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Food biodiversity equals agricultural biodiversity

Food biodiversity equals agricultural biodiversity

According to a recent report by Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs, commonly known as Chatham House, which is a British study center specializing in geopolitical analysis and global political-economic trends) launched in collaboration with UNEP (United Nations Program Unite for the Environment) and Compassion in World Farming (Major international non-profit organization for the welfare and protection of farm animals), it was highlighted that the food system is the first driver of biodiversity loss.
Our global food system is in fact the primary driver of biodiversity loss, with agriculture alone representing a threat to 24,000 of the 28,000 (86%) species at risk of extinction. Let us clarify, among other things, that the global rate of species extinction today is higher than the average rate of the last 10 million years.
In recent decades our food system has been influenced by the “cheap food paradigm,” with the goal of producing more food at a lower cost by increasing inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, energy, land and the water. This paradigm leads to a vicious circle: the lower cost of food production creates a greater demand for food that must be produced at a lower cost, through further intensification and further deforestation and land desertification.
Unfortunately, if we continue in this direction, biodiversity loss will continue to accelerate unless we change the way we produce food.
Among other things, further destruction of ecosystems and habitats will threaten our ability to ensure the survival of human populations.
The report called for urgent reform of our food systems, suggesting 3 interdependent actions:
– changing eating patterns;
– isolate and protect natural areas;
– conduct agricultural practices in a way that is more respectful of nature and promotes biodiversity.
To do all this, however, a change in diets is necessary to allow the land to return to nature, and to allow the widespread adoption of agriculture that respects nature without increasing the pressure of converting natural areas into agricultural areas.
The more the first action is put into practice, through changing diets, the more possibilities are created for the second and third actions.
The current food system is a double-edged sword, created especially in the last decades of the “cheap food” paradigm, in order to produce more food, faster and at lower costs, without taking into account the hidden costs for biodiversity and its essential functions for life – and for our health.
This is why we urgently need to reform the way we produce and consume food.
Agricultural biodiversity cannot exist if we do not act on food biodiversity.
Among other things, food biodiversity, understood as biodiversity of the plants, animals and other organisms that make up our food, contributes in multiple ways to a healthy and diversified diet.
In this sense, studies on the composition of foods highlight that the nutrient content (macro and micronutrients) can vary very markedly both from species to species and between cultivars of the same species. In particular, wild varieties are usually more nutritious than domestic ones.
Furthermore, it must be reiterated that endemic or native species adapt better to the environmental conditions of the territory and therefore often require fewer external inputs, such as water or plant protection products which are anything but a panacea for our health and above all they are not for the farmers.
Furthermore, to defend themselves from environmental stress such as high temperatures, drought and frost, which cause the production of free radicals that can damage their DNA, plants implement resistance mechanisms that activate the production of molecules with antioxidant properties.
For this reason it is necessary to implement agroecological systems that contribute to consuming indigenous plant species which, as such, have developed defenses against environmental conditions or external agents, also increasing the content of protective substances in our diet, such as terpenes, and very important molecules such as carotenoids and vitamin E, phenolic compounds such as flavonoids, alkaloids and nitrogen and sulfur-based compounds which exert a very effective antioxidant action.
For example, prolonged consumption of polyphenols can help reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurodegenerative diseases, protecting the body from the damage that free radicals cause to DNA.
What has been said about vegetables also applies to foods of animal origin: nutritional values vary significantly from species to species. For example, some types of indigenous fish are an important source of protein and contain more vitamins and mineral salts such as iron and zinc than commercial species.
It is not for nothing that the so-called Farm to Fork Strategy of the European Union inextricably links the two moments of the agri-food system: the agricultural companies (Farm), with the need to increase agricultural biodiversity through agroecological systems, and the final consumer (Fork = fork) which must increase the biodiversity of its diet.
The combination of food biodiversity and agricultural biodiversity is the only way to make people and the planet live better, dusting off the famous phrase: mens sana in corpore sano (“healthy mind in healthy body”), a Latin phrase taken from a paragraph of Satires of Juvenal. In short, there is a perfect synchrony (and logic) that inextricably unites the health of the human species with that of the planetary ecosystem; we cannot regulate one without intervening on the other and vice versa.
However, the pressures from large economic interest groups and power lobbies tend to “distract” populations and politics from these objectives and it is here that we need to intervene to set up a massive information campaign in schools and families, in order to provide the population of “antibodies” necessary to avoid being “infected” by the systems of mass distraction so used by the mass media and by a certain type of militancy journalism.
To do this we need to “arm” consumer associations, trade and environmental organizations and sector technicians so that we go to the “peripheries” of awareness and conscience. We need to reach out to people and, above all, to young people, in order to create a new awareness of the complexity of the Life system.
Without this action, planetary biodiversity, inextricably linked to agri-food biodiversity, is destined to drag us towards an increasingly poorer world populated by poorer people.

Guido Bissanti

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