The United Nations Food Systems Summit, which will take place on September 23, and the 15th meeting of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which is scheduled for October 11-24, are closely linked and deserve special attention.
Biodiversity is the variety of life at the genetic, species and ecosystem level. These three levels work together to create the complexity of life on Earth.
Biodiversity is closely linked to food security, nutrition and high quality GI products, products that possess qualities or a reputation due to their specific geographic origin, and is essential for human survival and sustainable development.
Genetic and species diversity play a crucial role in human nutrition, as it ensures a nutritious variety of foods. The diversity of ecosystems, on the other hand, provides a fundamental guarantee for human production and life.
However, due to unsustainable production and lifestyles, agricultural production has taken a heavy toll on ecosystems, increasing environmental vulnerabilities. Agriculture accounts for, on average, 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawals and is responsible for 60 percent of biodiversity loss. Food systems account for over a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, exacerbating climate change globally.
Agriculture therefore contributes to both climate change and suffers its negative effects. Globally, many valuable eco-geographic environments that provide high-quality Geographical Indication products are on the verge of collapse.
It should also be noted that the popular fast food culture of modern society and the continuous homogenization of food has taken a heavy toll on human health. For example, there are tens of thousands of edible plant species on Earth that are available for cultivation, yet we only consume a tiny fraction of them.
Today humans eat fewer than 200 plant species, of which only nine plants account for more than 70 percent of the total yield. Severe malnutrition caused by lack of food variety has become one of the main causes of childhood illness and mortality, especially developmental delay.
High-quality GI products only exist in unique ecosystems, most of which are the result of the rare survival of hundreds or even thousands of years of natural selection.
The protection of these ecosystems and products should be a cross-cutting issue on the agenda of the forthcoming United Nations Summit on Food Systems and the United Nations Conference on Biodiversity. Comprehensive planning must be based on all aspects of protecting ecosystems and all links in the food system, including the origin, production, harvest, distribution, trade and consumption of seeds.
Unfortunately, we lack data that could help us make better, more scientific decisions. The UN Sustainable Development Goals consist of 17 goals, 169 targets and more than 200 indicators, nearly 40 percent of which have neither method nor data.
Obviously, the lack of methods and data has become a huge bottleneck in achieving the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially for developing countries. The international community must reach consensus and create common principles on this most watched global problem.
Action needs to be taken in four areas.
First, in order to study the impact of climate change and ecological and environmental degradation on food security and eco-geographic environmental protection for quality GI products, a comprehensive inventory must be carried out and strengthen surveillance, develop a thematic database and improve the ability to continuously acquire and analyze accurate, dynamic and up-to-date data and information for decision-making.
Second, to promote open exchange and sharing of data, we need to study the relevant policies, legislation and mechanisms. In addition, we need to strengthen cooperation at different levels, including global, regional, national and inter-ministerial, to promote the aggregation of scientific data, cultivate data sharing mechanisms, and promote capacity building in extraction and research. ‘data mining, development and applications, to provide more public goods for global governance on eco-environment and food security.
Third, we must encourage scientific research departments to strengthen cooperation with international organizations to collect, disseminate and promote cases that have demonstrated good ideas, knowledge, technologies and best practices on biodiversity conservation and protection of the environment. eco-geographical environment for products with geographical indication.
For example, China’s ecological governance and long-term practices in Saihanba Forest Farm in Hebei Province and Kubuqi Desert in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region should be carefully studied, summarized and promoted. The same goes for the action plan launched by the Chinese Academy of Sciences for the protection of the eco-geographical environment for quality geographical indication products and sustainable development. We must also strengthen South-South cooperation of developing countries to establish a database on the environment and ecology of the Belt and Road.
Finally, we must strengthen ecological literacy in all sectors of society. We need to step up science popularization campaigns and education to make people, especially young people, better understand the importance of biodiversity and the interconnections between high quality GI products and high quality life and good nutrition. It will help to form a social consciousness of ecological protection and establish a favorable ecological culture.
Along with the rapid development of biotechnologies and information technologies, integrated “space-air-ground” monitoring of changes and trends in biodiversity has become possible. Such a monitoring network will provide timely and highly accurate data and aid in decision making through geographic information system and intelligent analysis.
Promotion and advertising through the Internet and apps are likely to significantly raise awareness of the protection of biodiversity and ecogeographic environment for high quality Geographical Indication products, to establish a new fashion by mobilizing everyone in society to contribute to the realization of development.
The author is the former Deputy Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and an academician of the Eurasian International Academy of Sciences.