LONDON United Kingdom
(Xinhua) -- At least 1,000 cultivated
species are already in danger as a new round of mass extinction
of global wildlife is underway, leaving global food supplies
vulnerable to diseases and pests, a report said Tuesday.
Three-quarters of the world’s food currently comes from just 12
crops and five animal species, and this leaves supplies
vulnerable to diseases and pests through large areas of
monoculture, said the report published by Bioversity
International, a global research group.
Of the estimated 7,000 edible plant species, just 30 are used
to feed the world, said the report.
Tens of thousands of alternatives exist that can grow in
difficult environments, have high nutrient content and have
potential to increase their yields.
However, almost 80 percent of land areas are used to grow
only wheat, maize and rice, the report said.
Traditional crops and varieties represent just two percent of
material stored in gene banks worldwide.
Over-reliance on too few varieties and species is leaving the
food system unnecessarily exposed to shocks and stresses, as
well as neglecting a high-impact solution to major health,
environmental and food security challenges, according to the
"Agrobiodiversity—the edible plant and animal species that
feed each and every one of us—holds the key to future food
security," Ann Tutwiler, director general of Bioversity
"But we are failing to protect it, and tap into its potential
to transform our food system for the better."
The destruction of wild areas, pollution and overhunting have
started a mass extinction of species on the Earth, said the
The focus to date has been on wild animals—half of which have
been lost in the last 40 years—but the new report revealed that
the same pressures are endangering humanity’s food supply.
"Until now, no single study has provided the evidence to
showcase the extraordinary impact that investing in
agrobiodiversity can have on improving food systems and
advancing sustainable development at the same time," the
The report, the research group’s first scientific analysis,
is intended to shed light on how agrobiodiversity can make
humans’ vulnerable food systems more resilient, sustainable and
Agrobiodiversity is a "triple-win investment" for businesses
and policymakers, the report said. As such, it set out how
governments and companies can protect, enhance and use the huge
variety of little-known food crops.
The guide provides evidence that investments in
agrobiodiversity also play a critical role in tackling wider
global targets such as reducing poverty and malnutrition,
reversing environmental degradation, and combating climate
It highlighted examples including the gac, a fiery red fruit
from Vietnam, and the orange-fleshed Asupina banana.
Both have extremely high levels of beta-carotene, which the
body converts to vitamin A, and could help the millions of
people deficient in Vietnam.
Quinoa has become popular in some rich countries but only a
few of the thousands of varieties native to South America are
The report showed how support has enabled farmers in Peru to
grow a tough, nutritious variety.
Mainstream crops can also benefit from diversity. Earlier
this year in Ethiopia, researchers found two varieties of durum
wheat that produce excellent yields even in dry areas.
Fish diversity is also valuable, with a local Bangladeshi
species now shown to be extremely nutritious, said the report.
As such, the guide lays the foundation for an
agrobiodiversity index, a tool under development to help
companies and countries to compare multiple strategies for
investing in resilient and sustainable supply chains and product
lines, through interventions in agrobiodiversity.
Leading agribusinesses such as Syngenta and Sainsbury’s, as
well as countries such as Italy, Peru and Ethiopia, have
expressed interest in using the index, which is expected to
launch in late 2018.
"The world is changing.
"Global warming, extreme weather and volatile prices are
making it harder for farmers and growers to produce the foods
our customers love," said Beth Hart, head of agriculture at
This is why the company is "committed to working with our
suppliers, farmers, and growers in the UK and around the world
to optimize the health benefits, address the impact and
biodiversity of these products and secure a sustainable supply,"
"We believe that participating in the development of the
agrobiodiversity index will help us achieve this."