Is Agricultural Biodiversity Another Way Out For Global Food Crisis?
Another possible way out for coping with the global food crisis is stressed here on Wednesday amid United Nation (UN) sets “Biodiversity and Agriculture” as theme of the International Day of Biological Diversity (IBD) this year.
“The protection of the world’s biodiversity is essential to the world’s food supply,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
The food prices have been rocketing for the past two years due to the tight supplies all over the world, and food costs are currently on average more than two and a half times higher compared to that in early 2002, with no signs of relief in sight.
“We chose this specific theme this year in order to stress the need to properly protect and manage the world’s biodiversity so as to ensure a secure supply of food for a growing world population,” said the CBD executive secretary.
His remarks are clearly supported by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who sent his message to IBD earlier, saying “of the 7,000 species of plants that have been domesticated over the 10,000-year history of agriculture, only 30 account for the vast majority of the food we eat every day. Relying on so few species for sustenance is a losing strategy.”
WHAT IS AGRICULTURAL BIODIVERSITY
“From the perspective of facing the food crisis, developing agriculture biodiversity means understanding the diversity of highly nutritious traditional food system,” said Dr. Joseph Jojo Baidu-Forson, regional director of sub-Saharan Africa, Biodiversity International.
“In fact, we do have diversified sources of food, which could be excellent complementary food to the three major staples, namely, rice, wheat and maize,” said Baidu-Forson.
Economic and cultural changes have led to declining attention to the traditional food resources and knowledge, as urbanization, globalization and commercialization hastened the introduction of international “fast” food and cultures.
“Yet, the African food systems are very rich in diversity of traditional cereals, legumes, vegetables, indigenous fruits and animal-source foods, which are still well conserved in rural communities,” said Baidu-Forson.
“The neglect of our rich diversity of indigenous and traditional food systems have contributed to food insecurity in Africa,” he added.
The regional director also told Xinhua reporters that Africa, and the world at large, has not put adequate emphasis and investment in the research for developing the productivity or fully utilizing the traditional food sources.
“The understanding of its value and the development of agricultural biodiversity mean a lot to the food security, humanity, and even our survival,” Joseph said.
AWARENESS AND PARTICIPATION NEEDED
The UN General Assembly has declared 2010 to be the International Year of Biodiversity. This provides an unprecedented opportunity to raise awareness of the role that agriculture biodiversity plays in the lives of people and to create a better popular understanding of the value of agricultural biodiversity resources for human well being.
“The goal of the initiative is to promote and support efforts to ensure that agricultural biodiversity meets its potential to contribute to human development, and to create a drumbeat of messages targeting at agents of change and end users of agricultural biodiversity around the world,” said William Ruto, Kenyan agriculture minister, who officially launched the Campaign on Diversity for Life in Kenya on IBD.
The campaign is expected to change attitudes and increase appreciation by schoolchildren and their communities, the media, and policymakers of the value of agrobiodiversity for health and nutrition, he added.
Baidu-Forson said, “We also hope that policymakers would integrate conservation and use of agricultural biodiversity into national plans to ensure that such diversity is able to play its part in attaining the Millennium Development Goals on poverty and hunger.”
The World Bank said on Tuesday the rising food prices have pushed some 100 million people back into poverty, living below two U.S. dollars per day, and the fallout from price rises have already sparked food riots in some countries.
Solutions, such as genetically modified crops, have been proposed to alleviate the global food crisis, but as World Bank Managing Director Juan Jose Daboub said, “there is no magic solution, though the modified crops could be considered as long as it doesn’t create further price distortion.”
“To increase the global food production is surely the long-term solution to the current crisis,” said CBD Executive Secretary Djoghlaf, “but the agriculture biodiversity is definitely another parallel way to ensure a secure food supply.”
“We do hope that more and more research institutes will join us in the research for further commercial utilization of traditional food system, and more and more private sectors will realize the value of implementing agricultural biodiversity,” added Baidu-Forson.
The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits from utilization of genetic resources.
The Biodiversity International is the world’s largest international organization dedicated solely to research on making the most of agricultural resources and their diversity for human well-being.
See also UNEP: The International Day For Biological Diversity 22 May 2008