Creating a Market for Biodiversity Stewardship
The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) has successfully negotiated a $116 million benefit sharing fund designed to facilitate biodiversity conservation efforts (see Feeding the future: agricultural biodiversity from CNN). The species targeted for protection are not majestic wild cats or giant panda bears, but rather household staples such as potatoes, wheat, rice and maize that provide half of the worlds calorie requirements. These efforts are an attempt to avoid potential disasters stemming from the reality that only 12 such species are responsible for 80 percent of food needs.
The dwindling of genetic variety thwarts natural buffers of the food supply against climate change, pests, and disease. Threats to food-security are of particular concern in less developed countries, reliant on imports from richer, surplus-producing nations. The ITGRFA may provide support for domestic agriculture in such countries, as the fund pays agricultural producers for continuing to cultivate a full range of local varieties, instead of participating in the fast spreading monoculture.