Agricultural Biodiversity

Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition

Elements & Activities of the Initiative

At the centre of the proposed framework for the cross-cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition are the following four elements and corresponding activities:

(The proposed framework can be consulted in its entirety under decision VIII/23 A).

Element 1. Developing and documenting knowledge

Operational objective 1
To substantiate the links between biodiversity, food and nutrition, in particular clarifying the relationship between biodiversity, dietary diversity and food preferences, and the relevant links between human health and ecosystem health.

Current evidence on the links between biodiversity, food and nutrition is sufficient to warrant immediate action, but more work is needed. Developing and documenting knowledge of these links will provide a sound scientific basis for the initiative, allowing for the better design of activities, and the development of comprehensive public awareness-raising initiatives on the importance of biodiversity to human diets and health, and the link between human health and ecosystem health.

1.1 Compilation, review and analysis of:

(a) Existing scientific information, indigenous and traditional knowledge on the links between biodiversity, food and nutrition (in a manner consistent with Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention) according to national legislation;

(b) Case-studies on the links between biodiversity, food and nutrition;

(c) The value of biodiversity for food and nutrition.

1.2 Stimulating further research and the generation and systematic compilation of new data.

1.3 Development of an indicator (or indicators) on biodiversity in use for food, consistent with decision VII/30.

Element 2. Integration of biodiversity, food and nutrition issues into research and policy instruments

Operational objective 2
To mainstream the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity into agendas, programmes and policies related to nutrition, health, agriculture and hunger and poverty reduction.

Existing research and policy instruments often overlook the importance of biodiversity and associated knowledge in addressing local problems of hunger and malnutrition. In nutrition studies, the most commonly used research instruments aggregate food data into broad categories, obscuring the contribution of individual species or cultivars to human nutrition and health. Under prevailing regulatory frameworks, food quality standards that are not adapted to local foods may also inadvertently constrain food producers, limiting their ability to provide an array of species and varieties to markets. Policies, programmes and projects aimed at addressing poverty reduction and food security sometimes emphasize the provision of staple food sources and dietary supplements while overlooking the value of locally available diverse food sources. In these cases, the value of biodiversity for food and nutrition, especially to poor and disadvantaged groups, is not fully realized. A proactive focus on biodiversity will be needed in order to encourage practitioners and researchers to modify current approaches, and to shift research and policy emphasis towards examining issues of food quality, and not simply food quantity.

2.1 As appropriate, integrate biodiversity concerns into nutrition instruments, inter alia:

(a) Food-based dietary guidelines

(b) Food composition analysis and dietary assessments

(c) National policies and plans of action for nutrition

(d) Relevant regulatory frameworks and legislation at national and international levels

2.2 Integrate biodiversity for food and nutrition concerns into food security and poverty reduction strategies, inter alia:

(a) National Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers

(b) The right to food

(c) Food security projects and programmes, including: household food security projects, school feeding programmes, home gardens

(d) Emergency response and preparedness

Element 3. Conserving and promoting wider use of biodiversity for food and nutrition

Operational objective 3
To counter the loss of diversity in human diets, and in ecosystems, by conserving and promoting the wider use of biodiversity for food and nutrition.

Diversity is being replaced by uniformity in the agricultural market place, and in human diets more generally. Yet a diverse resource base remains critical to human survival, well-being, the elimination of hunger and providing the basis for adaptation to changing conditions (including environmental change). Promoting the broader use of biodiversity promises to contribute to improved human health and nutrition, while also providing opportunities for livelihood diversification and income generation. Indigenous and local communities, and the preservation of their local socio‑cultural traditions and knowledge, play a critical role, as do women, for the maintenance of diverse food systems. These combined outcomes can serve to reduce poverty, providing important contributions to maintain and enhance biodiversity conservation efforts at multiple scales.

3.1 Conservation and sustainable use of crop and livestock genetic diversity, including wild relatives of domesticated animals and plants.

3.2 Identification and promotion of species currently underutilized or of potential value to human food and nutrition, including those important in times of crisis, and their conservation and sustainable use.

3.3 Promotion of genetically diverse and species-rich home gardens, agroforest ry and other production systems that contribute to the in situ conservation of genetic resources and food security .

3.4 Conservation and sustainable use of wild resources, including those that support bushmeat and fisheries, including maintaining viable stocks of wild species for sustainable consumption by local and indigenous communities.

3.5 Promotion, conservation and sustainable use of important biodiversity , at all levels associated with agricultural, forestry and aquaculture systems.

3.6 Conservation and sustainable use of medicinal species relevant for food and nutrition.

3.7 Support al l forms of food production of indigenous and local communities, in accordance with Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention.

3.8 Identifying and promoting crop diversification for biodiverse food crops to be used for food and nutrition.

3.9 Protection and promotion of biodiversity friendly markets by addressing regulatory issues;

3.10 Promotion of technology transfer to improve technical capacities of developing countries and countries with economies in transition, for the conservation and sustainable use of important species, wild relatives, neglected and under-utilized species .

3.11 Research and conservation of native plants or animals, local races, wild relatives of cultivated or domesticated species in order to improve the knowledge on their genetic variability, regarding important traits for agriculture such as: biotic/abiotic resistance, yield and nutritional value.

3.12 Use of biodiversity to broaden the genetic base of cultivated crops to, increase food production and improve the nutritional value of food while taking into account the environmental impact of agriculture.

3.13 Support to the study and development of production and commercialization of non-conventional biodiversity-based products, including processing of non conventional biodiversity-based food.

3.14 Strengthening of local infrastructure and human resources training in order to establish standards of identification and quality of dai l y admissible ingestion.

3.15 Transforming and/or treating residues of processed raw materials.

3.16 Integration of benefit-sharing objectives into national and international frameworks dealing with biodiversity for food and nutrition , as appropriate, taking into account existing benefit sharing systems.

Element 4 – Public awareness

Operational objective 4
To raise awareness of the links between biodiversity, food and nutrition, and the importance of biodiversity conservation to meeting health and development objectives, including the elimination of hunger.

Biodiversity programmes and policies can be made more relevant to policymakers and stakeholders, and more effective on the ground, by making clear the crucial links between biodiversity and human well-being. When rural people perceive that biodiversity has greater value through positive impacts on both income and health, they are more likely to maintain and protect it. In addition, issues of food production as they relate to nutrition and health can serve to mobilize both urban and rural consumers who may not otherwise be motivated by environmental or ethical arguments to support agricultural sustainability. Food security issues can then serve as a way to re-establish links between local production and global consumption, and between the rich and poor.


4.1 Development of a communication strategy, and associated publications and other materials to address the general public, decision makers, local communities, and the nutrition, agriculture, health and environment communities.

4.2 Convening of regional and national workshops to raise awareness of the links between biodiversity, food and nutrition, and of activities supporting these links.