“Our planet abounds with biological richness and this great diversity is key to face the worst food crisis in modern history,” FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Müller said. FAO acknowledges the importance of biodiversity to food security but also raises an alarm. It estimates that about three-quarters of the varietal genetic diversity of agricultural crops have been lost over the last century and that hundreds of the 7000 animal breeds registered in its databases are threatened by extinction.
Just twelve crops and fourteen animal species now provide most of the world’s food. Fewer genetic diversity means fewer opportunities for the growth and innovation needed to boost agriculture at a time of soaring food prices.
Furthermore, as biodiversity used in food and agriculture declines, the food supply becomes more vulnerable and unsustainable. Agriculture becomes less able to adapt to environmental challenges, such as climate change or water scarcity.
Mr. Müller, who heads FAO’s Natural Resources Management and Environment Department, also said: “The erosion of biodiversity for food and agriculture severely compromises global food security. We need to strengthen our efforts to protect and wisely manage biodiversity for food security. Its sustainable use is central to achieve a secure and sustainable food supply system.
“We call upon the international community to intensify its commitment and action towards integrating food security and biodiversity concerns,” added Mr. Müller.
His statements coincide with the opening of a global biodiversity conference (19-30 May 2008, Bonn, Germany) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) with the participation of representatives from some 190 countries, as well as of international organizations.
The interface between biodiversity and agriculture, the accelerated rate of deforestation and ways to address the climate change challenges through biodiversity use are among the main issues on the agenda of the Bonn meeting.
The relationship between biodiversity and agriculture is also the theme for this year’s UN International Day for Biological Diversity celebrated in Bonn and throughout the world on May 22.
Progress being made at FAO
FAO has long considered biological diversity as fundamental to its mandate in nutrition, agriculture, forestry and fisheries and its Member Countries are at the forefront of integrating biodiversity into the food and agriculture framework. Since the last meeting of the Convention, FAO has made progress in many different fields:
- FAO released the first global assessment on the status of and threats to animal genetic resources, which was followed by the adoption by its Member countries of a global plan of action;
- FAO’s governing Conference also endorsed an innovative 10 year work-plan to protect all genetic diversity relevant to FAO’s mandate;
- A new international mechanism for exchanging crop genetic resources and sharing the benefits arising from its use has been put in place through FAO’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture;
- Throughout the world, FAO has been working with nations, and its farmers, livestock keepers, pastoralists, fisherfolk, forest and rural communities as well as researchers to sustainably use biodiversity and conserve it for future generations.
In addition, FAO cooperates with the CBD on a wide variety of issues ranging from forest biodiversity, marine and coastal biodiversity and protected areas. Flagship cooperative efforts between FAO and the CBD are the joint work on agricultural biodiversity and forest biodiversity.
The Bonn meeting takes place two years before the deadline for achieving the 2010 Biodiversity Target, adopted in 2002 by 110 Heads of State and Government, of significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss at the global and national level by 2010.
At the same time, the international community is faced with the worst food crisis in modern history. Prices of bread, rice, maize products, milk, oil, soybeans and other basic foods have increased sharply in recent months in all developing countries.
2010 Biodiversity Target
Background on the Bonn meeting also called COP 9
FAO's Natural Resources Management and Environment Department
Pierre Antonios, Media Relations, FAO, email@example.com, (+39) 06570 53473, (+39) 348 2523807