Global loss of biodiversity is threatening the security of the world’s food supplies and the livelihoods of millions of people, according to a new report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Land-use changes, pollution, overexploitation of resources, and climate change were listed as the biggest drivers of this biodiversity loss.
“Biodiversity is critical for safeguarding global food security, underpinning healthy and nutritious diets, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities,” FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement. “Less biodiversity means that plants and animals are more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Compounded by our reliance on fewer and fewer species to feed ourselves, the increasing loss of biodiversity for food and agriculture puts food security and nutrition at risk.”
The report examined biodiversity loss in 91 countries, including the plants, animals, and microorganisms that provide critical ecosystem services, such as keeping soils fertile, pollinating crops, cleaning water, and fighting pests and diseases. The study found that while more than 6,000 plant species have been cultivated for food, just 9 account for 66 percent of total crop production, indicating widespread monoculture on farmers’ fields. The FAO tallied 7,745 local breeds of livestock, 26 percent of which are at risk of extinction and 67 percent whose risk status is unknown. An estimated 24 percent of wild food species are decreasing in abundance, while the status of another 61 percent are not reported or known.
The report notes that while local, national, and international policy measures to protect biodiversity are increasing, this shift is not happening fast enough to counter the rapid rate of species loss.
“The foundations of our food systems are being undermined… because of the impact of management practices and land-use changes associated with food and agriculture,” Graziano da Silva wrote in the introduction to the report.