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Agri & Gardening our food system under threat by decline in biodiversity | Upload General

Our Food System Under Threat By Decline In Biodiversity

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by: Marike Boonstra
our food system under threat by decline in biodiversity | Upload

According to an UN study, the future of our food system is in danger. That’s because the plants, animals and micro-organisms that are the bedrock of food production are in decline. If these critical species are lost, the report says, it "places the future of our food system under severe threat". Because of pollution, climate change and land-use changes, biodiversity is decreasing. How bad is this threat and what can we do about it?

The UN report is the first such study of its kind, using date gathered in 91 countries by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It says. Biodiversity is the diversity of plants, animals and other organisms that provide us with food, fuel and fibre. It includes pollinators like bees, that provide essential services, and worms, mangroves, sea grasses and fungi which work to keep soils fertile and purify the air and water.

Biodiversity in a sustainable way

Many of the species that support food and agriculture are under threat or declining. While species friendly policies are increasing, they are not growing quickly enough, scientists say. Around a thousand wild food species, mainly plants, fish and mammals are decreasing in abundance. "Biodiversity is critical for safeguarding global food security, underpinning healthy and nutritious diets, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities," said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "We need to use 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."

A smaller number of foodstuffs to feed a growing population

According to the study, the world is relying on an ever smaller number of foodstuffs to feed a growing population that's expected to rise to around ten billion people by 2050. Of the 6,000 plant species cultivated for food, just nine account for 66% of total crop production. The world's livestock production is based on around 40 species with only a handful providing the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs.

The scale of threat to food

The lack of biodiversity can leave food production much more vulnerable to shocks, such as outbreaks of disease and pests. The new study highlights a number of examples where the loss of biodiversity is impacting people's lives and diets. The Gambia says that large losses of wild foods have forced communities to turn to industrially processed foods to supplement their diets. Several countries including Ireland, Norway, Poland and Switzerland report declines in bumblebees. In Oman, the loss of pollinator populations due to extreme heat associated with climate change has seen the decline of wild food, including figs and berries.

There are several causes for biodiversity loss, such as pollution, population growth and urbanisation and climate change. Other significant drivers of biodiversity loss are overexploitation and overharvesting and changes in land and water use and management.

How countries fix the decline

The report highlights a number of what it terms "biodiversity friendly practices" that are on the rise. Some 80% of the countries reporting say that they follow one or more of these approaches. Some examples: in Argentina, some 560,000 home gardens and 12,000 school and community gardens have been created and are providing food for an estimated 2.8 million people. In California, farmers are now allowing their rice fields to be flooded after harvest instead of burning them, opening 111,000 hectares of surrogate wetlands and open space for 230 bird species. Farmers in Ghana are planting cassava plants on field margins which produce huge amounts of nectar, attracting bees and other species, leading to higher yields. While these are lauded, the problem according to the FAO is that these changes aren't happening quickly enough. "It is very positive to see that countries are adopting more and more practices that contribute to sustainable food production across the globe. However, sometimes increased adoption is coming from a very low starting point."

What you can do

As an consumer, you have an enormous power to drive change. Buy sustainably grown products from farmers markets, or boycott foods that are seen to be unsustainable. In the report, it came out strongly that the role of citizens are of an enormous importance.

Cover photo by: Hamish Secrett

All about Lifestyle

Our Food System Under Threat By Decline In Biodiversity

According to an UN study, the future of our food system is in danger. That’s because the plants, animals and micro-organisms that are the bedrock of food production are in decline. If these critical species are lost, the report says, it "places the future of our food system under severe threat". Because of pollution, climate change and land-use changes, biodiversity is decreasing. How bad is this threat and what can we do about it? The UN report is the first such study of its kind, using date gathered in 91 countries by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It says. Biodiversity is the diversity of plants, animals and other organisms that provide us with food, fuel and fibre. It includes pollinators like bees, that provide essential services, and worms, mangroves, sea grasses and fungi which work to keep soils fertile and purify the air and water. Biodiversity in a  sustainable way Many of the species that support food and agriculture are under threat or declining. While species friendly policies are increasing, they are not growing quickly enough, scientists say. Around a thousand wild food species, mainly plants, fish and mammals are decreasing in abundance. "Biodiversity is critical for safeguarding global food security, underpinning healthy and nutritious diets, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities," said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "We need to use 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." A smaller number of foodstuffs to feed a growing population According to the study, the world is relying on an ever smaller number of foodstuffs to feed a growing population that's expected to rise to around ten billion people by 2050. Of the 6,000 plant species cultivated for food, just nine account for 66% of total crop production. The world's livestock production is based on around 40 species with only a handful providing the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs. The scale of threat to food The lack of biodiversity can leave food production much more vulnerable to shocks, such as outbreaks of disease and pests. The new study highlights a number of examples where the loss of biodiversity is impacting people's lives and diets. The Gambia says that large losses of wild foods have forced communities to turn to industrially processed foods to supplement their diets. Several countries including Ireland, Norway, Poland and Switzerland report declines in bumblebees. In Oman, the loss of pollinator populations due to extreme heat associated with climate change has seen the decline of wild food, including figs and berries. There are several causes for biodiversity loss, such as pollution, population growth and urbanisation and climate change. Other significant drivers of biodiversity loss are overexploitation and overharvesting and changes in land and water use and management. How countries fix the decline The report highlights a number of what it terms "biodiversity friendly practices" that are on the rise. Some 80% of the countries reporting say that they follow one or more of these approaches. Some examples: in Argentina, some 560,000 home gardens and 12,000 school and community gardens have been created and are providing food for an estimated 2.8 million people. In California, farmers are now allowing their rice fields to be flooded after harvest instead of burning them, opening 111,000 hectares of surrogate wetlands and open space for 230 bird species. Farmers in Ghana are planting cassava plants on field margins which produce huge amounts of nectar, attracting bees and other species, leading to higher yields. While these are lauded, the problem according to the FAO is that these changes aren't happening quickly enough. "It is very positive to see that countries are adopting more and more practices that contribute to sustainable food production across the globe. However, sometimes increased adoption is coming from a very low starting point." What you can do As an consumer, you have an enormous power to drive change. Buy sustainably grown products from farmers markets, or boycott foods that are seen to be unsustainable. In the report, it came out strongly that the role of citizens are of an enormous importance. Cover photo by: Hamish Secrett All about Lifestyle
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