Mass Extinction of Food Staples could lead to Hunger


    A recent report by a team of inspired researchers under the umbrella of Biodiversity International on a topic titled, “Mainstreaming Argo-biodiversity in Sustainable Food Systems” reveals that there is a definitive decline in the account of food staples which could lead to hunger if not addressed.

    Ann Tutwiler, the director general of Biodiversity International and co-author of the report, in an interview told DW that the issue of extinction has been neglected for so long just like organic agriculture was 20 years ago.

    “With just three crops such as rice, maize and wheat providing around 50 percentages of our total food calories, any threat to these staples from climate change could be devastating; therefore, biodiversity needs to be mainstreamed into our agriculture”, Tutwiler said.

    According to her, the answer to this looming problem is to stop putting all our eggs in one basket and grow more different kinds of food.

    Tutwiler in an op-ed published in the Guardian noted that nearly 22 percentages of wild potato species could be extinct by 2055 due to climate change. She also noted that cocoa trees in Ghana and Ivory Coast that supply 70 percentages of the world’s chocolate may not survive a 2-degree temperature rise. Tanzania’s coffee crop already yields half what it did in 1960.

    “A wealth of traditional seed varieties has unique traits that make them tolerant to heat, drought and floods. They must be found, preserved and put to use in crop-breeding programmes,” she wrote.

    She maintains that agro biodiversity is the most effective way to mitigate the effects of climate change on food production.

    Although the Biodiversity International report also points that climate change and environmental destruction are driven by the industrial agricultural systems which produce the majority of the world’s food.

    The report further explains that agriculture contributes around 24 percentages of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the largest consumer of fresh water on earth. As many as 62 percentages or about 5,407 of the globally threatened species calculated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature are impacted by mass agriculture.

    However, creating demand for more diverse food crops is one of the solutions to food extinction. This is why Biodiversity International encourages farmers to move away from monocultures.

    “We now have demand for Ethiopian coffee, from Bolivia and the Andes,” the Director General told DW. “This was a crop that was totally forgotten. And partly through our own efforts it has been conserved and has an economic value.”

    This strategy (Agro biodiversity) extends to promoting general plant biodiversity,  including that of pollinators that encourage bees, as well as soil diversity and crop rotation instead of the use of chemical fertilisers.

    Agro biodiversity isn’t just targeted at small farmers. The Director General points to rice farmers in Sacramento, California who had been burning back the land after harvesting since 1970s but were encouraged to use flooding since it would preserve the biosphere and encourage wildlife. “It did not sacrifice the yield but had a lot of biodiversity benefits,” she said.

    Culled from DW

    Featured image from global