The Future of Food Part 1: Biodiversity and Sustainability

The World Resources Institute reports that by 2050 the world’s population will grow to 9.6 billion. In order to make sure everyone is fed, biodiversity and sustainability are the words on everyone’s lips. In his book ‘The Diversity of Life’ (1991), Edward O. Wilson described biodiversity as not just the abundance of life on Earth. Rather, it is that which maintains the resilience and adjustability of the environment as a whole, so that life can weather the inevitable “storms”. Biodiversity underpins life as we know it. It is the apparatus that “holds the world steady”.


According to a 2011 report, of the 9 million or more estimated total species on Earth, we’ve only described about 1.2 million. Although we have a good knowledge of plants, birds and mammals. a deep trawl of the oceans can yield around 90 per cent of unknown species. By building a food industry where biodiversity stands front and center – through the promotion of a wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms – then great results emerge. Supermarket aisles are graced with a multitude of new food products from different cultures, and as a result consumer’s shopping carts no longer seem boring and sad. And most importantly, through the promotion of biodiversity, the whole ecosystem of the planet becomes more sustainable.

While biodiversity refers to the richness and variety of life - of genes, species and ecosystems, sustainability is defined as the ability to maintain ecological processes over long periods of time. And there are many ways the food industry can preserve and increase sustainability.

Today food travels further than ever before. The promotion of local and seasonal food minimizes the energy and costs incurred in transportation and storage, and also dramatically improves the freshness and quality of the products. Further to this, organic, low-carbon food production is vastly beneficial to the promotion of biodiversity, as it provides long-term investment in soil fertility, which aids future food production. Organic, low-carbon food production also has a crucial role to play in countering climate change, by offsetting greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture through soil carbon sequestration.

As animal extinctions continue at the rate of one species every 16 years, ecosystem dynamics are undoubtedly being disturbed. Of special concern are pollinators -- the essential players in the reproductive biology of plants, the planet's primary producers. A simple, powerful, but often overlooked solution to increasing food production is to improve bee diversity to ensure the proper pollination of crops. 


Beyond this, a WWF report finds 60% of global biodiversity loss is down to meat-based diets, which put huge strain on Earth's resources. But sustainable livestock production is possible, and one solution is shifting the location of livestock production. Researchers at the University of Cambridge advocate using a diverse group of edible plants such as that in a silvopastoral landscape, which promotes healthy soil with better water retention, whilst also minimizing greenhouse gas emissions.

Biodiversity and sustainability are at the heart of the future of food technology and production. Cashmere strongly believes that the development of a biodiverse and sustainable food system is about health & wellbeing for all – individually, locally and globally. To learn more about our services and how we are helping food manufacturers grow, get in touch with our experienced team.