Biocontrol | Quinoa

Food

 

 

Biodiversity ultimately provides everything we eat, whether it is a grain developed by selective breeding over thousands of years, mushrooms and berries collected on an outing in the woods, or beefsteak. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Much of the developed world’s food is now grown in highly artificial environments, with climate, soil, pests and even the genes in the plants tightly controlled.  In poorer countries, agriculture is still tied closely to natural conditions.  However, all humans are ultimately dependent on biodiversity for the natural processes that underpin agriculture: soil formation, rainfall and pollination by insects to name just a few.  The economic value of pollinators to Britain is estimated at £200 million per year. 1

 

 

 

 

With the world’s population expected to reach 9 million before 2050 2, and with climate change altering areas suitable for crop growth 3, it will be vital for agriculture to improve not only productivity but flexibility over the coming years.  Humans need to recognise that our food supply is inextricably linked with the health of the natural environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biodiversity can provide solutions to some of the challenges faced in agriculture, for example using one insect to control the population of another.  Wild relatives of crop species are a source of genes that could enhance the disease resistance or drought tolerance that would enable our crops to survive the changing conditions.  This gene pool will become increasingly important as the agricultural sector struggles to adapt to the impacts of climate change and increase productivity in the face of growing demand.


 

 

 

 

 

 

References
1. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (accessed February 2010)

2.Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision (accessed February 2010)

3. IPCC, 2007: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.  Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the IPCC.

 
 

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