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Linking Biodiversity and Agriculture: Challenges and Opportunities for Sustainable Food Security

Thrupp, L.A.
January 1997

There is growing worldwide realization that biodiversity is fundamental to agricultural production and food security, as well as a valuable ingredient of environmental conservation. Yet, predominant patterns of agricultural growth have eroded biodiversity in agroecosystems including plant genetic resources, livestock, insects, and soil organisms. This erosion has caused economic losses, jeopardizing productivity and food security, and leading to broader social costs. Equally alarming is the loss of biodiversity in \"natural\" habitats from the expansion of agricultural production to frontier areas. The conflicts between agriculture and biodiversity are by no means inevitable. With sustainable farming practices and changes in agricultural policies and institutions, they can be overcome. Historical evidence and current observations show that biodiversity maintenance must be integrated with agricultural practices a strategy that can have multiple ecological and socioeconomic benefits, particularly to ensure food security. Practices that conserve and enhance agrobiodiversity are necessary at all levels. The sustainable use of rich biological resources is critical for food production, health, and life-support systems. This paper summarizes the main conflicts and complementarities between biodiversity and agriculture, highlighting principles, policies, and practices that enhance diversity in agroecosystems.

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20 pp.
World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C.