Biodiversity and nutrition: A common path toward global food security and sustainable development

Food composition provides an important link for biodiversity and nutrition. Biodiversity at three levels—ecosystems, the species they contain and the genetic diversity within species—can contribute to food security and improved nutrition. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) are leading a new international initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition under the umbrella of the Convention of Biological Diversity. The overall aim is to promote the sustainable use of biodiversity in programmes contributing to food security and human nutrition, and to thereby raise awareness of the importance of this link for sustainable development. Further research is needed to increase the evidence base by filling our knowledge gaps with better inventories and more data on composition and consumption. If nutrient analysis and data dissemination of the various food species and intra-species diversity are systematically undertaken, national information systems for food and agriculture will be strengthened and can be used to form the basis for priority setting and national policy making. For nutrition, this will mean introducing more compositional data on biodiversity in national food composition databases and tables; developing and using dietary assessment instruments that capture food intake at the species and variety/breed level; and allowing food labelling that encourages awareness of food plant varieties and food animal subspecies. Nutrition and biodiversity feature directly the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger; and ensure environmental sustainability. In combination, a nutrition and biodiversity initiative provides the very foundation for achieving these MDGs.

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