27.02.2019

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The foundation of our food systems is under severe threat, according to this FAO report. The authors point to decreasing plant diversity in farmers’ fields, rising numbers of livestock breeds at risk of extinction and increases in the proportion of overfished fish stocks.

The report State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture presents evidence that the biodiversity that underpins our food systems is disappearing. Based on information provided by 91 countries, the report was published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in February 2019.

Of some 6,000 plant species cultivated for food, fewer than 200 contribute substantially to global food output, and only nine account for 66 per cent of total crop production. The world’s livestock production is based on about 40 animal species, with only a handful providing the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs. Of the 7,745 local (occurring in one country) breeds of livestock reported globally, 26 per cent are at risk of extinction. Nearly a third of fish stocks are overfished, more than half have reached their sustainable limit.

Rapid decline of many species and ecosystems

Information from the 91 reporting countries reveals that wild food species and many species that contribute to ecosystem services vital to food and agriculture, including pollinators, soil organisms and natural enemies of pests, are rapidly disappearing.

Forests, rangelands, mangroves, seagrass meadows, coral reefs and wetlands in general – key ecosystems that deliver numerous services essential to food and agriculture and are home to countless species – are also rapidly declining.

The drivers of loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture cited by most reporting countries are: changes in land and water use and management, followed by pollution, overexploitation and overharvesting, climate change, and population growth and urbanisation.

Growing interest in biodiversity-friendly practices

The report highlights a growing interest in biodiversity-friendly practices and approaches.

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