If someone gave you a credible warning that the road just around the bend was washed out would you hit the brakes or floor the gas pedal? What if you had a couple of toddlers in car seats in the back? I'll bet you would get on those brakes without hesitation.
So, when we're given very credible warnings that the world's food supply is in peril, isn't it odd how we just ignore them?
In 2014 the UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned that intensive agriculture was exhausting the world's farmland so severely that we had, effectively, just sixty years of productive crop yields left. Just sixty years.
This wasn't something conjured up by some FAO wonk. I had read soil surveys from leading agronomists about this at least a couple of years before the UN report was released. Our industrial agriculture with heavy applications of agri-chems - fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides - was producing record crops even as it leeched the soil of essential carbon and microbial nutrients. Guess what? We're still doing it.
Now we're compounding that with another threat - biodiversity loss.
The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates.
The stark warning was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation after scientists found evidence the natural support systems that underpin the human diet are deteriorating around the world as farms, cities and factories gobble up land and pump out chemicals.The toll from biodiversity loss - 20 per cent less productivity.
It noted a “debilitating” loss of soil biodiversity, forests, grasslands, coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass beds and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species. In the oceans, a third of fishing areas are being overharvested.
Many species that are indirectly involved in food production, such as birds that eat crop pests and mangrove trees that help to purify water, are less abundant than in the past, noted the study, which collated global data, academic papers and reports by the governments of 91 countries.
...Once lost, the species that are critical to our food systems cannot be recovered, it said. “This places the future of our food and the environment under severe threat.”
“The foundations of our food systems are being undermined,” wrote Graziano da Silva, the director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, in an introduction to the study. “Parts of the global report make sombre reading. It is deeply concerning that in so many production systems in so many countries, biodiversity for food and agriculture and the ecosystem services it provides are reported to be in decline.”
...Most countries said the main driver for biodiversity loss was land conversion, as forests were cut down for farm fields, and meadows covered in concrete for cities, factories and roads. Other causes include overexploitation of water supplies, pollution, over-harvesting, the spread of invasive species and climate change.
The trend is towards uniformity. Although the world is producing more food than in the past, it is relying on ever-expanding monocultures.
...“Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years – our biodiversity – is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained and burned at a rate not seen in human history,” Ireland’s president, Michael Higgins, said at a biodiversity conference in Dublin on Thursday. “If we were coal miners we’d be up to our waists in dead canaries.”It is important to bear in mind that loss of biodiversity is not merely an agricultural/food security issue. I won't go into that here but you can follow this link to get a list of what biodiversity means to our future.