Genetic diversity is our hidden jewel, we should treasure every bit of it

It is for us to maintain it!

29 Oct 2014

Biodiversity for food and agriculture is among the earth’s most important resources. Biodiversity is indispensable: be it the insects that pollinate plants, the microscopic bacteria used for making cheese, the diverse livestock breeds used to make a living in harsh environments, the thousands species of fish, and other aquatic species in our lakes, rivers and oceans, or the thousands of varieties of crops that sustain food security worldwide. Genetic resources are the raw materials that local communities and researchers rely upon to improve the quality and output of food production.

Biodiversity and genetic resources are essential for achieving nutritional diversity in diets – a diverse food basket – which is important for human health and development. However, they are being lost at an alarming rate.

Here are just few of the hard facts:

  • 17% of the livestock breeds reported in the course of 2013-14 to FAO by countries are classified as at risk of extinction.
  • Half of the 8000 tree species reported in The State of the World’s Forest Genetic Resources 2014 are threatened at species or genetic level.
  • Genetic erosion in plant genetic resources may be the greatest in the case of cereals, followed by vegetables, fruits and nuts, and food legumes.
  • Unsustainable use, such as over-harvesting of fish stocks and deforestation, contribute to the loss of genetic diversity. For examples, approximately 29% of the commercially important marine fish stocks monitored by FAO are overfished.

Maintaining biodiversity is our responsibility

It is because of their genetic variability that plants, animals, micro-organisms and invertebrates are able to adapt and survive when their environments change. In the light of climate change and the increasing human pressure on the natural resources, the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources has become more critical than ever. A loss of biodiversity reduces the capacity of agriculture to respond to new socio-economic and environmental conditions.

Maintaining biodiversity for food and agriculture, including genetic resources, is a global responsibility.
FAO established the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture in 1983 and to date it is the only intergovernmental forum that specifically deals with all components of biodiversity for food and agriculture.

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