From the millions of genes that serve as life’s building blocks, to the thousands of plants and animals that inhabit the earth, to almost the limitless combinations of organisms that make up the natural eco-systems, biodiversity makes an essential contribution to feeding the world. Human beings are just one small part of this vibrant mosaic, yet they put enormous pressure on species and the environment. As human population expands at an alarming rate, biodiversity comes under threat owing to destruction of natural habitats. Pollution, urbanization, deforestation and conversion of wetlands drive out wildlife. Mismanagement of agriculture, fisheries and forestry accelerate this destructive process.
A rich variety of cultivated plants and domesticated animals serve as the foundation for agriculture biodiversity. Yet people depend on just 14 mammals and bird species out of the millions existing for 90% of their food supply. And four crops – wheat, maize, rice and potato provide for half of our energy from plants.
Beyond the number of species, it is also essential to conserve, genetic diversity within each species. Modern agriculture has encouraged farmers to adopt high yielding types of plants and animals, but when food producers abandon diversity, varieties and breeds may die out along with specialized traits. This rapidly diminishing gene pool is worrying scientists. Having a broad range of unique characteristics allows plants and animals to be bred to meet changing conditions. It also gives scientists the raw materials to develop more resilient and productive crop varieties. This agricultural biodiversity performs vital functions in agricultural band and water use. The diversity of plants and microorganisms is essential for maintaining the productivity of farm crops and animals, managed forests and fisheries. This requires the contribution of food security, which is dependent on harnessing and sustaining agricultural biodiversity and its many functions is essential to a secure global future. The main aspect of food security is access to food, which draws attention to the fact that almost 840 million people across the globe go hungry everyday!
This shows that biodiversity conservation and food security is a matter of global concern. However if food needs are met through exploiting non-renewable natural resources or degrading the environment, there is no guarantee of food security in the long term. Hence expanding the food production to feed the ever-increasing population while alleviating poverty through gainful employment is a formidable challenge, which can be overcome by a combined goal of sustainability, productivity and equality.
It is perhaps better education, which will be the deciding factoring protecting biodiversity. When farmers learn that the yields can be improved without expensive and potentially harmful pesticides, they will be quick to adopt these methods. The current emphasis on genetic engineering must be balanced by higher-level approaches that build on agro-ecology as well as biological diversity. National sovereignty and food security will ultimately depend on a wide choice of agricultural technologies and development options.
In addition to this, a significant contribution to biodiversity will occur across the globe with the initiation of youth in this issue concerning biodiversity. The youth will certainly carry forward the torch lit by senior scientists for the cause and ensure for themselves a secure future.