Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture and Food Security: An exploration of interrelationships Vikas Rawal, Vaishali Bansal and Doordarshni Thokchom

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as the condition that exists “when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Food security is at the core of Sustainable Development Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (Commission), at its Sixteenth Regular Session, acknowledged the key role biodiversity for food and agriculture plays for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Commission’s work contributes to several SDG Targets, particularly under SDGs 2, 14 and 15 and to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets that underpin some of them. Of particular relevance for the Commission is the work done in support of the SDG indicators of Target 2.5 that directly address the genetic diversity of populations of plant and animal genetic resources.

The Commission, at its Sixteenth Regular Session, requested FAO to prepare a study addressing the contribution of genetic resources for food and agriculture to the four pillars of food security and to the achievement of relevant SDGs, and to reflect the outcomes of the study in the revised report on The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture. In the report, biodiversity for food and agriculture (BFA) was defined as the subset of biodiversity that contributes in one way or another to agriculture and food production, more specifically “the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels that sustain the ecosystem structures, functions and processes in and around production systems, and that provide food and non-food agricultural products”. Agriculture includes crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture. The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture report (FAO, 2019) describes the close linkages between genetic resources for food and agriculture and the ecosystem services required for their use provided by the associated biodiversity within and around production systems, and highlights the important contributions of wild foods to food security. Some of these aspects are therefore briefly reflected in this paper.

The paper explores different ways in which BFA contributes to achieving the four dimensions of food security – availability, access, utilization and stability. It analyses global data, identifies data gaps and uses literature references where data are not available.

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(This document has been prepared at the request of the Secretariat of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture with a view to facilitate consideration by the Commission of the role of genetic resources for food and agriculture for food security and nutrition, at its Seventeenth Regular Session.)