Harvesting natures diversity, the theme for World Food Day (WFD) 1993, will emphasize the importance of biological diversity and genetic resources in food security, sustainable agriculture and rural development, environmental management and international trade in commodities.
Nature’s diversity represents a global resource, on which all countries and all regions depend. WFD will stress the necessity of equity, shared access and mutual responsibility for the conservation, development, management and use of this resource. More specifically, it will build awareness of the alarming loss of biological diversity, which comes at a time when science is only beginning to unlock its full potential.
WFD will address the contribution of bio-diversity to the welfare of society- providing for people - and the role of society, mainly rural communities, in conserving bio-diversity. Conserving bio-diversity for its sustainable use by present and future generations is integral to UNCEDs Agenda 21 and the international Convention on Biological Diversity signed by more than 150 of the nations that attended the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992. This highlights the extensive contribution of bio-diversity to the environment and to development, which includes its key role in food and agriculture. Atleast 40 percent of the worlds economy - and 80 percent of the needs of the poor - are derived from biological diversity.
Harvesting natures diversity will also set the stage for the 1995 International Technical Conference on Genetic Resources to be convened by FAQ as part of a series of steps towards turning UNCEDs agenda into action.
According to present estimates, food production in developing countries will have to increase more than 60 percent in the next 25 years to keep pace with population growth. The possibilities for expanding the areas used for terrestrial and aquatic farming are relatively limited and most of the worlds fish stocks are already overexploited. Therefore production must be intensified, productivity increased and productive natural systems must be suitably managed - all in a sustainable manner. This will require the combined application of new and old biotechnologies, including fresh approaches to plant and animal breeding and to farming practices.
This will depend on the sustainable utilization of a broader range of species and genetic material within each species, including wild relatives of domesticated species. The Earth contains a wealth of biological diversity, but only a small percentage has been tapped for food production. Throughout human history, several thousand species have been used for food, and many of them were cult~\"3ted. Today barely 150 plant species are cultivated.
Now, 12 plant species and five animal species provide more than 75 percent of human food. Only four plant species - rice, maize, wheat and potato - and three animal species - cattle, swine and chickens - provide more than half of it. Yet more than 80,000 tropical forest species are considered to be edible. In the aquatic sector, only two genera of fish, carp and tilapia, have been significant domestication for food production. Nearly 90 percent of fishery production still comes from wild stocks or from fish taken from the wild and raised in ponds, lagoons and other kinds of enclosure.
As a result of market pressures and other incentives, farmers are replacing varied and locally-adapted plant and animal varieties by a limited number of commercial ones, contributing to impoverishment of the genetic basis of our food supply. Since the beginning of this century alone, about 75 percent of the genetic diversity of the most important crops has disappeared from farmers fields. This has increased agricultural vulnerability and reduced the essential variety of people’s diet. Many traditional and local species, vital to the diet and nutrition of the poorest people, are underutilized or neglected. In fisheries and aqua-culture, the introduction and transfer of exotic organisms has helped local economies, but sometimes at the expense of ecological stability.
Over the millennia, man has created in each domesticated species thousands of land races and varieties to suit local conditions and needs. This man-made\" bio-diversity is also seriously endangered.
In most cases, the selection of plants and animals for domestication and utilization has not been made on technical or scientific criteria. Often the major species have been introduced from dominant cultures, not necessarily taking into account environmental conditions, or the needs of local communities. The introduction of bread in many parts of the world, for example, saw wheat overtake traditional local staples, which were often highly productive and stable crops well suited to the local environment and culture.
Most of the advances in technology, including bio-technologies, have been made in industrialized countries, often developed on a commercial basis. Most of biological diversity, on the other hand, is found in developing regions. The new bio-technologies provide excellent tools for enhancing the diversity of crop varieties and animal breeds among the already domesticated species and increasing this productivity. Biotechnologies also give new opportunities and capabilities for speeding the domestication and improvement of promising and/or neglected species. Many developing countries, however, lack the resources for such developments. Commercial considerations may overlook the social and nutritional importance of these species for the poor and their potential benefits for all mankind.
WFD 1993 will also focus on the links between bio-diversity and biotechnology and their importance for sustainable agricultural, fisheries and forestry production, It will stress the importance of diversifying food production and expanding food choices and tastes for improved nutrition. Harvesting natures diversity will encourage peoples participation in development, including social and community programmes that promote the collection, conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
The luck of economic incentive to conserve diversity in agriculture and nature is a key cause of continuing degradation. It is a vital challenge for our society that the precious value of natures diversity is properly reflected in the world economy and markets. The concept of Farmers Rights, unanimously adopted by FAO member nations, takes one step in that direction by recognizing the value of the historic and continuing contribution of farmer and rural communities to the development, conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources.
WFD promotes awareness of the global problems of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, which can be solved by the committed efforts of the international community acting to ensure that governments, institutions, NGOs, industry and individuals work together as stewards of nature\'s diversity. Genetic resources, information, funds and technology are all essential and complementary resources in achieving food security and sustainable rural development. Using and sharing these resources in a fair and equitable manner is a moral obligation for the present generation and a condition for the survival of future generations.
(Contributed by: Food & Agriculture Division, Islamabad)
To commemorate the World Food Day Pakistan Post is issuing one commemorative postage stamp for Rs. 6/- denomination on October 16, 1993. This set is the third in the \'WORLD FOOD DAY\" stamp series. The first series, consisting of a set of four (horizontal se-tenant) stamps of Rs. 3/- each design, was brought on October 24 1983 and the second was issued on October 16, 1989 in the value of Re. 1/-.