Biotech helps address biodiversity challenges

World Biodiversity Day on Sunday marked an urgent challenge: Researchers warn that our continued failure to save diverse plant and animal species could ultimately mean the end of the human species.

Action is needed, and biotech solutions can help.

While there are plans for a new global framework for biodiversity protection, the framework was delayed as COVID-19 postponed the Conference of Parties (COP) on Biological Diversity by two years, Nature says. The conference has been rescheduled for October in Kunming, China.

“We now have eight years to do more, whilst many countries are facing a recession and trying to prioritize economic recovery,” says conservation biologist Alice Hughes in Nature. “The longer we wait, the more diversity is lost.”

The foundation of civilizations

Biological diversity and resources are the foundations upon which civilizations are built the United Nations notes.

“Fish provide 20% of animal protein to about 3 billion people. Only ten species provide about 30% of marine capture fisheries and ten species provide about 50% of aquaculture production,” the UN’s explanation of its Sustainable Development Goal on biodiversity says. “As many as 80% of people living in rural areas in developing countries rely on traditional plant-based medicines for basic healthcare.”

Even though we need diverse species, human activity is harming biodiversity. Climate change, invasive species, over-exploitation of natural resources, pollution, and urbanization are the main global drivers of biodiversity loss, according to the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in 2019.

“While more food, energy and materials than ever before are now being supplied to people in most places, this is increasingly at the expense of nature’s ability to provide such contributions in the future, and frequently undermines nature’s many other contributions, which range from water quality regulation to sense of place,” says a summary of the Global Assessment Report.

To take action, we must raise awareness, which is why the UN has designated May 22 International Day for Biological Diversity, or World Biodiversity Day.

Biotech can help

The biotechnology sector could play a vital role in efforts to preserve the planet’s biodiversity, says Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO). Biotech companies are already making their contribution by developing tools to help farmers conserve and promote biodiversity by growing more with less, according to CropLife International, an organization that includes BIO members BASF, Bayer, and Corteva.

The mission of the organization is to preserve biodiversity by: highlighting stewardship through farmer training; promoting sustainability via knowledge sharing; collaborating to increase awareness of solutions; safeguarding the environment and public health through responsible use.

A recent report published by CropLife International says that the use of biotechnology tools can help deliver on key “transitions to sustainable pathways.” These tools include gene editing, which makes it possible for crops to resist pests and disease, grow with fewer inputs, and last longer; animal feed that reduces emissions; and farming methods that improve soil health and capture carbon.

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