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How agricultural biodiversity can help prevent food loss – A focus for World Food Day

October 18th, 2013 | Source: M. Ann Tutwiler/ DG Bioversity International

DSC02648Yesterday, as part of celebrations for World Food Day, I spoke at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) about how we can reduce food waste and loss in developing countries. Last year at the Rio Summit, the UN Secretary General announced the Zero Hunger Challenge. One of the five targets is zero food loss; the other is more sustainable production systems. Agricultural biodiversity offers a way to achieve progress towards both goals simultaneously.

Damage inflicted by crop pests and diseases is a major contributor to food loss. Almost one-fifth of all food grown is lost in this way which means not only mean less food and lower farm incomes —lost food also represents lost labour, energy and water.  These losses are particularly devastating to the 1 billion people in rural areas of developing countries who rely on low-input agriculture to meet their household needs of food and income.

Research by Bioversity International over the last 15 years has shown how science can help farmers already growing diverse plant varieties to use agricultural biodiversity in a more targeted way to reduce pest and disease loss. Let’s look at a couple of examples.