Safeguarding biodiversity for food and agriculture needed urgently

Global biodiversity is severely threatened, including that which we depend upon for food, as the 2019 landmark report on the State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture showed. The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is the only permanent intergovernmental body that specifically addresses biological diversity for food and agriculture and has over 170 members. Here, the Commission’s Secretary, Dr Irene Hoffmann  discusses what this biodiversity is*,  what it means for food and agriculture, its gender dimensions and what needs to be done to address this dramatic decline.

She explains the need to include the associated biodiversity important for the plants and animals we use and the relative lack of knowledge about much of this. Biodiversity differs between small farms (<2ha), which account for 80% of farms but only occupy about 12% of the global farmland, and large farms (>50ha), which have 70% of the farmland.

Dr Hoffmann also discusses the links to three interconnected meetings in 2021 – the Climate Change Summit (COP 26), the UN Food Systems Summit and the Convention on Biological Diversity and its post 2020 Framework. She also explains the relationship between the CBD, which covers all biodiversity, and the CGRFA, with a Global Dialogue and High-level Segment on the Role of Food and Agriculture in the Global Biodiversity Framework planned for 6-7 July 2021

* You can download some frequently asked questions about biodiversity for food and agriculture here, find more details about the related global instruments here, download the FAO Strategy on Mainstreaming Biodiversity Across Agricultural Sectors here, download the ‘State of knowledge of soil biodiversity – Status, challenges and potentialities’ from here, and download a list of the CGRFA members here.

See also:

Pilling, D., Bélanger, J. & Hoffmann, I. (2020). Declining biodiversity for food and agriculture needs urgent global actionNat Food 1, 144–147.

Pilling, D., Bélanger, J., Diulgheroff , S., Koskela, J., Leroy, G., Mair, G. and Hoffmann, I. (2020) “Global status of genetic resources for food and agriculture: challenges and research needs : Global status of genetic resources for food and agriculture”, Genetic Resources, 1(1), pp. 4-16.

About Geoff Tansey

I curate the Food Systems Academy, a free, on-line, open education resource to transform our food systems. I was also a member of the Food Ethics Council from 2000-2021 and chaired the independent Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which reported in 2015.
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