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Accelerating loss of biodiversity poses serious threat to human survival

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A decline in the diversity of farmed plants and livestock breeds is gathering pace, threatening future food supplies for the world’s growing population, the head of a new United Nations panel on biodiversity said on Monday.

The new head of a global organization, dedicated to strengthening communication between policymakers and biodiversity scientists, has issued a dire warning about the accelerating disappearance of a broad range of Earth’s species, from wild beasts to farm animals to agricultural crops.

Speaking in Trondheim, Norway, to a group of international officials concerned with biodiversity and economic planning, Dr. Zakri Abdul Hamid cautioned that rapidly growing evidence indicated that “we are hurtling towards irreversible environmental tipping points that, once passed, would reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to humankind.” Zakri is the newly elected head of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), an independent organization modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

‘The loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals,” Zakri told the conference.

Over the past hundred years, there has been a trend toward genetic uniformity in both agricultural crops and livestock. Lower-yielding, harder-to-transport plants have been abandoned in favor of high-producing, easier-to-transport ones, while livestock are increasingly being bred for standardized marketing and consumer preferences. One sought-after stud Holstein bull, for example, can impregnate many thousands of dairy cows through artificial insemination. Accordingly, there are fewer and fewer breeds of cows, sheep, and pigs–a potential recipe for disaster because of the loss of genes resistant to disease, drought, or changes in global temperatures.

According to Zakri, there were 30,000 edible plants but only 30 crops–mainly rice, corn, wheat, millet, sorghum and soybeans– made up 95 percent of the energy in human food. He also said that the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization recently estimated that 22 percent of the world’s livestock is in danger of extinction. Zakri added that the extinctions of some agricultural animals and plants was occurring alongside losses of wild species because of urban expansion, environmental pollution, and global warming.

The response by governments to threats posed by loss of biodiversity has up to now been painfully slow, though small steps are being made. For example, many countries have started breeding programs for rare and endangered livestock and, in 2010, governments agreed on goals aimed at preserving biodiversity, including stopping the extinction of known threatened species by 2020 and expanding the land set aside for parks from 13 percent to 17 percent. This does not seem like much, especially in light of Dr. Zakri’s urging on the importance of swift action. Surely much more will have to be done by both the public and private sector if his warnings are to be heeded.

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6 Comments on "Accelerating loss of biodiversity poses serious threat to human survival"

  1. rollin on Tue, 28th May 2013 6:36 pm 

    It is nice to hear that the UN is finally catching up, only 40 years late.

  2. J-Gav on Tue, 28th May 2013 9:44 pm 

    This problem too often kinda slips under the radar of the MSM. Pressure from the seed-meisters and agro-spinners(Monsanto, Cargill …), chemical pollution’s toll on the soil, water and air … will anybody notice before we’re all choking and wallowing in our own S?hee(it)?

  3. GregT on Tue, 28th May 2013 11:26 pm 


    People have been noticing and warning us for decades. It is now too late for us to attempt to undo.

  4. rollin on Wed, 29th May 2013 1:49 am 

    GregT, you are right. If it wasn’t for the game laws, the yahoo hunters would be killing everything in sight. Even with the laws there are a lot of gunshots at night out here in rural land.

    The governments get in on it too, killing thousands of elephants because they think there are too many, shooting newly established wolves, killing hundreds of thousands of geese just because some corporate and estate lawns have poop on them. Poisoning millions of blackbirds, poisoning coyotes, endless.
    Then there are the mobile crushing machines, people call them cars, but what they really do is kill animals by the million.
    And then the industrial chemical war on nature …. the incessant march of farmland and development… no place to live.
    If we go the way of the dodo, I don’t think the animal kingdom will shed a tear.

  5. SOS on Wed, 29th May 2013 9:49 pm 

    Sometimes problems like this get out of the control of the seed-meisters and agro-spinners. You know the big companies. What we need is a huge UN intervention.

  6. SOS on Wed, 29th May 2013 9:53 pm 

    Of course the cars are killing animals, humans included. Government must stop all cars! The government should take over everything and rule with an iron fist. Its the only hope. Big oil sucks man! Down with seed meisters etc etc. Ok dude?

    Of course its a lot to ask of a government to take over everthing and make it perfect in the eyes of any beholder. Would it be more practical to suggest those that are unhappy should depart to the great unkonw and find their happiness or should they inflic their own brand of suffering on everone else? Its a seed meister type question. Illuminati stuff.

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