World Food Day
16th October 2004
Biodiversity for Food Security
World Food Day is celebrated every year on 16 October to commemorate the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1945. World Food Day aims to heighten public awareness of the plight of the world's hungry and malnourished and to encourage people worldwide to take action against hunger. More than 150 countries observe this event every year.The theme for World Food Day and TeleFood campaign for 2004 is"Biodiversity for Food Security"
. It will highlight biodiversity's role in ensuring that people have sustainable access to enough high-quality food to lead active and healthy lives.
Biological diversity is fundamental to agriculture and food production. People rely on the variety of food, shelter, and goods for their livelihood. Yet, humans put increasing pressure on species and their environments. As a result, many plants and animals are at risk, as well as essential natural processes such as pollination by insects and the regeneration of soils by micro-organisms.
To feed a growing population, agriculture must provide more food. It will also be essential to increase its resilience by protecting a wide array of life forms with unique traits, such as plants that survive drought or livestock that reproduce in harsh conditions. Sustainable agricultural practices can both feed people and protect the oceans, forests, prairies and other ecosystems that harbour biological diversity.
A rich variety of cultivated plants and domesticated animals are the foundation for agricultural biodiversity. Yet people depend on just 14 mammal and bird species for 90 percent of their food supply from animals. And just four species - wheat, maize, rice and potato - provide half of our energy from plants.
Rather than a single crop variety that guarantees a high yield, farmers in developing countries are more likely to need an assortment of crops that grow well in harsh climates or animals with resistance to disease. For the poorest farmers, the diversity of life may be their best protection against starvation. Consumers also benefit from diversity through a wide choice of plants and animals. This contributes to a nutritious diet, particularly important for rural communities with limited access to markets.
More than 40 percent of the land's surface is used for agriculture, placing a large responsibility on farmers to protect biodiversity. By using appropriate techniques like no-tillage agriculture, reduced use of pesticide, organic agriculture and crop rotation, farmers maintain the fragile balance with the surrounding ecosystems. With plants, animals and their environments intact, a range of essential natural processes is preserved. Livestock, insects, fungi and micro-organisms decompose organic matter, transferring nutrients to the soil. Bees, butterflies, birds and bats pollinate fruit trees. Swamps and marshes filter out pollutants. Forests prevent flooding and reduce erosion. And natural predators keep the growth of any one species in check.
Conserving biodiversity for agriculture will require efforts on many fronts including measures to preserve the environment, better education, increased research and government support. FAO will continue to count on the collaboration of its partners, including other international organizations; research, trade and policy institutes; grassroots community groups, the public and consumers.
More than 840 million people remain hungry around the world and still more suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Global efforts have so far been insufficient to reach the World Food Summit and related Millennium Development goal of reducing the number of hungry by half by 2015. Biodiversity is a key ally in fighting malnutrition. Its protection is something we cannot afford to forget.