highly hazardous by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a panel of government experts was persuaded by manufacturers that monocrotophos was cheaper than alternatives and more effective in controlling pests that decimate crop output. Picture taken July 25, 2013. To match Insight INDIA-PESTICIDES/ (Photo : REUTERS/Jayanta Dey )

A study conducted by the universities of Exeter and Oxford has found that climate change may be influencing the spread of crop pests into areas that were previously too cold for them.

Researchers discovered that the crop pests were moving towards the north and south poles at around two miles a year because they are now able to survive in areas previously seen as too cold, reports BBC News.

In the study, which was published in Nature Climate Change, scientists examined 612 different types of pests from around the world and noticed how their ranges shifted towards the poles over the last 50 years. They concluded that climate change may be helping pests and diseases that attack crops to spread around the world. Between 10 and 16 percent of world crops have been lost because of disease outbreaks, and the rising temperature can make the problem worse.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Dan Bebber from the University of Exeter, said, "Global food security is one of the major challenges we are going to face over the next few decades... We really don't want to be losing any more of our crops than is absolutely necessary to pests and pathogens."

He added, "We detect a shift in their distribution away form the equator and towards the poles. The most convincing hypothesis is that global warming has caused this shift."

Dr. Bebber continued stating, "One example is the Colorado potato beetle. Warming appears to have allowed it to move northwards through Europe to into Finland and Norway where the cold winters would normally knock the beetle back."

"We also need to protect our borders, we have to quarantine plants to reduce the chances that pests and pathogens are able to get into our agricultural systems," added Dr Bebber.

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