Feeding the World Without Destroying It

Farming Will Make or Break the Food Chain
By Stephen Leahy

May 2 (IPS) – As the world population swells to nine billion by 2050, global biodiversity will be under extreme pressure unless new ways to grow food are developed, experts say.

An additional one billion hectares of wild lands — mainly forests and savanna — will be converted to food production fields by 2050. While this may provide enough food, it is likely to result in a massive decline in biodiversity, undermining ecosystems that provide vital services such as clean water and air, and capture carbon to slow the build-up of climate-altering gases in the atmosphere.

Sixty percent of the Earth’s ecosystems are in trouble right now, warned the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report last year.

What state will they be in by 2050?

It depends how society decides to feed itself, says Louise Jackson of the University of California at Davis, and head of an agro-biodiversity task force at Diversitas, an international scientific organisation devoted to biodiversity research based in Paris, France.

“If all agricultural lands adopt the industrial, monocultural model, there will be enormous impacts on water and other essential services provided by diverse ecosystems,” Jackson told IPS.

Societies need to recognise the value of ecosystem services and encourage farmers to use methods that benefit biodiversity, she says.

Biodiversity refers to the amazing variety of living things that make up the biosphere, the thin skin of life that covers the Earth and is, as far as we know, unique in the universe. The trees, plants, insects, bacteria, birds and animals that make up forest ecosystems produce oxygen, clean water, prevent erosion and flooding, and capture excess carbon dioxide, among other things.

“There is an unbreakable link between human health and well being and ecosystems,” Walter Reid, director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) and a professor with the Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, told IPS last year.

See full story at Farming Will Make or Break the Food Chain

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