Review: Global food security, biodiversity conservation and the future of agricultural intensification

By Joern Fischer

I recently read the following paper by Teja Tscharntke and collaborators: Global food security, biodiversity conservation and the future of agricultural intensification (Tscharntke T, Clough Y, Wanger T, Jackson L, Motzke I, Perfecto I, Vandermeer J, Whitbread A. Biological Conservation. 2012 Jul; 151(1): 53-59, DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2012.01.068). I recommend this paper to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

This is a very important paper providing a much needed counter-point to recent work on how to simultaneously meet the goals of sufficient food production and biodiversity conservation.

Tscharntke et al. criticize “land sparing” [1, 2] as failing to account for real-world complexity in several ways. The authors show that smallholder production is the backbone of global food security; and that much food is currently wasted – arguing that the link between the amount of global food supply and food security is only weak.

Tscharntke et al. further advocate agroecological intensification, placing a major emphasis on the ecosystem services provided by both planned and associated components of farmland biodiversity. These ecosystem services remain largely ignored in the currently popular framing of “land sparing” versus “land sharing”.

This paper provides urgently needed balance to an active debate on one of the most important issues facing humanity at present.

1. Green, R.E., et al., Farming and the fate of wild nature. Science, 2005. 307(5709): p. 550-555.
2. Phalan, B., et al., Reconciling Food Production and Biodiversity Conservation: Land Sharing and Land Sparing Compared. Science, 2011. 333(6047): p. 1289-1291.

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