Understanding agriculture’s dilemma between food security and conservation – new publication

22 July 2008 | News story

 Agriculture is suffering from a growing dilemma: it needs to feed a fast growing world population, and conserve biodiversity and manage natural resources of an increasingly depleted planet.

How to understand this crisis, and the rapid increase in food prices in many countries, is the purpose of the latest publication by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“Agricultural Ecosystems: Facts & Trends” presents well-documented facts and figures to help governments, farmers, consumers and industry better understand the challenges facing the sustainable management of agricultural ecosystems.

Key facts and figures:

  • Meat consumption in China has more than doubled in the last 20 years and it is projected to double again by 2030.
  • Producing meat, milk, sugar, oils and vegetables typically requires more water than producing cereals.
  • Food production to satisfy a person’s daily dietary needs takes about 3,000 liters of water – a little more than one liter per calorie.
  • Agriculture was responsible for 14% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2000.
  • The soils of the world contain more carbon than the combined total amounts occurring in vegetation and the atmosphere.
  • Agriculture uses 70% of total global “blue water” withdrawals (from rivers, lakes and groundwater aquifers), most of which is for irrigation.
  • Only 17% of all cropland is irrigated, but this land provides 30-40% of the world’s food production.
  • Over 60 % of the world’s irrigated area is in Asia, most of which is devoted to the production of rice.
  • In the last 40 years, the area of global agricultural land has grown by 10%, but in per capita terms agricultural land area has been in decline. This trend is expected to continue as land is increasingly limited and the population grows.

Key quotes:

“It is critical to work within the whole agricultural value chain to achieve the goal of providing healthy and affordable food for all while protecting the environment. This means that cooperation and coordination between all stakeholders is essential,” says Björn Stigson, President, WBCSD.


“Conserving ecosystems and their biodiversity must be a shared objective of industry, the conservation community and consumers. Nowhere is this more important than in agriculture that directly depends on nature. The tight agricultural markets make this even more urgent,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General.

Contacts
Lynette Thorstensen, WBCSD communications director, (+41) 22 839 3141, email: thorstensen@wbcsd.org

Carolin Wahnbaeck, IUCN communications, +41 79 858 7593, email: carolin.wahnbaeck@iucn.org
 

About IUCN
IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges by supporting scientific research; managing field projects all over the world; and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN, international conventions and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.

IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network. IUCN is a democratic union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and some 10,000 volunteer scientists in more than 150 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by 1,100 professional staff in 62 countries and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. http://www.iucn.org

About the WBCSD
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) brings together some 200 international companies in a shared commitment to sustainable development through economic growth, ecological balance and social progress. http://www.wbcsd.org/