May 27, 2013
UN Warns Of Decline In Farm Biodiversity
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Conservationists have been warning about the loss of biodiversity in the wild for years, but according to“¯Zakri Abdul Hamid, head of the United Nations´ new Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), diversity loss is also occurring under the watchful eyes of the world´s farmers.
In Zakri´s first public remarks as head of the new panel, the Malaysian science official told a conference of 450 experts in Trondheim, Norway that farmed plants and bred livestock are experiencing sizable losses in biodiversity.
"The loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals," Zakri said.“¯"The good news is the rate of decline is dropping but the latest data classify 22 percent of domesticated breeds at risk of extinction.”
Some older breeds of cows or goats have become unpopular because they produce less milk or meat than newer breeds. Some breeds unintentionally become scarce because farmers aren´t able to discern the characteristics of a rare breed. Experts consider a livestock breed rare and endangered when its population drops below 1,000 animals.
Zakri noted that 75 percent of the genetic diversity among crops was lost in the last century as farmers around the world switched to mass-produced high-yielding and genetically-uniform varieties. While there are 30,000 edible plant species, only 30 crops account for 95 percent of what humans consume. About 60 percent of these crops include grains such as rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum.
"The decline in the diversity of crops and animals is occurring in tandem with the need to sharply increase world food production and as a changing environment makes it more important than ever to have a large genetic pool to enable organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions," Zakri said.
In his speech, Zakri expanded his remarks to include biodiversity on a larger scale and acknowledged the value of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, a UN-adopted framework that contains five strategic priorities and 20 specific targets for biodiversity to be achieved by 2020. He said the targets would be a valuable start in developing the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that would follow the UN´s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which are set to expire in 2015.
"The Aichi Targets are an important contribution to the SDG process and it is up to us to ensure that they are fully considered," he said. "I would argue, though, that advancing towards equity and sustainable development requires us to go beyond.”
“We need to meet the fundamental challenge of decoupling economic growth from natural resource consumption, which is forecast to triple by 2050 unless humanity can find effective ways to do more and better with less,” Zakri added. “There are no simple blueprints for addressing a challenge as vast and complex as this but it's imperative we commit to that idea.”
“We need to urge more economists to do the hard but valuable work of pricing the seemingly priceless. Ensuring these ideas are properly reflected in the SDGs could provide the type of support and encouragement needed,” he concluded.