In concert with the theme for this year’s International Day for Biological Development (or Biodiversity Day), We’re part of the solution, CropLife Asia and its members are commemorating the day by raising the necessity of a biologically-diverse planet in ensuring our sustainable future and highlighting that plant science industry is increasingly ‘part of the solution’ in supporting biodiversity.
At present, climate change, deforestation and human activity pose the greatest threats to biodiversity. This is particularly concerning as richness in biodiversity is key in supporting agricultural systems and food production. Innovations in plant science offer solutions that can help mitigate a number of these threats to biodiversity.
“The goals of ensuring food security and strengthening biodiversity are not mutually exclusive, and we can’t afford to fail at either,” said Dr. Siang Hee Tan, Executive Director of CropLife Asia. “With population continuing to grow in the region and globally, food productivity in Asia has to keep up to ensure an abundant supply of safe and nutritious food. At the same time, the sustainability of our food production practices is critically important to drive biodiversity conservation and preservation. When used responsibly, plant science innovations such as biotech seeds and crop protection tools help our farmers feed the world while also supporting a healthy, biodiverse plant – but they’re only part of the larger solution needed. The plant science industry remains committed to working with all food value chain stakeholders towards protecting the rich biodiversity on which we all depend.”
The use of biotechnology and crop protection products help reduce the need to convert natural habitats into farmland. Between 1996-2018, productivity gained through biotechnology saved 231 million hectares of land from ploughing and cultivation. Forests and other natural habitats can also thrive when crop protection products such as pesticides are used to control invading plants or insects that threaten native species. Biotech crops paired with herbicides also enable conservation tillage where soil is left undisturbed thus allowing the natural biodiversity in the soil to flourish. The combined biological activity of the billions of organisms in the soil is important to crop nutrition and soil health. The crop stubble left in the field from conservation tillage improves habitat and food sources for insects, birds, and other animals. Biotech crops also help plants use water more efficiently. In the U.S, genetically modified cotton has helped reduce water usage by 50% over the last 20 years, leaving more water for nature.
Integrated Pest Management also known as IPM is a farming system of managing pests that is designed to be sustainable, protects biodiversity and also helps create wildlife habitats around farms.
By utilizing both plant science innovations and IPM, farmers not only grow more on existing farmed land but also minimize the need to expand into more biodiverse areas, preserving these lands for the benefit of future generations.