As increasing pressure is placed on addressing food security, there are growing fears that the environment will lose out. Biodiversity underpins a wide range of services, many of which are currently undervalued. The bacteria and microbes that transform waste, insects that pollinate our crops and the biologically rich landscapes that provide enjoyment, are only a few. Importantly, 50% of all species in Europe rely on agricultural habitats to survive and 20% of crops in the UK rely on insect pollination. This is why it is so important for us to recognise the key role farming plays in the interdependency of a thriving nature alongside food production.
By encouraging farmers to create valuable habitats such as beetle banks, healthy populations of beneficial insects will help to naturally control pests. Such a habitat may contain up to 1000 insects/m2 in winter and in spring there may be over 7 million insects on an area the size of a football pitch!
Enhancing biodiversity and reducing the rate at which it is depleting is critical. Alongside this, we have to ensure that political decisions recognise the true value of goods and services provided by biodiversity and its wider role in addressing food security challenges.
However, any discussion on food security, must address one key challenge: internalising the true value of biodiversity and understanding the range of ecosystem services that farmers deliver, in the price we pay for our food. Currently, we do not have a ‘currency’ that does this, one that can recognise the economic, social, environmental and cultural goods provided by our farming systems.
Meeting the challenge of food security will depend on intelligent, integrated and persistent efforts by government leaders, scientists, educators, retailers and food producers.