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The disappearance of agri-food biodiversity

2021-06-02 09:41

La redazione Boniviri

sustainability, agrifood, agricoltura, biodiversità, slowfood, agroecologia,

The disappearance of agri-food biodiversity

The impact of the industrialization of the agri-food sector on biodiversity

May 22 was World Biodiversity Day, an anniversary wanted by the UN to celebrate the adoption of the Convention on

Biological Diversity.

 

For this occasion, Slowfood International has published a manifesto entitled 'If biodiversity lives, the planet lives', in which it launches an alarm about the emergency relating to the loss of biodiversity and the catastrophic consequences that would derive from it.

 

A particularly relevant issue is linked to agri-food biodiversity, that is the varieties of microorganisms, plants, animals and ecosystems that contribute to our diet as human beings Having a good variety allows us to cope with external shocks (viruses, pathogenic fungi, phytosanitrary problems) that could potentially undermine our ability to produce food.

One of the negative consequences linked to the industrialization of the agri-food sector is precisely the elimination of all those species that are difficult to replicate in a linear model and not in line with the standards of demand, with a consequent reduction in food biodiversity.

Today's market destroys biodiversity
The lack of commercial variety of agri-food products is a problem that is too often neglected.

In Italy, according to Coldiretti, in the last century there were 8 thousand varieties of fruit, while today there are just under 2 thousand and of these 1500 are considered at risk of disappearance due to modern systems of commercial distribution that favor large quantities and standardization of supply.

As far as the animal products industry is concerned, the data are equally impressive: one in five animal breeds in the world is at risk of extinction (there are less than 1000 animals). Thanks to advances in animal husbandry, the agro-industrial sector has begun to focus on just a few commercial breeds with high milk yields and rapid growth times (often also thanks to the use of antibiotics) in order to shorten the time needed to put the product on the market, maximizing profits.

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A case in point: the banana
An example of how the logic of the market can negatively affect biodiversity, and consequently our diet, is that of the banana, one of the most popular fruits in the world. Of the over 500 varieties of bananas, only one is commercially available (Cavendish), the only one that has been able to conquer the taste of Westerners because it is completely seedless. This has led to convert all the banana cultivations in Asia, Australia and South America in monocultures, destined exclusively to this variety of the fruit. The fragility of this system comes out when infectious pathogens affect monocultures, and this is exactly what is happening to Cavendish. A soilborne fungus known as tropical race 4 (TR 4) has begun attacking plantings in all the major producing states. If the infection cannot be stopped, within a few decades the Cavendish will be at risk of extinction and there is no species strong enough to supplant it. The only way to save it is a targeted intervention on the genome, and this means that in the future we could have only GM bananas.

A transition to agroecology
As we have seen, the current economic system has led the agricultural sector to focus on animal and plant species with the best characteristics in terms of yield, putting at risk all those varieties not in line with market standards.

75% of the crops present at the beginning of the 20th century have now been lost and only three species (maize, rice, wheat) provide 60% of the calories needed by the population.To avoid an ecological collapse, a transition from intensive monoculture to agroecological methods such as crop rotation, green manuring and the elimination of pesticides and fertilizers, functional both to restoration of the natural cycles of the soil both to the conservation of resources and pollinators.

 

It is important to be aware that there is very little that is natural in what we eat. The agri-food varieties that end up on our table are actually the result of decades of artificial selection that has led to a system that is as efficient as it is fragile. Problems like this must be tackled at a global level: a collective effort is needed so that measures can be put in place to change the current agro-industrial model, an ambitious project that focuses on ecological transition, agroecology and biodiversity.



Sources:
- https:/ / ilfattoalimentare.it / day- biodiversity-manifesto-slow-food.html

- https: / / ilbolive.unipd.it / it / news / banana-risks-extinction-only-genomic-editing

- https: / / www.ansa .it / channel_ambiente / news / nature / 2019 / 05 / 21 / day-of-biodiversity-disappeared-3-frutti-su-4_93620b7a-6f5f-4511-b839-dce92194729d.html

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