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          Addressing Global Food Challenges for Biodiversity Conservation

          Sustainable Future of Food

          Written by: Rahul Bhushan

          Published: 4 August 2023



          Key takeaways

          The expansion of agricultural land, the use of pesticides and fertilisers, and intensive monocultures are the primary contributors to biodiversity loss.

          By addressing these key global challenges in the food system, we can help to conserve biodiversity.

          The main solutions are: transitioning to sustainable agriculture practices, preserving natural habitats, reducing food waste, and shifting towards sustainable diets.

          Biodiversity is essential for the health and resilience of our planet.

          However, in recent decades, human activities have caused significant biodiversity loss, threatening ecosystems and compromising the services they provide. The food system plays a significant role in this crisis, as it is a major driver of habitat destruction, pollution and climate change. In this blog post, we will delve into the ways in which addressing the global food challenge may be one of the most effective ways to tackle our urgent biodiversity crisis. By examining key aspects of food production, consumption and everything in between, we explore how our food choices can contribute to biodiversity conservation.


          Sustainable Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation

          One of the primary contributors to biodiversity loss is unsustainable agricultural practices. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), agriculture is responsible for 80% of deforestation worldwide, resulting in the loss of habitat for countless plant and animal species.1 Intensive monocultures and the excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers also harm biodiversity. Transitioning to sustainable agriculture practices can mitigate these impacts. Research by the United Nations Environment Programme shows that agroecological approaches, such as organic farming and permaculture, can reduce chemical inputs, preserve soil health and foster habitat creation within farming landscapes, leading to enhanced biodiversity.2

          Preserving Natural Habitats and Ecosystems

          The expansion of agricultural land often comes at the expense of natural habitats, such as forests, wetlands and grasslands. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems is crucial for biodiversity conservation. According to the World Wildlife Fund, deforestation rates remain alarmingly high, with approximately 10 million hectares lost annually.3 Encouraging land sparing strategies, where agricultural production is intensified on existing farmland while protecting untouched areas, can minimise habitat destruction. Research published in the journal Science shows that by strategically sparing just 5-10% of global agricultural lands, we can safeguard habitat for the majority of terrestrial species and significantly reduce biodiversity loss.4

          Reducing Food Waste and Losses

          Food waste and losses not only represent an ethical and economic concern but also have profound environmental implications.

          The FAO estimates that 1/3 of all food produced for human consumption is wasted, resulting in the squandering of resources used for its production.5

          Additionally, food waste contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and landfill pollution. A study conducted by the World Resources Institute found that reducing food loss and waste can have significant environmental benefits, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by up to 8%.6 By tackling food waste throughout the supply chain, we can minimise the environmental footprint of the food system and conserve biodiversity.

          Shifting Towards Sustainable Diets

          The choices we make as consumers significantly influence the demand for certain types of food, thereby shaping the production practices behind them. A shift towards sustainable diets can help alleviate the pressures on biodiversity. Livestock production, for example, is a major driver of deforestation, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

          According to a study published in Nature, adopting a plant-based diet can reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by up to 73% compared to a meat-based diet.7

          By opting for plant-based alternatives and reducing the consumption of resource-intensive animal products, we can decrease the demand for land and resources, allowing ecosystems to regenerate and support a wider array of species.



          Addressing key global challenges in the food system, such as sustainable agriculture, habitat preservation, reducing food waste and shifting towards sustainable diets, offers a promising pathway for tackling the global biodiversity challenge. By implementing practices that conserve biodiversity within the agricultural landscape, preserving natural habitats, minimising waste and making conscious food choices, we can promote the coexistence of human food production and thriving ecosystems. Recognising the interdependence between food systems and biodiversity is vital for fostering a sustainable future where both humans and nature can thrive.



          Food and Agriculture Organisation, “The State of the World’s Forests”, 2020. Available from:


          United Nations Environment Programme, “Global Environmental Outlook – GEO-6: Healthy Planet, Healthy People”, 2019. Available at:


          World Wildlife Fund, “Deforestation and Forest Degradation”, 2020. Available at:


          Phalan, B., et al., “Reconciling Food Production and Biodiversity Conservation: Land Sharing and Land Sparing Compared”, 2011. Science, 333(6047), 1289-1291.


          Food and Agriculture Organisation, “The State of Food and Agriculture”, 2019. Available at:


          World Resources Institute, “The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Restaurants”, 2018. Available at:


          Springmann, M., et al., “Options for keeping the food system within environmental limits”, 2018. Nature, 562(7728), 519-525.

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