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agriculture work for- not against- biodiversity
biodiversity as a priority in agriculture can yield multiple benefits
May 2018, Rome - FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
has called for transformative changes in how we produce our food,
grounded in sustainable agricultural systems capable of producing
healthy and nutritious food while simultaneously safeguarding the
"Biodiversity is essential for safeguarding global food security
and nutrition, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience
of people and communities," he said in keynote remarks made at
the start of a three day international dialogue (on mainstreaming biodiversity into
agricultural policies and practices.
Healthy ecosystems provide a number of key services upon which humankind
relies, such as water quality maintenance, nutrient cycling, soil
formation and erosion control, and carbon sequestration. And healthy
agricultural ecosystems provide the ecological foundations for food
production, and the biodiversity of crops and livestock plays a critical
role in humankind.
But today planetary biodiversity — genetic diversity at the level
of organisms; diversity at the species level; and diversity ecosystem
level — faces a number of threats, the FAO Director-General noted.
"The way we are producing our food is a big part of the problem",
"Today, the world still produces food mainly based on the principles
of the Green Revolution that started more than 50 years ago, and implies
the use of high chemical inputs at a high cost for the environment,"
according to Graziano da Silva.
Yet he also noted that massive swaths of the Earth's surface are being
used to grow food, raise animals, capture and farm fish, or produce
forest products. This means that if managed sustainably — with
biodiversity as a priority — the agricultural sector can make
significant contributions to protecting biodiversity.
This renders promoting and facilitating the mainstreaming of biodiversity
across all agricultural sectors "fundamental," FAO's Director-General
A toolbox for feeding a warmer, more crowded world
The genetic diversity of plants can be used develop crop strains able
to tolerate or thrive in hotter and drier conditions. Similarly, genetic
diversity in animals provides the raw material for farmers and pastoralists
to improve their breeds and adapt livestock to changing environments
and shifting demands.
"This is especially important nowadays in the face of emerging
challenges such as the impacts of climate change, rapid urbanization
and also a growing population with changing diets," said FAO's
The flip side of the coin is that loss of agricultural biodiversity
poses a direct risk to food security, however.
"Only three staple crops — rice, maize and wheat — and
three animal species — cattle, pigs and chicken — provide
the majority of food energy intake in the world " Graziano da
Silva pointed out.
Policies governing the agricultural sectors, the use of natural resources,
protection and conservation of endangered species, habitats and biodiversity
need to be aligned to better protect the environment and reduce the
ecological footprint of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, according
At the farm level, production practices can be implement that not
only safeguard biodiversity but also ensure that food producers will
be able to sustainably make use of it.
Accordingly, this week's event at FAO will examine real-world examples
of how agriculture, fisheries and forestry have been successfully
managed to safeguard biodiversity.
A series of working groups involving a wide range of stakeholder will
focus on different avenues for advancing biodiversity mainstreaming
in agriculture, including global governance; national policies and
legislation; financial incentives and investments; and supply chain
and agriculture: numbers of note
2014, just 200 plants were farmed, with only nine of them (sugar cane,
maize, rice, wheat, potatoes, soybeans, oil palm fruit, sugar beet
and cassava) accounting for over 66 percent of all crop production.
(Dialogue Brochure, page 6 "Crops section)
crop species (barley, beans, groundnut, maize, potatoes, rice, sorghum
and wheat) provide 53 percent of average daily calories consumed
crop species (wheat, rice and maize) represent 48 percent of
average daily calories consumed.
8,800 known livestock breeds, 7 percent are extinct, 24 percent are
at risk of extinction and 59 percent are classified as being of unknown
risk status because of lack of data.
species (cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens) provide 31 percent
of average daily protein consumed,
3.6 million crop accessions (collections of plant material from
a particular location) are conserved in gene banks by 71 countries
and 12 international centres, with about half the total holdings
belonging to nine major food crops.
crop wild relatives represent about 13 percent of the world's
gene bank holdings, about 70 percent of such species are still
areas and botanical gardens have expanded by 30 percent and increased
the conservation of crop wild relatives.
ten species provide about 30 percent of marine capture fisheries (Brochure)
524 million hectares of forests have been primarily designated
for biodiversity conservation.
areas host 25 percent of terrestrial biodiversity, including
the gene pool of globally important crops such as maize, potatoes,
barley, sorghum, tomatoes and apples.
contain 11 percent of the world's endemic bird areas and about
750 genera and 12 000 species of grass, and contribute
to the maintenance of pollinators and other insects that have important
or 12 percent, of the world's recorded livestock breeds are
considered to be adapted to drylands.
are responsible for 35 percent of global crop production and
play a fundamental role in food production