By: Bamidele Fashube
A new Chatham House report says the global food system is the primary driver of biodiversity loss, with agriculture alone being the identified threat to 24,000 of the 28,000 (86%) species at risk of extinction.
It states that the current global rate of species extinction is higher than the average rate over the past 10 million years.
The report, supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Compassion in World Farming explained that the food systems in the last decades have been following the “cheaper food paradigm”, with a goal of producing more food at lower costs through increasing inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, energy, land and water.
“This paradigm leads to a vicious circle: the lower cost of food production creates a bigger demand for food that must also be produced at a lower cost through more intensification and further land clearance.
“The impacts of producing more food at a lower cost are not limited to biodiversity loss,”it states.
It noted that the global food system is a major driver of climate change, accounting for around 30% of total human-produced emissions.
While stressing a need for urgent reform of food systems, which should focus on three interdependent actions, it said the globaI dietary patterns need to first move towards more plant-heavy diets, mainly due to the disproportionate impact of animal agriculture on biodiversity, land use and the environment.
” Such a shift, coupled with the reduction of global food waste, would reduce demand and the pressure on the environment and land, benefit the health of populations around the world, and help reduce the risk of pandemics,” it added.
Secondly, it said more land needs to be protected and set aside for nature adding that the greatest gains for biodiversity will occur when the ecosystem is preserved or restored.
“Therefore, we need to avoid converting land for agriculture. Human dietary shifts are essential in order to preserve existing native ecosystems and restore those that have been removed or degraded,” says the report.
Also, the report proffered the need to farm in a more nature-friendly, biodiversity-supporting way, limiting the use of inputs and replacing monoculture with polyculture farming practices.
“Dietary change is necessary to enable land to be returned to nature, and to allow widespread adoption of nature-friendly farming without increasing the pressure to convert natural land to agriculture.
” The more the first action is taken up in the form of dietary change, the more scope there is for the second and third actions,” it adds.