Food crop biodiversity is under threat, UN warns
Oct 26, 2010, 13:25 GMT
Rome - The genetic diversity of many plants used for food could be lost forever unless nations, especially those in the developing world, invest in ways to conserve and utilise them, a United Nations report warned Tuesday.
It is estimated that 75 per cent of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000 and a recent study predicts that as much as 22 percent of the 'wild relatives' of important food crops such as peanut, potato and beans will disappear by 2055 because of a changing climate.
The findings are contained in the second edition of the State of the World's Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture report, produced by the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
'There are thousands of crop wild relatives that still need to be collected, studied and documented because they hold genetic secrets that enable them to resist heat, droughts, salinity floods and pests,' FAO Director General Jacques Diouf said.
Since the first edition of the report was produced in 1998, the global food landscape has 'changed drastically,' according to the FAO.
'Hunger has been reduced in some countries, but has risen in others. Fuel and food prices have increased substantially. Globalisation has widened and deepened, and cheap food imports in some countries have threatened the richness of local diversity,' FAO said.
On a 'positive note' over the last 12 years there's been an increase in awareness of the importance of crop biodiversity, leading to a growing number of gene banks worldwide, FAO said.
However, the neglect in investment in agriculture since the 1980s has led to a shortage of qualified agricultural scientists, including plant-breeders, especially in developing countries, the report found.