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Enrique Baquero, Professor of Environmental Biology at the University of Navarra

Food is about biodiversity

Wed, 05 Jun 2013 11:16:00 +0000 Published in News Journal

World Environment Day has as its theme this year Think. Feed. Save, a campaign to reduce food waste and losses. I will not focus only on the area of waste, as there are many other connections between food and biodiversity.

According to the United Nations, which has Departments dedicated to analyzing the relationship between policies and some of society's most important problems, biodiversity is an integral part of a healthy ecosystem, and some ecosystems include agricultural systems. In other words, crops and livestock are part of one category of biodiversity, the cultivated one. Productive agriculture and long-term food security deadline depend on sustaining biodiversity, which acts as the basis for the provision of essential ecosystem services.

Agricultural expansion - both in terms of cultivated area and intensity management- is one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss worldwide. In fact, its greatest threat is the loss of natural habitat that occurs through changes in land use and, in particular, land conversion for agriculture. Certain agricultural practices lead to the deterioration of soil, water and air quality, and consequently to a loss of biodiversity. The causes: agrochemicals, intensification and monoculture.

With increasing trade in agricultural products, the world's biodiversity is being lost at an alarming rate. Farmers or agribusinesses make their production decisions in light of changes in income and costs, which are influenced by the political climate. These production decisions change the way land is used, and the relationship between agriculture and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. It is therefore vital for long-term sustainability deadline that biodiversity considerations are included in trade discussions and policies, and that the necessary agricultural expansion is accompanied by proactive measures that promote the sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity.

Other points of relationship between food and biodiversity are:
- The agricultural sector represents the largest source of employment, livelihoods and subsistence worldwide. It is central to rural development , food security and poverty alleviation;
- The agricultural sector is growing in some countries in development, and is expected to continue to grow in response to human population growth, increased demand for food or biofuels, or changes in food preferences;
- Agriculture has a direct influence on natural resources and land use: global food production requires 25% of living area, 70% of total water consumption, 80% of deforestation and 30% of total gases emitted;
- Agriculture depends on biodiversity for pollination, or diversity Genetics (which helps plants resist disease).

In conclusion, I will say that if we waste food - 1.3 billion tons each year, a third of what is produced - all the resources used to produce it are also wasted: 1,000 liters of water for every liter of milk, or 16,000 liters for every hamburger.