26 February 2019
FAO Report Sounds Alarm on Decline of Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture
UN Photo/Gill Fickling
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The first FAO report on the State of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture was released during the seventeenth session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

The report explains the role of biodiversity and ecological processes for food production, assess its status and threats and drivers causing this biodiversity to decline, and outlines needs and measures to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity for food and agriculture.

It's overall finding is that biodiversity for food and agriculture is in dangerous decline and that research, enabling frameworks and actions are needed stop and reverse the decline.

22 February 2019: The biodiversity that is the basis for agriculture and food production is declining rapidly. Many cultivated plants, animals and fish species that are the basis of food production are at risk of extinction. The diversity of species providing essential services to agriculture, such as pollinators and soil organisms is decreasing. These are the key findings of a report titled, “State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture” (SOW-BFA), released by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN.

High-level event on Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture

Released at a high-level event during the seventeenth session of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resource for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), the report was welcomed as a major milestone of FAO’s work on biodiversity and genetic resources for food and agriculture. At the event, CGRFA Chair William Wigmore stressed the report is also an important contribution to the UN Decade on Biodiversity and the discussions on the post-2020 biodiversity framework.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva highlighted that the report covers a gap in knowledge and sets a baseline for the future. He drew attention to the risks of uniform agricultural production; the need to increase productivity while reducing chemical inputs and preserving forests; and the importance of in situ conservation by farmers.

Bernard Lehmann, Swiss Secretary of State for Agriculture, stressed the need to motivate farmers, strengthen co-existence of biodiversity and agriculture also at the ecosystem level, ensuring adaptation to local conditions, and strengthen political engagement for the sustainable use of biodiversity for food and agriculture. Ram Kumari Chaudhary, State Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Development, Nepal, stressed the pivotal role of BFA, noting that no country is self-sufficient in food species.

“This report rightly rings an alarm bell on biodiversity for food and agriculture.” – Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Office and Chairperson, GEF

Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Office and Chairperson, Global Environment Facility (GEF), said the report rightly rings an alarming bell on BFA asking how the world can recover from the biodiversity loss that has already occurred. Normita Ignacio, Executive Director, SEARICE, Philippines asked delegates to use the report to inspire real action, noting that “smallholders feed the world, so we must put their interests before all others.”

Via video message, CBD Executive Secretary Cristiana Paşca Palmer highlighted a decision of the CBD Conference of the Parties to mainstream biodiversity into all economic sectors, including agriculture, and encouraged FAO and the Commission to continue their active involvement in the development of the post-2020 biodiversity framework using the SOW-BFA report. Also by video message, Phil Hogan, EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, said the report will help policy makers, stakeholders, and citizens better understand the linkages between biodiversity and agriculture.

Key Findings

The report is organized into five parts covering: overview and the roles and importance of BFA; drivers, status and trends of BFA, the state of management of BFA; enabling frameworks; and conclusions.

The report’s main findings include the following:

  • Biodiversity is essential for food and agriculture and for food security and nutrition;
  • Many key components of this biodiversity are declining;
  • BFA is affected by major global trends, including climate change, international markets, demography, and land and water use and management;
  • The use of practices that support the conservation and use of BFA ir reported to be increasing;
  • Knowledge of associated biodiversity, including micro-organisms and invertebrates, needs to be improved; and
  • Enabling frameworks, including policy measures, research support, cross-sectoral collaboration and multi-stakeholder engagement in BFA management remain insufficient.

Every chapter of the report contains a section on key messages and priorities for action. These needs and actions are also reflected in the report summary titled, “Report in Brief.” Actions outlined include, for example: strengthening the knowledge of the roles of biodiversity and ecological processes for food and agriculture; strengthening the knowledge of the drivers threatening BFA; supporting the uptake of management practices that sustainably use BFA to promote food livelihood security and resilience; improving monitoring of BFA; and identifying policies that protect BFA from harmful effects and remove or revise policies that have harmful effects.

At the seventeenth session of the CGRFA, delegates also considered draft needs and possible actions as follow-up to the report and decided to further develop and revise them with the motivation to adopt a global plan of action at the Commission’s next session in 2021. [FAO Press Release] [Publication: The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture] [Digital Report] [Report in Brief] [CGRFA 17 Document on Needs and Possible Actions][IISD RS Coverage of CGRFA 17 and the high-level event]

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