Biodiversity key to tacking global food crisis – UN agency

19 May 2008 – Just 12 crops and 14 animal species provide most of the world’s food, and this lack of diversity means that the food supply has become more vulnerable and less sustainable – according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“The erosion of biodiversity for food and agriculture severely compromises global food security,” FAO Assistant Director-General Alexander Müller said today. “We need to strengthen our efforts to protect and wisely manage biodiversity for food security,” he added.

Speaking at the beginning of a global conference on the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bonn, Germany, Mr. Müller called on the international community to intensify its commitment to integrating food security and biodiversity concerns.

FAO also raised the alarm about a worldwide decline in biodiversity. It estimates that the genetic diversity of agricultural crops has declined by 75 per cent over the last century and that hundreds of the 7,000 animal breeds registered in FAO databases are threatened with extinction.

FAO says that less genetic diversity means that there are fewer opportunities for the growth and innovation needed to boost agriculture at a time of soaring food prices.

Representatives from 191 countries attended today’s opening on the conference in Bonn, which is expected to focus on such issues as the current food price crisis, the loss of forests globally, climate change, efforts to eradicate poverty and how to meet the globally agreed target for reversing the loss of biodiversity.

The meeting is also taking place less than two years before the deadline, agreed by governments two years ago in Brazil, to devise a system that provides access to, and shares the benefits from, the genetic resources of the world.

“The Bonn Biodiversity meeting is taking place at a defining moment in the history of mankind,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary to the Convention on Biological Diversity. “The challenge is daunting and I call upon all states to adopt exceptional efforts.”

“Half measures and business-as-usual are no longer options when it comes to the unprecedented loss of biodiversity, which, in the future will be compounded by climate change.”


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