To feed 10 billion people, we must preserve biodiversity. Here’s how

August 6, 2019 by World Economic Forum
(Juanma Clemente-Alloza, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization & Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General for Climate and Natural Resources , United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization

The threats to bee colonies around the world have been well publicized. Less well-known is that with many fruit and vegetables still reliant on pollination, what happens to bees, bats or birds has a direct effect on our shopping baskets.

Without biodiversity, humanity cannot maintain the essential ecosystem services that enable food production. The damage cuts deep – and presages even worse. For some species, extinction rates are now 1,000 times their historic levels. At the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), weestimate that a quarter of livestock breeds may not be with us much longer. One-third of the world’s land is degraded by erosion, compaction, salinization or chemical pollution. Millions of hectares are lost annually to drought and desertification.

Global thinking about agriculture has only recently outgrown the orthodoxy of the Green Revolution: produce more to feed the greatest number. How we produced, and at what cost, did not much matter. The urgency of securing humanity’s right to food trumped the necessity to preserve our planet.

After a decade of improvement, global hunger is once again on the rise

The result? We now produce more than enough to feed all of humankind, yet over 820 million still go hungry. Almost 830 million are obese. Meanwhile, species and genetic resources are falling prey to population growth, rampant urbanization, unsustainable consumption patterns, deforestation and climate change.

Belatedly, we are beginning to understand that far from opposing principles, ending hunger and safeguarding biodiversity are two facets of a single moral and policy imperative; that feeding people to the detriment of the environment is neither feasible nor desirable.

Awareness must now be followed by action. Having committed to achieving the Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030, we need to crack the science-policy interface that will unlock dramatic outcomes – and fast.

How? Here are some suggestions.

Grow less of a few things and more of everything


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.