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Biodiversity, Genetic Resources and Ecosystem Services

Biodiversity is the variety of life at genetic, species and ecosystem levels. It is indispensable to food security, sustainable development and the supply of many vital ecosystem services. However, the decline of biodiversity and its capacity to supply ecosystem services is a serious threat to food security and human well-being.

Biodiversity is essential to agriculture and food production.

FAO supports countries in the development of policies related to the management of biodiversity for food and agriculture and with fora for discussion of international policy in this field. It hosts the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which strive to sustainably use and conserve genetic resources and fairly and equitably share benefits derived from them. The Commission oversees global assessments of biodiversity and genetic resources and agrees on global policy responses.

Key policy messages

·        There is an urgent need to halt the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Food security and nutrition policies must include and address the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity for food and agriculture.

·        The importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services in sustainable crop and livestock production, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry requires renewed efforts to better integrate them into global and national agriculture and natural resources policies.

·        FAO provides evidence, guidance and expertise to encourage countries to safeguard biodiversity, value ecosystem services and conserve and sustainably use genetic resources.

·        Cross-sectoral and context-specific approaches are needed to ensure policies addressing biodiversity are aligned across sectors and to national priorities. Coordination between Ministries responsible for agriculture, fisheries, forestry, environment, education, economy, health, trade and social affairs is needed. Policies should be inclusive, involving producer organizations, civil society and the private sector.

·        Research, education and capacity building are needed to increase understanding and awareness of the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services for food security and nutrition. Policies should seek to improve scientific knowledge, harness traditional knowledge and effectively communicate the need to utilize and conserve species, breeds and varieties for now and the future.

·        Governance is a crucial element in the endeavor to maintain genetic resources and biodiversity within all facets of local, regional and global agri-food systems. As a leading governance institution of global governance on agri-food systems, FAO’s statutory and governing bodies play an important role in promoting the relevance of genetic resources and biodiversity for all aspects of agri-food systems, within the global governance landscape on biodiversity.

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