How can what you eat affect biodiversity?

That's the question up for consideration this International Day for Biological Diversity 2019 

Whilst the cute and cuddly or bright and beautiful were stealing the headlines in the recent Global Assessment study which warned of massive extinctions those species vital to humans in a more immediate fashion were quietly ignored.  One of the three major takeaway points in the report was: Crop security threatened long-term. That's the cultivated plants and animals we reply on to feed us.   The report warned that many crop wild-relatives that are needed for long-term food security lack effective protection and for domesticated animals and birds the status of wild relatives is worsening. Not only that but reductions in diversity, in the last 100 years over 90% of the main crop varieties have disappeared along with half the breeds of animals decreasing crop resilience against future threats from pest, disease and climate change. 

“Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health" this year's theme
Before the report had been published The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity announced that “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health” would be the theme for this year's International Day for Biological Diversity 2019.  Focusing on biodiversity as the foundation of our food and health and as a key catalyst to transforming food systems aiming to increase human health but also to acknowledge and raise awareness of our reliance on biodiversity and the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems. 

The Secretariat says: "The theme also celebrates the diversity provided by our natural systems for human existence and well-being on Earth, while contributing to other Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, ecosystems restoration, cleaner water and zero hunger, among others".

What can you do to eat healthily and sustainably?
We rely on a very small range of foods, nearly 60% of the calories consumed globally come from just three grains: wheat, rice and maize.  WWF in collaboration with Knorr have published the Future 50 report: 50 foods for healthier people and a healthier planet. Food were chosen based on a number of criteria including the raw nutritional value and also the environmental impact of production consequently several are more tolerant of changing conditions than similar crops and may even have a higher yield and significant amounts of critical nutrients.
Whilst not all of the foods selected are not yet readily available or may bring a big carbon footprint with them there are lots of ways to help, from being careful in your choice of low impact food and diversifying your diet - with over 30,000 known edible plants there's plenty to choose from - to making sure you don't waste any food by planning ahead, cooking at home and recycling leftovers into lunch boxes or new creative recipes.  Supporting regenerative farming practices and farming communities maintaining habitats and preserving ecosystems on their land by buying food responsibly, supporting local farmers, box schemes and those with rare breeds all help to maintain diversity and lower your environmental footprint.

 More information and further reading
The EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health brings together more than 30 world-leading scientists from across the globe to reach a scientific consensus that defines a healthy and sustainable diet.  The Commission is delivering the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation.  The full report is free to read here.

Download the WWF / Knorr 50 Foods for Healthier People and aHealthier Planet report (pdf)