A policy paper released by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that climate change is posing a very real threat to the diversity of food crops. Researchers are concerned that many of the most commonly raised crops and livestock animals will not be able to adapt to rising global temperatures and volatile weather patterns. Without drastic conservation measures, the FAO fears some crops could become extinct.
The U.N. paper, produced by the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, warns that both cultivated and wild crops are in danger. It’s possible, though, that the wild cousins of our favorite crops would be more resistant to environmental changes.
The FAO is concerned with food biodiversity primarily as it related to world hunger. The commission is considering adopting guidelines to integrate genetic resources into climate change adaptation plans. Only in this way, FAO believes, will we be able to begin taking steps to protect agriculture around the globe.
To improve the resilience of food systems, the paper recommends a few urgent steps: strengthening gene banks to include crops now considered “minor”, reviewing breeding practices, creating community seed banks, and improving seed exchanges between farmers in different regions.
The FAO paper urges that crops under threat should have their seeds and genetic material preserved in labs, in order to ensure that they can be cultivated in the future. The U.N. group fears that farmers are likely to abandon crops that become difficult to grow without making much of an effort to conserve them. The biggest concern is that organizations like Slow Food won’t be able to do enough to preserve the endangered crops. Farmers will need to take action and adapt their systems in order to respond to the new environment.