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The following groups endorse this policy brief: African Biodiversity Network, African Centre for Biodiversity, Agropolis Foundation, Biovision Foundation, Coventry University Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), Cultivate!, EcoNexus, Food Policy Forum for Change, Friends of the Earth International, Global Alliance for the Future of Food, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food), Latin American Scientific Society for Agroecology (SOCLA), Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (Canada), Third World Network (TWN), University of Vermont, and the UNESCO Chair on Food, Biodiversity, and Sustainability Studies.


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Agroecology represents an unparalleled opportunity to address biodiversity loss while providing simultaneous, multiple co-benefits to climate adaptation, food security, ecosystems resilience, sustainable livelihoods and human rights.

As substantiated by scientific evidence, agroecology addresses many of the direct and indirect drivers of biodiversity loss that is exacerbated by monoculture and industrial food systems. We can transform from damaging industrial global food systems to biodiverse agroecology.

Agroecology and its focus on agricultural biodiversity is critical to all three pillars of the CBD: conservation, sustainable use, and equity, and must be included in Target 10 of the Global Biodiversity Framework. Agroecology must be included in the Target 10 of the Global Biodiversity Framework as it is critical to agriculture. It is also critical in Target 1 (spatial planning), Target 2 (degraded ecosystems), Target 3 (area based conservation), Target 7 (pollution), Target 8 (climate change), Target 9 (sustainable use), Target 11 (restoration), Target 18 (subsidies), Target 20 (knowledge), Target 21 (participation) and Target 22 (gender).

Early CBD decisions recognized the ‘special nature’ of agricultural biodiversity, which led to the establishment of its Program of Work on Agricultural Biodiversity in 2000 (COP Decision II/15; also see CBD 2008 for description of the ‘special nature’ of agricultural biodiversity). However in the last decade, agricultural biodiversity has fallen away from the CBD agenda, even as numerous authoritative reports signalled otherwise, by pointing to the critical place of agricultural biodiversity, agroecology and resilient food systems in the fight against climate change, biodiversity loss, ecosystems destruction and unsustainable livelihoods for the communities who maintain them (FOEI 2021).

In the negotiations for the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, agricultural biodiversity’s place continues to diminish. “Agroecological approaches”, appear in the WG2020-4 text (Nairobi, June 2022) but are bracketed; and are not mentioned in the Informal Group’s streamlined suggested text. Significantly, the text of the “Joint Work on Implementation of Climate Action on Agriculture and Food Security” from COP27 also fails to mention agroecology. These omissions are cause for grave concern over the likelihood of missing a key opportunity for widespread food systems transformation through agroecology, and its co benefits to address biodiversity loss across scales.

What is agroecology?

Agroecology is a holistic and integrated approach that simultaneously applies ecological and social concepts and principles to the design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems. It seeks to optimize the interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while also addressing the need for socially equitable food systems within which people can exercise choice over what they eat and how and where it is produced.

Agroecology is concurrently a science, a set of practices and a social movement and has evolved as a concept over recent decades to expand in scope from a focus on fields and farms to encompass the entirety of agriculture and food systems. It now represents a transdisciplinary field that includes the ecological, socio-cultural, technological, economic and political dimensions of food systems, from production to consumption. -FAO Agroecology Hub

Key messages

1. Industrial food systems are the main driver of biodiversity loss. Without transforming food systems, we will not be able to reverse biodiversity loss.

The evidence has been clearly established that agriculture and land use change are one of the main drivers of biodiversity loss (IPBES 2019, IPCC 2019). Agriculture alone is the identified threat to 86% of the 28,000
threatened species. It is large scale industrial agriculture, with monocropping and high external inputs, that bears the responsibility for the destruction.

In the last century we have lost most of the world’s crop and animal genetic diversity. Currently only twelve plants and five animals make up 75% of the world’s consumption, with just three species (wheat, rice and corn) make up over half of the world’s staple foods (FAO 2004). According to IPBES, 75% of the planet’s land surface is significantly altered; 66% of the ocean has experienced serious negative impacts; more than 85% of wetlands have been lost. Furthermore, the global industrial food system is responsible for one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions, and uses 70% of fresh water (IPBES 2019).

The loss of diversity, including genetic diversity, poses a serious risk to global food security by undermining the resilience of many agricultural systems, including to pests, pathogens and climate change. (IPBES Global Assessment)

2. Biodiverse agroecology and adaptable food systems that work with nature are required to ensure resilience to climate change and other shocks. Agroecology is a systems approach that has the power to build resilience against such crises, and achieve multiple biodiversity targets across scales, with substantial co-benefits across the SDGs.

While industrial food systems are destroying biodiversity, small biodiverse (peasant) family farms are at the forefront of conservation and sustainably using agricultural biodiversity, while producing the majority of the world’s food. The majority of biodiversity exists in the South. It is the world’s peasant farmers who hold the most sophisticated knowledge of agricultural biodiversity – in their fields, pastures, seeds, forests, and waters. Through their agroecological practices, experience and innovation, they nurture heterogeneous biodiversity that provides food, energy, fodder, medicine, shelter and livelihoods for their communities, and also conserves biodiversity for the entire planet (FAO 2019; IPC 2016). We need more farmers at the policymaking table, to give concrete, scalable solutions to produce nutritious food and reverse biodiversity loss.

Agroecology is the untapped opportunity to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change and the food crisis all at once. Agroecology as a systems approach addresses the various parts of our global food system to greatly enhance agricultural biodiversity and its multiple benefits – from production to consumption, and at various scales from farm to landscape to food systems (HLPE 2019). Family farmers, the custodians of the world’s agriculture biodiversity, practice biodiverse agroecology grounded in Indigenous and traditional knowledge. It is critical to maintaining and sustainably using agricultural biodiversity on-farm and in-situ, in their landscapes and territories, particularly the heterogeneity and variety within species (also known as intraspecific biodiversity).

Agroecology is the untapped opportunity to tackle biodiversity loss, climate change and the food crisis all at once.

Agroecology also provides vital contributions to the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystems beyond the farm. These include maintaining complex connectivities by integrating natural habitats within agricultural landscapes, reducing edge effects, leakages, and runoffs to biodiverse and fragile landscapes (such as aquatic ecosystems); and maintaining critical ecosystem functions and processes (such as pollination, nutrient cycling, water cycling) that are crucial for ecosystem health and integrity. A vast body of diverse knowledge, expertise and evidence on agroecology shows its transformative potential

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