Harmony in Diversity: Harnessing Food Biodiversity to Combat Climate Chaos

21 May 2024

This article is part of our ongoing series developed for our “Feed the Change” campaign, delving into the core themes and recommendations as outlined in our new Manifesto for the EU elections 2024.

As the world grapples with a changing climate, the European Union stands at a pivotal crossroads. In our quest for solutions, one promising path emerges: embracing food diversity. This wealth of variety in nature offers a compelling opportunity to tackle the challenges of climate change head-on. In this article, we explore how nurturing food biodiversity holds the key to securing a resilient food future for Europe and its inhabitants.

How Climate Change Drives Food Biodiversity Loss and Vice Versa

Climate change and biodiversity loss are deeply interconnected, with each exacerbating the other:

  • Habitat Alteration and Carbon Sequestration: Rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and extreme weather events alter habitats, making them unsuitable for many species. For example, coral reefs are highly sensitive to temperature changes, leading to coral bleaching and the loss of marine biodiversity. At the same time, biodiverse ecosystems, such as forests, wetlands, and grasslands, play a crucial role in sequestering carbon dioxide. The loss of these ecosystems reduces the planet’s capacity to absorb CO2, thereby accelerating global warming.


  • Seasonal and Habitat Shifts: Climate change can disrupt the timing of natural events, such as flowering, migration, and breeding, leading to mismatches between species, such as pollinators and plants, affecting their survival and reproduction. Additionally, as temperatures rise, many species are forced to move to cooler areas, often towards the poles or higher altitudes. This can lead to the displacement of local species and increased competition for resources, sometimes resulting in the decline or extinction of less adaptable species. This biodiversity loss, in turn, diminishes ecosystem resilience and the capacity for carbon sequestration.


  • Ocean Acidification and Ecosystem Services: Increased CO2 levels lead to higher acidity in oceans, which can harm marine life, particularly organisms with calcium carbonate shells or skeletons, such as mollusks and corals. Concurrently, biodiversity underpins ecosystem services that regulate the climate, such as water cycling, soil fertility, and the regulation of greenhouse gases. The decline in biodiversity can disrupt these services, leading to more severe climate impacts.

The Wonders of Food Biodiversity

Food biodiversity refers to the variety of plants, animals, and microorganisms used for food, whether cultivated or wild. This diversity is crucial for several reasons. First, it enhances resilience to climate change. Diverse agricultural systems are more resilient to extreme weather events, pests, and diseases because different crops and livestock species have varying tolerances to heat, drought, and floods, making mixed farming systems more robust against climate variability. The FAO even reported that crop diversification could reduce agricultural losses by up to 75% during extreme climate events.

Second, food biodiversity ensures nutritional security by providing a broader range of nutrients. This contributes to better overall health and reduces dependence on a few staple crops that might be vulnerable to climate change. According to the FAO, just three crops—rice, maize, and wheat—account for nearly 60% of the world’s caloric intake. Diversifying diets with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains can improve human health and nutritional diversity.

Third, it offers significant environmental benefits. Biodiverse farming practices, such as agroforestry, polycultures, and crop rotation, enhance soil health, improve water retention, and support pollinators, contributing to ecosystem stability and reducing the need for chemical inputs. Studies show that polycultures can greatly increase yields compared to monocultures while significantly reducing pesticide use.

The Role of Pollinators in Food Biodiversity and the Challenges They Face

Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, birds, and bats, play a critical role in food biodiversity by facilitating the reproduction of many plants, including numerous crops vital for human consumption. Pollinators contribute to the production of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, ensuring not only the availability of diverse foods but also the genetic diversity within crops. In Europe, approximately 84% of crop species and 78% of wild flowering plants rely, at least in part, on animal pollination, contributing significantly to agricultural production valued at around €22 billion annually.

However, the essential services provided by pollinators are under severe threat, primarily due to habitat loss, intensive agricultural practices, and the widespread use of pesticides. Urbanization, deforestation, and monoculture farming significantly diminish the natural habitats of pollinators, restricting their access to food sources and nesting sites. Moreover, modern agricultural practices favoring monocultures and high-yield crops lead to soil degradation, water pollution, and a loss of genetic diversity, further endangering pollinator populations. Lat but not least, the indiscriminate use of pesticides, particularly neonicotinoids, poses a significant risk to pollinators by impairing their ability to forage, navigate, and reproduce.

Climate change exacerbates all the above challenges by altering temperatures and weather patterns, disrupting the synchronization between pollinators and flowering plants essential for effective pollination. The resulting habitat loss, coupled with increased susceptibility to diseases and parasites like the Varroa mite, further compounds the threats faced by pollinators, and food biodiversity as a whole. An alarming trend worsened by international trade regulations, market pressures, and the current structure of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which tends to favor large-scale, intensive farming (see our article “Unfair Share: How Europe’s Farm Subsidies Favor Big Money Over Small Farmers”).

How Can the EU Support Food Biodiversity?

To harness the potential of food biodiversity in tackling the climate crisis, the EU can implement several key strategies:

  1. Reforming Agricultural Subsidies

The CAP must be restructured to incentivize sustainable and biodiverse farming practices. Current subsidies largely benefit large-scale monocultures, but shifting these funds towards small-scale, diverse farms can promote sustainability. By adopting a “public money for public goods” approach, subsidies can reward farmers who practice agroecology, organic farming, and other methods that enhance biodiversity.

  1. Supporting Seed Diversity

Seed diversity is foundational to food biodiversity. The EU can support seed banks, local seed exchanges, and the development of seed varieties that are resilient to climate change. Protecting farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange, and sell seeds is also crucial for maintaining genetic diversity.

  1. Encouraging Agroecological Practices

Agroecology integrates ecological principles into farming, promoting biodiversity and sustainability. The EU can provide training, technical assistance, and financial support to farmers adopting agroecological methods. This includes practices like crop rotation, intercropping, agroforestry, and the use of cover crops.

  1. Promoting Local Food Systems

Local food systems reduce the carbon footprint associated with long supply chains and enhance food security. By supporting farmers’ markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA), and farm-to-table initiatives, the EU can encourage the consumption of diverse, locally produced foods.


Food biodiversity isn’t just a luxury; it’s our lifeline in the face of environmental upheaval. The European Union holds the power to steer us away from the brink by championing policies that nurture diverse ecosystems and sustainable agriculture. But they cannot do it without us all! Next June, EU citizens will have a unique opportunity to influence this crucial change by voting in the upcoming EU elections. our vote can help elect leaders and shape policies that prioritize biodiversity and sustainable food.


Everyone to the voting booth! Join our “Feed the Change” campaign to help us build a food system that is resilient in the face of climate change. 

Download our Manifesto for the EU Elections 2024



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