Framework for Action on Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture published

18/05/2022

The world’s food security depends on biodiversity: from domesticated crop varieties and livestock breeds, to wild species such as bees and earthworms that live in and around production systems, to whole ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, seagrass beds and coral reefs. However, much of this biodiversity is being lost or not being used effectively and sustainably.

On the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today drew attention to a policy framework FAO Members recently agreed to. The Framework for Action on Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture provides a basis for global, national and local action to stop the loss of biodiversity of relevance to world food security .

The slogan of this year’s Biodiversity Day “Building a Shared Future for all Life” was chosen to highlight the importance of biodiversity to sustainable development, including in the food and agriculture sector. See message from the Director General of FAO on Biodiversity Day 2022 here

The new Framework for Action on Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture is the international community’s response to the 2019 FAO report on The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture, which highlighted the decline of much of the ecosystem, species and genetic diversity that underpins food production.

The report also described the ways in which agrifood systems are major drivers of many of the biggest threats facing biodiversity, including habitat destruction associated with unsustainable management practices and changes in land and water use, a focus on a narrow range of crop and livestock species, breeds and varieties, climate change, and overexploitation and overharvesting of wild plants and animals.

The Framework for Action, negotiated by FAO’s Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture – an intergovernmental body comprising 178 countries and the European Union – features 57 specific actions designed to foster a transition to a more resilient, adaptable and biodiversity-friendly agriculture that is better able to deliver food security, promote good nutrition and health, reduce poverty, support livelihoods and reduce threats to the environment. Key goals include:

  • addressing drivers of biodiversity loss;
  • promoting sustainable approaches that allow vital organisms such as pollinators to flourish, and enable producers to benefit from the synergies and complementarities associated with the presence of greater diversity in and around farms, rangelands, forests, fishing grounds and fish farms;
  • reducing knowledge gaps on the status of biodiversity and on its links to food and agriculture; and
  • promoting cooperation across sectors and internationally.

The framework covers all biodiversity, wild and domesticated, of relevance to the crop, livestock, forest, fisheries and aquaculture sectors. It emphasizes the importance of addressing biodiversity in an integrated way – across all the sectors of food and agriculture and at every level from genes to ecosystems – and of paying increased attention to neglected groups such as invertebrates and micro-organisms. It was endorsed by the Council of FAO in December 2021. It is voluntary and non-binding.

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu stressed that “action to promote the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity for food and agriculture is essential”. He commended the positive spirit that prevailed during the development of this important addition to the policy landscape and urged governments and other stakeholders to build on the momentum that has been generated and ensure that the collaboration, resources and political commitment needed for its implementation are forthcoming.

New data shows continuing decline of biodiversity for food and agriculture
Since 2019, evidence of biodiversity loss has continued to accumulate, underlining the urgent need to implement the Framework for Action.

  • Twenty-nine (29) percent of local breeds of livestock are now classed as being at risk of extinction, as compared to the 26 percent reported in 2019.
  • Thirty-four (34) percent of fish stocks are now estimated to be overfished as compared to the 33 percent reported in 2019.
  • The world’s forest area continues to decline, with the total loss since 1990 now amounting to around 178 million hectares.
  • Recent data on mangrove area indicate that 1.8 million hectares have disappeared since 2015.
  • Among the wild food species recorded on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the proportion classed as threatened has risen from 19% in 2019 to 20.6% today.

Adoption of biodiversity-friendly practices continues to increase
A more positive conclusion presented in 2019 was that a range of management practices and approaches regarded as favourable to the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity for food and agriculture were increasingly being adopted, although not on a sufficient scale to turn the tide of biodiversity loss.
Recent data indicate some further positive developments:

  • An increasing number of countries have introduced laws, regulations and policies in support of agroecology.
  • The global area under forest management plans has increased steadily in recent decades, reaching 2.1 billion hectares in 2020.
  • Organic agriculture increased by a further 17 million hectares between 2018 and 2020, reaching a total of 75 million hectares, more than 1.6 percent of global agricultural land.
  • In 2020, more than 5.7 million accessions, from over 7 400 genera were conserved under medium- or long-term conditions in over 831 gene banks in 114 countries and 19 international/regional centres.
  • More than 70 pledgers from more than 60 countries are restoring 210 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands under the Bonn Challenge, up from 47 pledgers restoring 160 million hectares in 2018.