The agri-food industry needs to do more to support biodiversity and create “effective and long-lasting solutions”.
This is the opinion of QU Dongyu, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (NAO), who called for stakeholders in the sector to increase their investment in science and innovation.
Speaking at the 18th Regular Session of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA), he noted the urgence of acting sooner rather than later, particularly as climate change is starting to impact food crops and livestock around the world.
“We are facing a critical time in the planet’s history,” he stated.
Mr Qu went on to say: “Biodiversity allows farmers, breeders, scientist and all other stakeholders along the agri-food chain to keep the agri-food systems up and running.”
The director-general, who tried to explain how important agriculture is in the conservation of biodiversity, added: “it is this diversity that forms the basis of innovation and inspires scientists, the private sector, farmers and traders to discover new solutions and make technological breakthroughs.”
He urged stakeholders to consider policies that would result in more food diversity to ensure enough food is produced for the world’s growing populace.
Indeed, according to the United Nations, there is thought to be 7.7 billion people across the globe at the moment. However, this is set to rise by two billion people over the next 30 years, peaking at 11 billion by the turn of the century.
“The dramatic growth has been driven largely by increasing numbers of people surviving to reproductive age, and has been accompanied by major changes in fertility rates, increasing urbanisation and accelerating migration,” a report from the UN revealed.
As the number of people around the world is increasing at such a fast rate, it is essential enough produce remains to feed everyone.
This is why the CGRFA – an intergovernmental body that addresses biodiversity for food and agriculture – is holding a week-long programme of events to decide on action plans to ensure there are enough animal, aquatic, forest and plant genetic resources across the globe.
The need to “produce more with less” will require a greater emphasis on scientific processes and technology to support agriculture, as well as work alongside it.
This week has also marked the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste (September 29th), with the FAO trying to raise awareness of the importance of reducing food waste, reported Waste Management.
According to recent findings from the World Wildlife Fund, agriculture loses 1.2 billion tonnes of food a year, accounting for more than 315 million euros (£272 billion).
Additionally, this has an environmental impact, as this food waste amounts to four per cent of man-made emissions.
Food waste expert of WWF Austria Olivia Herzog said: “Precious resources such as energy, water and arable land are used for the production of this carelessly discarded food. In times of climate crisis, we cannot afford to burden the planet so unnecessarily – this massive waste along the value chain must be stopped.”
To reduce food loss and waste, the FAO is calling for better redistribution of excess food and improving access to food for all, utilising out-of-date produce for compositing and making use of it for biofuel processes.
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