Our approach

The world is made of an invisible web that we rarely recognize. Forests provide homes for animals. Animals eat plants. The plants need healthy soil to grow. Fungi help fertilize the soil. Bees and other insects carry pollen from one plant to another, enabling the plants to reproduce. Loss of species, whether animal or plant, weakens these connections and can alter the performance of an entire ecosystem. 

No aspect on our planet is more complex, dynamic or rich than the layer of living organisms occupying our land and our oceans, and no element is more vital to global food production and essential for human well-being than the diversity of plants, animals and microbes and their environment. This diversity has been used and conserved by farmers and communities for millennia and remains a key element of the livelihood strategies of poor, small-scale farmers throughout the world

FAO’s work on biodiversity aims at supporting countries in balancing the need to improve the food and nutrition security and livelihoods of the poor, especially in rural areas, while at the same time preventing the degradation, contamination and loss of natural resources while building resilience to climate change.  To adapt to challenges and uncertainties, a large reservoir of biological diversity is needed.

Biodiversity is experiencing dramatic change and losses at the hands of humans. Unsustainable farming practices, systems and the urbanization processes are all taking a terrible toll on our natural resources in our efforts to meet a growing demand for food, feed and bioenergy. The alarming pace of biodiversity losses will have devastating consequences for humankind if left unchecked.

Today, the world has some 821 million people suffering from chronic hunger; a quarter of our children under the age of five are stunted; a third of the global population is malnourished; and obesity affects one in eight people on the planet. Conserving biodiversity, and reducing both the pressure on natural resources and ecosystems, while mitigating the uncertainties associated with climate change has never been so important for our diets, our health and our survival.

Working closely with governments and key actors, FAO supports integrating sustainability in its three dimensions (social, economic and environmental) across agriculture, forestry and fisheries.  Mainstreaming biodiversity, integrating landscape and seascape approaches into actions, policies and investments, and supporting farmers’ rights to genetic resources, are key to building resilient livelihoods. Tapping into ecosystem services reduces the need for external inputs and improves efficiency.

Timeline of FAO and Biodiversity

Since its inception, FAO has provided an intergovernmental platform where biodiversity-related policy is discussed and relevant agreements are negotiated and adopted by its Members. 


FAO adopts the International Plant Protection Convention to prevent and to control the introduction and spread of plant pests and weeds. The international standards, guidelines and recommendations are recognised by the World Trade Organization Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement.


FAO commences work on genetic resources, in pursuit of objectives to alleviate poverty and end hunger and malnutrition by promoting sustainable agriculture and sustainable use of natural resources.


FAO establishes the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the first intergovernmental body mandated to deal with biodiversity for food and agriculture. 


The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries is adopted. Helping to shape the fisheries and aquaculture world for over 20 years, the code continues to be a reference framework for more effective conservation, sustainable management and production of living aquatic resources. 


FAO’s International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture is approved. The treaty helps countries develop sustainable agriculture approaches, while supporting farmers and researchers to adapt crops to the effects of climate change in order to achieve food security for all.


World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. FAO launched a Global Partnership Initiative on conservation and adaptive management of “Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems”.

2011 – 2020

The UN declared 2011-20 as the UN Decade on Biodiversity with its ultimate goal of reducing biodiversity loss. 


FAO launched the Global Soil Partnership designed to protect biodiversity through sustainable soil management. 


FAO-WHO adopt the International Code of Conduct of Pesticide Management. The code provides standards of conduct on sound pesticide management for all stakeholders involved in the pesticide life cycle from formulation to disposal. 


The Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA) is the first binding international agreement to specifically target illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.


UN Biodiversity Conference in Cancun, Mexico. With the Cancun Declaration on Mainstreaming the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity for Well-Being, countries committed to act on biodiversity as a way to contribute to meeting the SDGs.


FAO hosts a multi-stakeholder dialogue on biodiversity mainstreaming across sectors of agriculture in collaboration with the Secretariat of the CBD, bringing together experts with the aim of building a community of practice, planning the Biodiversity Mainstreaming Platform’s future work, spreading awareness and mobilizing resources.