Environment Conventions and agreements

Updated November 2000

Biological diversity for food and agriculture

FAO's goal is to help build a food-secure world for present and future generations, through access of all people at all times to sufficient nutritionally adequate and safe food. This requires the conservation and utilization of biological diversity, particularly biological diversity for food and agriculture, within sustainable ecosystems

In this Special:

SUSTAINABLE USE OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY FOR FOOD AND AGRICULTURE is the cornerstone of sustainable agriculture, including sustainable intensified production systems. Biological diversity provides a range of organisms that contribute to nutrient cycling, pest and disease regulation and pollination, as well as ecological services at a larger scale which are also important to agriculture, such as maintenance of water quality, reduction of runoff, water infiltration, soil moisture retention and carbon sequestration.

Integrated pest management, for example, involves field-level management by farmers of beneficial and detrimental insects, plants and other components of agricultural biodiversity, including the beneficial effects of soil biological activities on pest management. Polyculture of freshwater fishes improves nutrient uses and reduces input requirements. Integrated plant nutrition systems and soil management practices, such as conservation /minimum or no-tillage, promote the build-up of organic matter and maintenance of soil biodiversity. This enhances soil productivity through increased nutrient availability, water use by plants, improved soil structure and resilience to pest attacks. Forest resources and trees play a vital role in the daily life of many rural communities, while regulating runoff and erosion. Agricultural practices often impact on habitats outside of production areas, through, for example, the abstraction of water, and run-off and leaching of excess fertilizers and pesticides.

A holistic approach is required to address the complexities of modern production systems, including social and economic factors such as participatory management of resources. Hence, ecosystem approaches based on appropriate scientific methodologies and focused on biological organization (i.e. the essential structure, processes, functions and interactions among organisms and their environment), as well as on human interactions, constitute a useful framework to improve sustainability of production systems.

The Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity makes decisions of relevance to food and agriculture in areas such as inland water, marine and coastal environment, forestry, drylands and agricultural biodiversity. Through its work as a specialised UN organisation, FAO assists in the implementation of biodiversity-related conventions of relevance to food and agriculture, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

For more information on biological diversity for food and agriculture within FAO, please see our corporate website.

Note: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this brochure do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authority, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.

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