Agricultural Biodiversity

Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition


Biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition and offers key options for sustainable livelihoods. Environmental integrity is critical for maintaining and building positive options for human well-being. Existing knowledge warrants immediate action to promote the sustainable use of biodiversity in food security and nutrition programmes, as a contribution to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
                     -- from ‘Main conclusions of the consultation on the CBD cross-cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition’

Since agriculture began some 12,000 years ago, approximately 7000 plant species and several thousand animal species have been used for human food. Today, certain traditional and indigenous communities continue to use 200 or more species in their diets but the general global trend has been towards diet simplification, with consequent negative impacts on human food security, nutritional balance and health.

The Convention’s cross-cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition aims to promote the sustainable use of biodiversity in programmes contributing to food security and improved human nutrition. Efforts to link biodiversity, food and nutrition issues are expected to contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals, in particular Target 2 of Goal 1 (i.e., to reduce by half, by 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger). The initiative will thereby raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity, its conservation and sustainable use.

Biodiversity, food and nutrition intersect on a number of key issues. Biodiversity contributes directly to food security, nutrition and well-being by providing a variety of plant and animal foods from domesticated and wild sources. Biodiversity can also serve as a safety-net to vulnerable households during times of crisis, present income opportunities to the rural poor, and sustain productive agricultural ecosystems.

The cross-cutting initiative is to be developed within the context of the CBD’s existing programme of work on agricultural biodiversity, and will also help meet the targets of the CBD’s Global Strategy for Plant Conservation. The initiative aims to reach outside the CBD process to strengthen the work of existing partners and initiatives concerned with food, agriculture, rural development, nutrition and health. The CBD’s primary partners in developing this initiative are the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute.

The initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition was formally established by decision VIII/23 A of the Conference of the Parties, in March 2006. The initiative sets forward a rationale and aim, and is built around four elements and their supporting activities. The mandate for establishing the initiative was provided by decision VII/32. The framework for the initiative was developed through discussions at SBSTTA and at consultations and other events.

At the first expert consultation on biodiversity for food and nutrition (held in March 2005), participants issued a statement setting out the rationale and key areas of activity for the initiative. A Nutrition Stakeholders Meeting (February 2006) further formulated the basis for the initiative, and prepared detailed recommendations for future work. Other consultations and upcoming related events will offer additional opportunities for developing the scope and activities of the initiative.