There is a surprising solution to fight against climate change and malnutrition

You know what I miss? A big, fat juicy peach. Go and buy one, you say. If only I could. The specific peach I’m talking about seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth. Along with a few other specimens, I hear you reminisce in unison.

I can actually list a whole list of fruit that doesn’t seem to be available anymore. Or if they are, they taste like nothing. If you closed your eyes, you wouldn’t be able to say what it is that you’re eating.

It seems I have in my way become aware of something that is actually going on.

According to research group Biodiversity International, huge proportions of the plant and animal species that form the foundation of our food supply are endangered. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that 68% of evaluated plant species are threatened with extinction.

This of course applies to our plant-based food sources as well.

Will you believe how pathetically limited our food base has become? And it is totally uncalled for. Completely unnecessary.

This is insane state of affairs today: of the estimated 7,000 edible plant species, just 30 are used to feed the world; 75% of the world’s food today comes from just 12 crops and five animal species; traditional crops represent just 2% of material stored in gene banks worldwide; almost 80% of land areas dedicated to cereals only grow wheat, maize and rice.

We have a world of biodiversity at our disposal and we allow ourselves only a pittance.

Says Ann Tutwiler, Director General of Bioversity International in a press release: “Agrobiodiversity – the edible plant and animal species that feed each and every one of us – holds the key to future food security. But we are failing to protect it, and tap into its potential to transform our food system for the better”.

Bioversity International released a 200-page guide on September 26 that shows how investments in agrobiodiversity can reduce poverty and malnutrition, reverse environmental degradation and combat climate change and advocates for agrobiodiversity to be a more mainstream approach to sustainable development.

Agrobiodiversity – growing and harvesting many different crops – can have a huge impact on improving food systems and sustainable development.

A whole new culinary adventure.

The point is there are potentially thousands of food species at our disposal that would extend the variety of what we eat with the added benefit of enhanced nutrition. The guide details a whole range of these food species that are not making it to our plates.

Many of these are nutrient-rich foods that can help fight malnutrition that affects two billion people globally.

It gets even better.

Biodiversity-based practices like intercropping trees with vegetables and rotating crops would improve the quality of the soil and replenish the 33 % of the world’s farmland that is degraded.

And, says the report, “Keeping a range of food biodiversity available in farms, the wild and markets can smooth seasonal fluctuations in nutrient-dense foods, provide nutrient rich choices during times of shortage, and, perhaps most importantly, diversify the range of healthy food choices for consumers.”

This is really great news. Now we just need the powers that be to see the obvious sense in biodiversity – it’s available to us anyway, why not make use of it?