The food people eat around the world is becoming “alarmingly homogeneous” according to United Nations data. That’s even though access to a wide variety of nutritious food has never been greater. The warning came May 22 as the world marked the International Day for Biological Diversity, which this year highlighted the impact of environmental neglect on food security and public health.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization more than 90 percent of traditional crops have disappeared from farmer fields, while half the animals bred by humans have been lost. All of the world’s 17 main fishing grounds are being fished at their sustainable limits – or at more than those limits. By choosing to eat only seasonal and local produce, people can ensure the demand for the right foods occurs in the right season.

Biodiversity in plant and animal life in the world – in terms of species, habitats and genetics – leads to ecosystems that are healthier, more productive and better able to adapt to challenges like climate change. But human activity is threatening the fate of species around the world like never before.

The day’s theme was “Our Biodiversity, Our Food, Our Health.” It aimed to leverage knowledge and spread awareness of how much all life depends on biodiversity.

In his message to mark the day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said, “The quality of the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe all depend on keeping the natural world in good health.”

He said biodiversity is essential to achieve the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and to address climate change. Visit www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment for more information on the goals.

“(Healthy ecosystems can) provide 37 percent of the mitigation needed to limit global temperature rise,” he said. “Current negative trends in biodiversity and ecosystems are projected to undermine progress toward 80 percent of the targets for the Sustainable Development Goals. We cannot allow this to happen.

“The world’s current food system is increasingly broken. Billions of people lack access to proper nutrition. Approximately one-third of what is produced is lost or wasted. The ways in which we grow, process, transport, consume and waste food are leading causes of biodiversity loss, while also contributing to climate change.”

Addressing the issue of deforestation, Guterres said, “(It’s caused the) loss of more than 290 million hectares of forests that help to absorb harmful carbon-dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.”

He urges all governments, businesses and civil society to take urgent action to protect and sustainably manage “the fragile and vital web of life on our one and only planet.”

Highlighting the galvanizing effect of biodiversity for human health and well-being, he said solutions exist.

“By halting environmentally harmful practices, diversifying our food systems, and promoting more sustainable production and consumption patterns, we can improve global health, increase food security and strengthen resilience to climate change,” he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization underlines that agricultural biodiversity is fundamental for coping with a changing climate, for helping to remove carbon from the atmosphere, and for securing the future of diverse sources of healthy and nutritious food.

Visit youtube.com and search for “FAO biodiversity“ to watch a video on biodiversity.