Our food system is the main driver of biodiversity loss

The world’s food production is destroying natural habitats and occupies approximately 50 percent of the habitable land. The main reason for the rapid land expansion is animal farming. Farmed animals (mainly cows and pigs) now account for 60% of all mammals by weight, with humans making up 36% and wild mammals just 4%. Agriculture has been identified as a threat to 24,000 out of the 28,000 species on the endangered “Red List”.

The Chatham House thinktank’s new report explores ways of transforming the destructive agricultural system. The main issue according to the study is the production of of cheap food, as prices are pressed lower through actions such as clearing natural land and using harmful fertilisers and pesticides.

The UN-backed report presents three main solutions. First is a shift to plant-based diets as livestock have the largest environmental impact. More than 80 percent of global farmland is used to raise animals, which provide only 18 percent of calories eaten. That shift gives access to land that can be used for the second solution; restoring ecosystems to increase biodiversity. The third solution is farming in a less intense and damaging way but accepting lower yields. Thus, the availability of land underpins this solution too, as organic yields are on average about 75% of those of conventional intensive farming.


Benton, T., Bieg, C., Harwatt, H., Pudasaini, R., & Wellesley, L. (2021). Food system impacts on biodiversity loss.

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