Loss of animal species and crops is ‘devastating’ – Secretary-General Ban

22 May 2008 – The extinction of animal species, as well as the reliance on a narrow range of crops, is a major threat to the planet’s development and security, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a statement to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity.

“This Day serves as a reminder of the importance of the Earth’s biodiversity, and as a wake-up call about the devastating loss we are experiencing as irreplaceable species become extinct at an unprecedented rate,” he said.

About a fifth of domestic animal breeds are at risk of extinction, with an average of one lost each month, and out of the 7,000 species of plants that have been domesticated over the 10,000-year history of agriculture, only 30 account for the vast majority of food consumed every day.

“Relying on so few species for sustenance is a losing strategy,” the Secretary-General said. “Climate change is complicating the picture,” he added, saying that livestock production accounted for more greenhouse gas emissions than transport.

“In a world where the population is projected to jump 50 per cent by the year 2050, these trends can spell widespread hunger and malnutrition, creating conditions where poverty, disease and even conflict can metastasize.”

In a separate statement marking the Day, from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Convention on Biological Diversity, the CBD’s Executive Secretary Ahmed Djoghlaf said: “If current extinction rates continue, it will be hard to provide sufficient food for a global population that is expected to reach nine billion by mid-century.”

At the ongoing meeting on the CBD in Bonn, Germany, delegates are deciding on measures that would move the world closer to the globally-agreed goal of reversing the loss of biodiversity by 2010. Under the Convention, countries are working to protect soil biodiversity, curb the loss of pollinators, and maintain the variety of foodstuffs needed to ensure proper food and nutrition.

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