18 Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems: Scientific foundations for an Agrobiodiversity Index

Book Launch: A new book showcasing decades of evidence on how agrobiodiversity is essential for sustainable food systems, contributing to nutritious, healthy diets and sustainable, multifunctional landscapes

Organizers

  • Bioversity International
  • European Commission International Cooperation and Development (EC
  • DEVCO)
  • Italy
  • Syngenta
  • United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN)
  • Mexico (tbc) India (tbc)

Abstract

Agrobiodiversity is a source of nutritious foods, which are culturally acceptable and often adapted to low-input agricultural systems. It is a source of traits for breeding climate-tolerant, nutritious crops and animal breeds. Agrobiodiversity is already a key component of many production systems worldwide, and so it can be readily used for better nutritional and environmental results. Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems: Scientific Foundations for an Agrobiodiversity Index, outlines the role of agrobiodiversity in four interconnected dimensions:

  • Diverse, healthy diets
  • Multiple benefits from sustainable farming systems
  • Seed systems delivering crop diversity for sustainable food systems
  • Conserving agrobiodiversity for use in sustainable food systems

We explore the potential role of agrobiodiversity-based approaches to resolve world problems: One in three people in the world suffers from micronutrient deficiencies and 2 billion people are overweight or obese. Simultaneously, the world’s food production system is driving environmental harm. Agriculture contributes about 24% of global greenhouse gases and is the largest user of fresh water on the planet.

An Agrobiodiversity Index, developed by Bioversity International with partners, based on the scientific evidence outlined in this book, will help policymakers and the private sector assess dimensions of agrobiodiversity to guide investments for sustainable food systems.

Key speakers/presenters

  • M. Ann Tutwiler, Director General, Bioversity International
  • Stineke Oenema, Coordinator of the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition
  • Juan Gonzalez-Valero, Head of Public Policy and Sustainability, Syngenta
  • Ambassador Mario Arriola, Alternate to the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the Rome-based Agencies
  • Ambassador Sacco, Permanent Representative of the Italian Republic to the UN Agencies in Rome
  • Willem Olthof, Development Advisor, European Union

Summary

This event launched a new book that showcases decades of evidence on how agrobiodiversity is essential for sustainable food systems, contributing to nutritious, healthy diets and sustainable, multifunctional landscapes. Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems: Scientific Foundations for an Agrobiodiversity Index, outlines the role of agrobiodiversity in four interconnected dimensions:

  • Diverse, healthy diets
  • Multiple benefits from sustainable farming systems
  • Seed systems delivering crop diversity for sustainable food systems
  • Conserving agrobiodiversity for use in sustainable food systems.

M. Ann Tutwiler, Director General, Bioversity International, presented an overview of the book.  This was followed by a panel discussion where speakers outlined why agrobiodiversity matters for healthy diets, for sustainable farming systems, for development and for sustainable business practices.  
During the panel presentations, Stineke Oenema, Coordinator of the United Nations System Standing Committee on Nutrition commented: “In order to stay healthy, we have to consume a diverse diet to cover all the essential nutrients. Therefore, a diverse range of foods needs to be produced and collected, to ensure that a diverse food basket is available: fruits, pulses, vegetables, fish, etc. Those can be combined to provide a year-round harvest of healthy foods.”
Ambassador Sacco, Permanent Representative of the Italian Republic to the UN Agencies in Rome added: “It is clear that we will not be able to achieve zero hunger as well as many other interconnected SDGs unless agrobiodiversity is seriously taken on board at all levels in project and programme design and implementation as well as in public policies. Why? Because now it’s crystal clear that agriculture in the last century has also been very costly to human and environmental health, especially in terms of land degradation and loss of biodiversity.”

The event was well-attended with over 130 people. There was no time for a Q&A session as the event was only 30 minutes, but we were able to stay behind in the room for informal discussions afterwards as the room was available.  This was much appreciated as people really engaged with the topic and wanted to know more.

Key outcomes/take away messages

Agricultural biodiversity is not all that food systems need to be sustainable. But without it, no food system can be sustainable.  

This book is an invaluable resource as it brings together scientific evidence on different applications of agrobiodiversity to transform a sustainable food system including food, farming systems and seed systems, as well as how to conserve agrobiodiversity through use. The event also introduced the Agrobiodiversity Index, a new tool in development to measure agrobiodiversity in food systems, for intended use by governments and businesses.

Find out more and download the book:
https://www.bioversityinternational.org/mainstreaming-agrobiodiversity/

Side Event - 18 - LAUNCH: Mainstreaming Agrobiodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems: Scientific foundations for an Agrobiodiversity Index