Prepared by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) under the guidance of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, this first-ever report presents troubling evidence about the biodiversity that supports the world’s food systems. Released on February 22, 2019 from Rome, Italy, the report reveals how the biodiversity of all the species that strengthens our food and agriculture is disappearing. FAO warns that once this biodiversity is lost, it cannot be recovered.
What exactly is this biodiversity for food and agriculture? According to FAO, it includes all the plants and animals both wild and domesticated that can provide food, feed, fuel, and fiber. This also consists of the diverse and infinite amounts of organisms which support food production through associated biodiversity. Associated biodiversity involves the plants and animals that provide ecosystem services such as seagrasses, corals, and earthworms which help purify air and water, keep fish healthy, and fight crop and livestock diseases. Thus, protecting all biodiversity is essential for safeguarding global food security and therefore supporting nutritious diets, as well as improving rural livelihoods and improving the resilience of people and their communities.
FAO’s Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva stated, “We need biodiversity in a sustainable way so that we can better respond to rising climate change challenges and produce food in a way that doesn’t harm our environment.”
Based on data provided by 91 countries, the report touches on all of the elements of biodiversity pointing out foundations under severe threat like decreasing plant diversity in farmers’ fields and increases in the proportion of overfished fish stocks. According to the report, nearly one-third of fish stocks are overfished and more than half have reached their sustainable limit. Many of the previously mentioned associated biodiversity species are under severe threat, which includes insects, birds, and bats. But what is causing this loss? The most cited reason for this biodiversity loss is changes in land and water use and management. Other causes that follow include pollution, overexploitation and overharvesting, and climate change.
Also shown in the report is how 80% of the 91 countries involved are using one or more biodiversity-friendly practices. These kinds of methods include sustainable forest management, diversification practice in aquaculture, and ecosystem approach to fisheries and ecosystem restoration. These kinds of positive trends are indeed encouraging, but these actions alone are not enough. Although countries have started to put in legal policies to support the sustainability of biodiversity, these laws tend to be lacking.
FAO’s report suggests that governments need to strengthen their frameworks and create benefit-sharing incentives. This also includes increasing the education and overall state of knowledge on biodiversity for food and agriculture as many gaps remain, especially among the bacteria species. Strengthening knowledge among the public is also essential and can help reduce pressure on biodiversity by promoting sustainably grown products.
Check out the entire report here: FAO full report